Personal Enlightenment

My personal definition of enlightenment is that of a personal thing that individuals hold. I believe that a single person can be enlightened in a world of people who are not. To me enlightenment means being educated, being able to think for yourself, and make your own educated choices. Being enlightened is less about knowing the “truth” (because I think that is a very subjective term) but more about knowing the facts and being able to decide what you believe to see as relevant and valuable to make personal choices.  My definition is similar to Descartes, because I see it as being a highly individualistic definition of personal self-fulfillment. My view is also similar to Locke who believed that certain forms of education were crucial to promote properly enlightened individuals. My view is different from la Mettrie who has argued that what we perceive as our minds is really the mechanical operation of the body. My definition is also different from Kant who argued that certain political conditions solidified enlightenment.

Descartes contributes to my individualistic view of what enlightenment is. “Whatever I have accepted until now as most true has come to me through my senses”. Here he makes a claim in cohesion with my own about the personal nature of being enlightened. It is my belief that being enlightened is less about a political problem involving how people and information move through society and more about individualistic choices. However when Descartes retreats away from my understating of the concept of enlightenment when he claims “I have for many years been sure that there is an all-powerful God who made me to be the sort of creature that I am.” My personal definition has nothing to do with religion. My definition is more about education and knowledge and using that to make choices about religion. Here Descartes is saying the opposite, that religion is your deciding factor to make choices.

Le Mettrie’s ideals about enlightenment seem have some commonalities to my own but also have a very important differences. He says, “for a wise man, it is not enough to study nature and the truth; he must be willing to proclaim it for the benefit of the few who are willing and able to think.” In cohesion with my own definition of enlightenment, he is saying that enlightenment is personal and individualistic, as did Descartes. But the thing that separates his enlightenment definition from mine is his idea that our beliefs must be shared with other to help them make their own choices. I disagree here. Being enlightened is making choice void of outside influence.

My view of enlightenment is similar to Locke who believed that certain forms of education were crucial to promote properly enlightened individuals. He says that for children, “if his tender mind be fill’d with a veneration for his parents and teachers” then he will reach some kind of enlightenment. But Locke is about the promotion of proper socialization, manners, and teaching respect. These issues are irrelevant to my personal definition of enlightenment. Although learning and education is an important part of what enlightenment means to me, manners are not.

Although Kant who argued that certain political conditions solidified enlightenment, I definitely do identify with a lot of his ideas about enlightenment! He claims “nonage is the inability to use one’s own understanding without another’s guidance.” He also says that we need to “Have the courage to use your own understanding”. Yes! That is exactly what I think also. Well said Kant! To me, being enlightened is all about being able to process all the information we are given to make independent choices for and by ourselves.

I believe humans can achieve enlightenment! But I don’t think of enlightenment as being this completely one time transformation. I think enlightenment is something that happens over time. The best method is learning. Learning through reading, writing, education, experience, etc. Any outlet that offers you a chance to learn is the best method to become more enlightened. Each time you experience something new or are taught something new you are adding to your enlightened self. By this definition I believe that enlightenment is a completely individualistic problem.


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