How to Achieve Enlightenment

Honestly, I am not entirely sure “achieving enlightenment” means. There are so many ideas from different philosophers, and it’s likely that enlightenment is actually achieved by a combination of the different philosopher’s  ideas.

I would say that if I had to pick a definition for enlightenment, Kant’s ideas would be most closely aligned with the truth… but as we are all human I believe he has some flawed ideas as well. I think that enlightenment is thinking for yourself and not only believing things because people tell you things. I don’t think that it’s possible to simply “clear your mental table” as Descartes would like to believe. I think it’s important to call many things into doubt, but impossible to simply stop believing everything you’ve ever learned. Even if it is possible, I don’t know that that is healthy or useful. Regardless of what we would like to believe, we are are hugely affected by the things that we have learned from other people.

Descartes seems to believe that enlightenment is achieved by clearing out all prior thoughts, opinions, and ideas- the “mental table” as it were. He holds strongly to the idea of free will, and feels that most things in life happen due to your choosing. The human soul and free will are closely tied together. In his words, “I realized that if I wanted to establish anything in the sciences that was stable and likely to last, I needed—just once in my life—to demolish everything completely and start again from the foundations.”

La’ Mettrie has very different ideas than those of Descartes. He sees the human as simply a “machine” that operates in ways that he cannot control- no different than how an animal operates. He thinks that the soul does not exist- and instead we are simply composed of matter. “Let us, then, forget about wings, and use our feet. Let us take up the staff of experience and turn our backs on the sad story of all the futile opinions of philosophers. To be blind and to believe one doesn’t need this staff—that is the height of blindness! “

Kant argues that We must free ourselves from our “nonage,” also known as ideas and opinions that others impress upon us. He sees enlightenment as something both individual and societal- and believed that our society was not at a place to attain or become enlightened.

“Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed nonage. Nonage is the inability to use one’s own understanding without another’s guidance”

Locke approached enlightenment from a very different standpoint than Descartes, La’ Mettrie, and Kant. He believed that enlightenment begins with how children are raised- and how they turn out depends mostly on how the parents mold them.

“He that considers how diametrically opposite the skill of living well, and managing, as a man should do, his affairs in the world, is to that mal-pertness, tricking, or violence learnt amongst schoolboys, will think the faults of a privater education infinitely to be preferr’d to such improvements, and will take care to preserve his child’s innocence and modesty at home, as being nearer of kin, and more in the way of those qualities which make an useful and able man. “

I think that each of the philosophers we’ve studied so far have some great insight into enlightenment, but I don’t think any of them have a flawless philosophy of this concept. I am still forming my opinion of what enlightenment is, but all of the philosophers we have studied so far have given me some good insight into the concept.



One thought on “How to Achieve Enlightenment

  1. I think it actually makes more sense that we don’t totally know what “Enlightenment” means for you. I think that’s a very enlightened thought. Very good.

    Grade: S

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