08/29: Find Your Nonage

In “What is Enlightenment?” Kant argues that it’s very difficult for individuals to emerge from their “nonage” and to think for themselves. He says,

Thus it is very difficult for the individual to work himself out of the nonage which has become almost second nature to him. He has even grown to like it, and is at first really incapable of using his own understanding because he has never been permitted to try it. Dogmas and formulas, these mechanical tools designed for reasonable use–or rather abuse–of his natural gifts, are the fetters of an everlasting nonage. The man who casts them off would make an uncertain leap over the narrowest ditch, because he is not used to such free movement. That is why there are only a few men who walk firmly, and who have emerged from nonage by cultivating their own minds.

The idea here seems to be that many people are trapped by the teachings and ideologies of others. They pray to the god that their church tells them to. They obey the monarch they’re told to. The believe what they’re told to believe about science, literature, and everything else. He says people come over time to like being told what to think and that they don’t even realize they’re being controlled.

I take it as more or less certain that no one in the class, including me, has really ever had an original thought. Before class on Thursday, I want you to take a few minutes to reflect on the possibility that you’re trapped in an ideological “Matrix.” Choose one belief that you hold strongly — religious, political, aesthetic, ethical — and think about all the influences that you’ve had over the course of your life. This could be something as simple as your taste in music or something as controversial as your opinion about the death penalty. Write a 400-500 word blog post in which you describe 1) a belief you hold, 2) everything that might have influenced your belief, and 3) other influences that might steer someone else toward a different set of beliefs. Post this to the course blog no later than midnight before class.

For this assignment, you shouldn’t write an argument or try to persuade other people to share your view. In fact, you shouldn’t even try to convince yourself. Instead, you should think about all the ways your life has affected your worldview, then try to imagine what it might be like to be a different sort of person. Your essay should spend just as much time on item 3 as it does on item 2.

Remember that you’re sharing this online! Don’t write about anything that’s too personal, don’t get into anything inappropriate (i.e., don’t confess to using illegal drugs or anything like that), don’t name other people, and make sure you pick a topic you’re comfortable discussing in class.


6 thoughts on “08/29: Find Your Nonage

  1. A very important belief that I hold in my own life is a belief in God and acceptance as Christ as my Lord and Savior. This is something that myself and my family has believed in for generations. There are a lot of things that have influenced my belief over the years, my family being a major influence. When I was young I was involved in a number of church programs as well as a youth group when I began to enter my teenage years. Eventually my family left the church for personal reasons, but my parents still had my sister and I read from the bible and learn lessons every Sunday morning. I would also say that an influence is the world in which I live, and as it becomes more and more dangerous and untrustworthy, it makes me rely on God’s mercy more and more. This sort of way of life has, for me personally, made me a patient, understanding, and strong individual and has made me feel almost invincible and ready for anything that crosses my path.
    Of course many people don’t lead this sort of lifestyle. As someone who didn’t have all these sorts of influences they may look for life’s answer through something more physical and tangible, such as through science or nature. Their particular influence may come from parents who are more interested in what their own profession entails or what their passion in life happens to be. In my opinion I feel that people who don’t have a spiritual connection may be more so influenced by material things such as technology, careers, school. The aspect of growing up without a church I think wouldn’t create much of a difference in influence as church is more or less there to teach morals and values, which can also just be taught by parents who don’t necessarily believe in a God. My influences would also probably not derive as heavily from my parents and perhaps more from, school, teachers, and what my friends also would tell me as well, and I would listen more for what they want or want I want. God has given me a sense of calm and peace in my life and I feel like without that I would be a radical and chaotic spirit with no real direction in life. This isn’t to say someone else would be like this without God, but I personally would have trouble coping with some of the events that have happened in my life otherwise.

    • Brock, Instead of a comment on the assignment page, give your response a title and add it as a new “post” on the site’s main page. Go back into the Dashboard and find the link for adding a new post.

  2. I personally believe that technology is making society stupid. There used to be a time when ignorance was bliss. Secrets could be hidden and knowledge and understanding was only for the well educated. Now in this present age practically anyone can hop on the computer and find out about a number of vast subjects such as politics, statewide affairs or even what Katy Perry is having for lunch today. Technology seems to be the scapegoat to all of the problems the education system, older generations and society in general seem to be facing. Could it possibly be that children cannot concentrate on reading because they live in the fast paced world society has thrusted into their laps? Is the education system suffering because they find it more important for a young child to be able to learn about the evolution of the earth rather than learn how to play the violin or speak another language? According to the in depth studies done by Dr. Frances Rauscher of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, located in her 2006 article first published in the Educational Psychologist, she explains that “young children provided with instrumental instruction score significantly higher on tasks measuring spatial-temporal cognition, hand-eye coordination and arithmetic.”
    While we have such hard evidence against taking music out of schools, it still continues to be eliminated because it is not deemed important enough. So after they take everything out of education except the bare minimal they are still left with a generation that has to take the fault because their elders were blind to the enviable future. Maturing generations cannot see is that it isn’t the technology that’s making the up and coming group of people feel as if they can’t concentrate or function outside of their comfort zone. The real reasoning behind this failure is that our grandparents put hard work in before they could attain knowledge about Math and English and Science and now that the hard work is eliminated in being able to learn, they will become outdated. Access to a fountain of knowledge will no longer be such a rarity and they will be outdated and a thing of the past.
    Although all arguments have strong research behind them, we must look to the past to see how the future will turn. Fast-forwarding several century’s later and we find ourselves at another roadblock. But the real question we must look to is, should we stay living in the past in fear that future technology or any other new opportunity will bring embarrassment or embrace it knowing that without change there is nothing to separate society from what is it to what it will become. It may debilitate the once current way of learning and processing that was appropriate in it’s time, but what kind of society is satisfied with achieving “just enough” to swing by and hope they aren’t missing out.


  3. Pingback: “Let My people go!” To the bathroom. | sapere aude

  4. KARMA

    Something I believe strongly in is the simple idea of Karma. I wouldn’t consider myself to be superstitious in any way, but I do feel as though the world has a funny way of making things right. Karma can obviously be good or bad, depending on how you live your life your karma will swing one of these ways. If you personally treat people with respect and try to be a good honest human being I truly believe that things will work out for you. Now maybe you’re not going to hit the lottery or become famous and rich, but that’s not what I believe karma to be about. To me it’s more about you, and how you feel and conduct yourself.
    In the opposite direction, I definitely believe in bad karma as well. If you are a liar, cheat, or just a bad person in general the world will pay you back with bad karma, it might not be directly in response to the bad actions you have done but sometime it will come back and bite you. I hold this belief strongly because really what would happen if karma weren’t true? People could do all this bad stuff, not feel bad about it, and the world would just go on. I know obviously people get away with bad things all the time but to me I like to believe that some day they get what is coming to them. That is why I try to live my life embracing each moment and being the best person I can be not only to others but to myself as well.
    I’m not exactly sure where these beliefs have come from, I feel like I’ve just picked up little bits here and there throughout my life to make me have this perspective. I know that going abroad to backpack Europe really helped shape this view and me. I realized how accepting and open people are (a little to open in some hostels) and just listening to their views on America and life in general opened my eyes to the bigger picture. Other influences of this idea have come from my parents who have always pushed me to do good for others and just to be a better person. They were never too pushy in this perspective, which I really respect; they kind of let my figure things out on my own.
    Some people may completely not believe in karma though and live their life not thinking the same way as I do. Things that occur in individuals’ lives can make them think that karma is a bunch of bullshit. Hypothetically, as a child say you saw your neighbor beat there dog all the time and nothing ever happened to him, you may think how is that right? How isn’t there justice? Honestly I wouldn’t know the answer to that question, only that I would hope one day something would happen to change the situation. But if circumstances along these lines have happened I can understand the other side of the argument saying that the world doesn’t always work out the way it should and karma isn’t real. Personally I like to think it is real, and that by living the way I do I make my life and the ones around me better.

    • Robert,

      Make sure to add this as a post, rather than a comment. If you’re not sure what I mean by that, ask one of your group members.


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