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Immanuel Kant, "What is Enlightenment?'" (1784)

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But only one who is himself enlightened is not afraid of shadows, and who has a numerous and well-disciplined army to assure public peace, can say: "Argue as much as you will, and about what you will, only obey!" A republic could not dare say such a thing. Here is shown a strange and unexpected trend in human affairs in which almost everything, looked at in the large, is paradoxical. A greater degree of civil freedom appears advantageous to the freedom of mind of the people, and yet it places inescapable limitations upon it; a lower degree of civil freedom, on the contrary, provides the mind with room for each man to extend himself to his full capacity. As nature has uncovered from under this hard shell the seed for which she most tenderly cares – the propensity and vocation to free thinking – this gradually works back upon the character of the people, who thereby gradually become capable of managing freedom; finally, it affects the principles of government, which finds it to its advantage to treat men, who are now more than machines, in accordance with their dignity.

Source of English translation: Immanuel Kant, “What is Enlightenment?,’” in Immanuel Kant, On History, edited, with an introduction by Lewis White Beck. Translated by Lewis White Beck, Robert E. Anchor, and Emil L. Fackenheim. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1963, pp. 3-10.

Source of original German text: Immanuel Kant, Schriften zur Anthrophologie Geschichtsphilosophie Politik und Pädagogik [Writings on Anthropology, Philosophy of History, and Pedagogy]. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1964, pp. 53-61.

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