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Essays on Kant$
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Henry E. Allison

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199647033

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199647033.001.0001

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: Kant's Conception of Aufklärung

: Kant's Conception of Aufklärung

(p.229) Essay Fifteen: Kant's Conception of Aufklärung
Essays on Kant

Henry E. Allison

Oxford University Press

This essay analyzes Kant's conception of enlightenment. It argues that, contrary to the view of Mendelssohn and many of his contemporaries, for whom enlightenment consists in the acquisition of basic truths regarding the human condition, Kant viewed it in more negative and practical terms as the escape from a condition of “Unmündigkeit,” understood as an incapacity to think for oneself. As such, enlightenment involves the will as well as the intellect. This connection of enlightenment with the will is affirmed in Kant's controversial claim that this condition is self‐incurred and therefore imputable, but it has been criticized in both Kant's time and our own. Kant is defended against this criticism by suggesting a comparison with Dostoevsky's “Grand Inquisitor.” It is further argued that Kant's conception provides the basis for a response to Gadamer's critique of enlightenment as a “prejudice against prejudice,” which denies the importance of tradition.

Keywords:   enlightenment, Hans Gadamer, Grand Inquisitor, human condition, imputable, Moses Mendelssohn, prejudice against prejudice, understanding, Unmündigkeit, will

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