Exploring Enlightenment Through Kant S And Voltaire S Text

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Exploring Enlightenment through Kant’s and Voltaire’s Text
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Exploring Enlightenment through Kant’s and Voltaire’s Text
Voltaire’s “Candide & the Enlightenment” and Immanuel Kant’s “What is
Enlightenment?” focus on intellectual freedom and its connection to virtue. Despite their
differences in tone and subject matter, these works explore central concepts of the
Enlightenment and provide light on the tensions that can arise when people prioritize
personal autonomy above community expectations and the pursuit of virtue. Kant’s “What is
Enlightenment?” text argues for the value of intellectual independence and the freedom of
individuals from their shackles.1 According to Kant, Enlightenment is the release from man’s
self-incurred teaching, which stems from a lack of willpower and confidence in one’s critical
thinking. Kant says people should have the guts to rely on their reason rather than books,
pastors, or doctors. He urges individuals to have the confidence to think for themselves by
emphasizing the mantra “Sapere aude!” (Dare to know!). Achieving true virtue via logical
and independent thought and doing is consistent with Kant’s definition of Enlightenment.
Conversely, Voltaire’s “Candide & the Enlightenment” is a humorous critique of the
Enlightenment that points out its merits and flaws. Pangloss, a caricature of Leibnizian
optimism, stands for the Enlightenment hope that good may triumph over evil by applying
re …
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