An Answer to the Question: "What is Enlightenment?"

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Lord Wilmore

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An Answer to the Question: "What is Enlightenment?"
« on: April 05, 2012, 09:03:23 PM »
The opening paragraphs to Immanuel Kant's An Answer to the Question: "What is Enlightenment?":


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IMMANUEL KANT

An Answer to the Question: "What is Enlightenment?"

Konigsberg in Prussia, 30th September, 1784.


Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-incurred immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one's own understanding without the guidance of another. This immaturity is self-incurred if its cause is not lack of understanding, but  lack of resolution and courage to use it without the guidance of another. The motto of enlightenment is therefore: Sapere aude! Have courage to use your own understanding!

Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why such a large proportion of men, even when nature has long emancipated them from alien guidance (naturaliter maiorennes), nevertheless gladly remain immature for life. For the same reasons, it is all too easy for others to set themselves up as their guardians. It is so convenient to be immature! If I have a book to have understanding in place of me, a spiritual adviser to have a conscience for me, a doctor to judge my diet for me, and so on, I need not make any efforts at all. I need not think, so long as I can pay; others will soon enough take the tiresome job over for me. The guardians who have kindly taken upon themselves the work of supervision will soon see to it that by far the largest part of mankind (including the entire fair sex) should consider the step forward to maturity not only as difficult but also as highly dangerous. Having first infatuated their domesticated animals, and carefully prevented the docile creatures from daring to take a single step without the leading-strings to which they are tied, they next show them the danger which threatens them if they try to walk unaided. Now this danger is not in fact so very great, for they would certainly learn to walk eventually after a few falls. But an example of this kind is intimidating, and usually frightens them off from further attempts.

Thus it is difficult for each separate individual to work his way out of the immaturity which has become almost second nature to him. He has even grown fond of it and is really incapable for the time being of using his own understanding, because he was never allowed to make the attempt. Dogmas and formulas, those mechanical instruments for rational use (or rather misuse) of his natural endowments, are the ball and chain of his permanent immaturity. And if anyone did throw them off, he would still be uncertain about jumping over even the narrowest of trenches, for he would be unaccustomed to free movement of this kind. Thus only a few, by cultivating the;r own minds, have succeeded in freeing themselves from immaturity and in continuing boldly on their way.


I feel it is of some relevance to the principles of Zeteticism and the ideals of our Society.
"I want truth for truth's sake, not for the applaud or approval of men. I would not reject truth because it is unpopular, nor accept error because it is popular. I should rather be right and stand alone than run with the multitude and be wrong." - C.S. DeFord

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17 November

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Re: What is Enlightenment?
« Reply #1 on: July 03, 2012, 08:00:59 PM »
What is Enlightenment?

The enlightenment of the eighteenth century philosophes which Kant describes above was a good movement in that it zealously opposed an evil culture which was entrenched by aristocratic government and false religion which were rightly attacked by the enlightenment.

The monarchies which the philosophes attacked employed their own philosophes in order to subvert and control this movement, and the enlightenment became divided into schools of thought.  Enlightenment writers vary significantly.

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17 November

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Re: What is Enlightenment?
« Reply #2 on: July 03, 2012, 08:02:03 PM »
Kant's essay is indiscriminately prejudiced against any kind of systematic perspective,
but it is foolish to listen to instruction that causes us to stray from knowledge.

Eighteenth century science did deserve criticism, but Kant replaces one evil with another.  His indiscreet opposition to all "dogmas and formulas" can easily be used to condemn the innocent and righteous simultaneously with the wicked.

To be fair to Kant, cult myths like heliocentricity were already institutionalized dogmas by Kant's time which have instilled a debilitated "immature" mentality (to use Kant's term) that dares not question childish dogmas about moon visitations or patently illogical formulas like relativity.  Kant's analysis is applicable to our cause if applied to those false doctrines.

Rousseau versus Voltaire

The enlightenment embraces a whole spectrum of opinions.
Rousseau and Voltaire were opposites and occupied two extremes of this spectrum.  The writers of Voltaire's school of thought including D'Alembert, LaPlace, and Diderot were tools of the aristocracy and ardent teachers of heliocentric dogma.  They feigned opposition to aristocracy whilst harshly attacking its staunchest opponents.  For example, Voltaire wrote that Rousseau's 'Social Contract' was "an essay against the human race."  This school of writers corrupted the enlightenment.

Jean Jacques Rousseau was more enlightened than Voltaire's followers since he questioned and opposed false sciences and arts, and the intellectual and moral degeneracy which they engendered.  Likewise, John Wesley saw through both the corrupt Anglican church and phony British astronomy.  John Wesley was a geocentrist and a rebel who devoted his life to fighting ecclesiastical corruption, and he did a better job than Voltaire who hypocritically befriended Pope Clement XIV.

'A Discourse on the Moral Effects of the Arts and Sciences'
By Jean Jacques Rousseau
http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=638&chapter=71081&layout=html&Itemid=27

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17 November

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Re: What is Enlightenment?
« Reply #3 on: July 03, 2012, 08:26:13 PM »
Augustin Barruel
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustin_Barruel

Augustin Barruel was an ultra-conservative papist who wrote a famous book in four parts during the 1790's entitled 'Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism'.  The first quarter of the book which I find most useful outlines Voltaire's career.  The second part against Rousseau is the worst part of the book in my opinion.  The last half of the book about the Illuminati is why it is so famous.

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'The Anti-Christian Conspiracy'
By Augustin Barruel
http://books.google.com/books?id=jCQPAAAAIAAJ&pg=PP7&dq=memoirs+illustrating+the+history+of+jacobinism&as_brr=1&ie=ISO-8859-1#v=onepage&q=memoirs%20illustrating%20the%20history%20of%20jacobinism&f=false

Marvelous.  This is the english translation first published in 1798.  Very well documented, it quotes the correspondence of Voltaire, King Frederick of Prussia, d'Alembert, and Diderot with one another and like minded persons from book publishers to european monarchs, nobles, academics, and sacerdotals in order to facilitate the annihilation of Christian culture in europe.  This essay is mostly arranged into short chapters on each area in which this conspiracy ventured.  Completely documented, well organized, and not at all boring.

This particular essay about anti-Christian conspiracy is indispensable in outlining the history of opposition to geocentrism and its vestiges because the opponents of such traditional science were identical with the most fanatical opponents of traditional Christianity during that period.

The chapter on the suppression of the Jesuits mentions an alliance of Voltaire's clique with Pope Clement XIV.  Unfortunately, no significant investigation is made into such an odd phenomenon. 
Very unlike Barruel's right of centre political outlook, most Jesuits (especially throughout the Hispanic empire) were actively interested in the welfare of common people.  Perhaps the Jesuits lack of sufficient concern for capitalist and bourgeoisie interests explains why the very aristocratic Voltaire sought to have Pope Clement XIV disband the Jesuits whilst ignoring other religious orders more allied to aristocratic interests such as the Dominicans. 

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'The Anti-Monarchical Conspiracy'
By Augustin Barruel

Inferior and misguided compared with his first essay, this work exposes Barruel's aristocratic prejudice.  Barruel takes aim against Jean Jacques Rousseau and is clearly a partisan of aristocratic interests and an enemy of the French revolution who does not even consider or mention the welfare of common people in this essay.  Unlike the meticulous documentation of directly relevant material in his first essay, over half of this borish essay is spent recounting conspiracies from centuries ago.  It is convoluted and not well organized.

Barruel claims that the anti-Christian conspiracy of his first essay is united with the anti-monarchy movement, but he ignores huge contradictions to this thesis like Voltaire's close friendship and connections with the sovereigns of europe.  Barruel will not countenance the abundant evidence that Voltaire shares his own aristocratic bias, and his arguments in this essay defending aristocracy are fundamentally weak.

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17 November

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Re: What is Enlightenment?
« Reply #4 on: July 03, 2012, 08:26:58 PM »
Pierre-Simon Laplace (1749-1827) & His System of Astronomy
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre-Simon_Laplace

Like Newton and Einstein, Pierre LaPlace's astronomy uses excessive math and unfamiliar language to bolster false astronomy which is the atheistic heliocentrism of Voltaire and Galileo.  In fact, the correspondence of Voltaire’s colleague D’Alembert reveals that D'Alembert secured LaPlace’s entrance to the French National Academie.  Also like Newton and Einstein, LaPLace’s use of esoteric language and inordinate math distracts people from critical and objective thinking as to whether or not his system is true which is the real reason these devices are used.

LaPlace's astronomy is responsible for the demonstrably false 200,000 mile earth to moon distance.  LaPlace’s math is false, theoretical, and complicated.  Like Newton, LaPlace's astronomy only uses complicated math because his premise is too easily refuted if stated in simple terms.  The influence of LaPlace's theoretical math gradually replaced traditional Euclidean geometry during the nineteenth century through indoctrinated universities like the French Academie where money and energy are spent on theories whilst Euclidean geometry was ignored.  Noam Chomsky once astutely observed that the wealthiest 20% of the population are also the most indoctrinated.

Samuel Rowbotham understood that LaPlace's hypothetical astronomy was a fabrication. Guided strictly by observable reality, Rowbotham found the Achilles' heel of heliocentric and global earth theories by using the immutable laws of Euclidean geometry and basic trigonometry.
« Last Edit: October 14, 2012, 12:26:03 AM by 17 November »

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Lord Wilmore

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Re: An Answer to the Question: "What is Enlightenment?"
« Reply #5 on: July 03, 2012, 09:18:54 PM »
I suppose I should begin by saying that I posted this section from Kant more out of agreement with the spirit of his comments in these particular sections, rather than the substance of his argument overall. I think the most dangerous aspect of Kant's version of enlightenment is not just that it "can easily be used to condemn the innocent and righteous simultaneously with the wicked", but rather that it favours the haves over the have-nots. Simply put, under any reasonable interpretation, Kant effectively outlaws civil disobedience in this essay. He essentially takes the view that in the ideal state, all would be free to say what they like in a public capacity, so long as all obeyed the law with respect to their roll in society. However, it surely takes no great effort to see that only under very particular circumstances would this result in a just outcome. Under a great many, it would clearly take away the one method of political leverage available to those who have least.


I am aware of 17's political interests, and in order to avoid appearing as one who fawns over this undoubtedly great philosopher, I feel I should present a more critical take on Kant and his outline of an enlightened Republic, based on an essay I have written. Please note that due to the limitations of the forum software, I cannot maintain proper formatting, but I've tried to make quotes etc. clear:
"I want truth for truth's sake, not for the applaud or approval of men. I would not reject truth because it is unpopular, nor accept error because it is popular. I should rather be right and stand alone than run with the multitude and be wrong." - C.S. DeFord

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Lord Wilmore

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Re: An Answer to the Question: "What is Enlightenment?"
« Reply #6 on: July 03, 2012, 09:20:08 PM »
Part I


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A Critique of Kantian Republicanism

       In the essays What is Enlightenment? and Perpetual Peace, Immanuel Kant attempts to sketch a socio-political system in which freedom of thought and expression exists in harmony with social stability and order. The model he advocates is essentially a representative republic, in which absolute freedom of thought and expression is permitted in the public sphere, but obedience to the law is required in the exercise of one's duties, office or profession. Kant contrasts this with faith in an elite group of rulers, and what he sees as the central flaw of democracy, namely that it essentially amounts to a tyranny of the majority. In this essay, I will argue that Kant does not recognise that precisely the same arguments can be levelled at any non-ideal representative republic. If in practice a representative of the citizenry fails to represent all of the citizens she is charged with representing, instead only supporting those whose support she requires, the system is no better than a repressive democracy. Moreover, Max Weber's analysis of the development of the occidental city and Western politics not only shows that supposedly representative officials often fail to adequately represent the citizens, but that groups often have to collectively leverage their position, often through civil disobedience or the use of force, in order to acquire rights and representation. I will conclude by asking whether or not there is any middle ground between these two positions, or if an adjustment or restatement of Kant's ideas can solve the problems inherent to his model.

       In An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?, Kant attempts to outline what an enlightened society would look like, focussing on the need for freedom to use one's reason publicly. He begins by describing what he sees as the socio-political “immaturity” of societies which demand unthinking obedience (Enlightenment 54), and where not only action but free-thought and discussion are restricted. Kant contends that most people are all too ready to abdicate moral and intellectual responsibility, and that as a result self-proclaimed guardians can easily persuade people that such responsibility is dangerous and best avoided (Enlightenment 54). This blind faith in conventional wisdom can eventually infect the rulers themselves, leading to a vicious circle of prejudice and intellectual stagnation (Enlightenment 55). Kant believes that such societies appeal to and empower our moral deficiencies, and argues that many find it easier to unthinkingly do as they are told than to engage in self-cultivation and improvement. Only by allowing people to think for themselves can dogmatism be overcome, and therefore the freedom to think for oneself and publicly express those thoughts is essential if society is to become enlightened (Enlightenment 55).

       The objection Kant anticipates is that the kind of freedom of expression that he is advocating would lead to disorder and civil disobedience, and make public offices and positions unreliable or unworkable (Enlightenment 56). Kant's solution is to argue that although the necessity for obedience in one's social role may require “the private use of reason . . . [to] be very narrowly restricted” (Enlightenment 55), this should not lead to any restrictions on the public use of one's reason, the two being distinct in his view: “But by the public use of one's own reason I mean that use which anyone may make    of it as a man of learning addressing the entire reading public. What I term the private use of reason is that which a person may make of it in a particular civil post or office with which he is entrusted” (Enlightenment 55). In other words, one should be free to articulate one's opinions and views in public, so long as one does so in a way that does not interfere with one's civic duties. Kant makes it clear that it is not only public officials who have such duties, but that even in our capacity as citizens we have certain civic obligations (Enlightenment 56). Kant's essential contention therefore is that enlightenment and freedom of expression need not come at the cost of social order and stability.

       The freedom to use one's reason in a public capacity ties in directly with his constitutional ideal, a representative republic. In his essay Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch, Kant describes all three in the following passage: “A republican constitution is founded upon three principles: firstly, the principle of freedom for all members of a society (as men); secondly, the principle of the dependence of everyone upon a single common legislation (as subjects); and thirdly, the principle of legal equality for everyone (as citizens)” (Peace 20). Kant does not explain precisely what he means by “freedom”, but we can surely assume that it includes the freedom to use one's reason in a public capacity, as outlined above, and does not mean absolute freedom or the freedom to disobey the state or to refuse to carry out one's civic duties. Similarly, the common law and equality under that law presumably only applies with respect to one's public rights, as different civic roles will obviously come with obligations and rights that will give one more or less freedom when fufilling that role. What is important to note is that if the freedom Kant refers to in Perpetual Peace is the same kind of freedom he describes in What is Enlightenment, then we must bear in mind the range of legitimate actions available to citizens of a Kantian republic when assessing its structure.

       Kant recognises that the above principles, taken at face value, could lead to representative republics being “confused” with democracies (Peace 21), and so introduces one further defining characteristic, namely its representative nature. For Kant, “Republicanism is that political principle whereby the executive power (the government) is separated from the legislative power” (Peace 21), such that the power to enact law is not held by the same body that creates law. Instead the representative (or representatives) of the executive power can prevent any assault on the republican nature of the constitution. Moreover, because that constitution guarantees the freedom of citizens to use their reason in a public capacity, any person or group that is adversely affected by (or disapproving of) proposed legislation can thereby appeal to the representative executive power (and presumably the legislature). Kant obviously feels that such a constitution offers the best balance between guaranteeing the founding principles of a representative republic and social stability.

       In many ways, Kant's vision of an ideal constitution is best illuminated by examining his critique of what he appears to consider the worst form of government: democracy. Kant's central criticism of democracy is that because the legislative body also wields most (if not all) executive powers, there is no counter-balance which can prevent the tyranny of the majority over the minority:

"Of the three forms of sovereignty, democracy, in the truest sense of the word, is necessarily a despotism, because it establishes an executive power through which all the citizens may make decisions about (and indeed against) the single individual without his consent, so that decisions are made by all the people and yet not by all the people; and this means that the general will is in contradiction with itself, and thus also with freedom." (Peace 22)

Kant's description of democracy, and especially his qualification “in the truest sense of the word”, seems to indicate that he is referring to direct democracy. One is tempted to read between the lines and see this as Kant leaving space for representative democracy within a republican framework, but it is hard to say whether his reticence to say so openly is due to his own disapproval, or a rhetorical decision made in light of the anticipated disapproval of his audience. In any event, he does not explicitly consider it. What is clear is that for Kant, representative, republican governance is good and just primarily because a representative, functioning as such, must represent all of the people she serves.
"I want truth for truth's sake, not for the applaud or approval of men. I would not reject truth because it is unpopular, nor accept error because it is popular. I should rather be right and stand alone than run with the multitude and be wrong." - C.S. DeFord

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Lord Wilmore

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Re: An Answer to the Question: "What is Enlightenment?"
« Reply #7 on: July 03, 2012, 09:20:21 PM »
Part II


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       There are two significant and connected problems with Kant's account of the relative merits of democracy and republicanism. The first is that his account of democracy, even assuming it is the most direct form of democracy feasible, is clearly unfair, for two reasons. First of all, the sheer impracticality of an absolutely direct democracy ensures that the most direct form of democracy that is feasible (in a society of the size Kant is discussing) will necessarily require some kind of constitutional framework, or something akin and equivalent. In short, if by democracy in “the truest sense of the word” (Peace 22) Kant means a form of democracy that is practically impossible, then he is not really saying anything interesting. Alternatively, if he is referring to the most direct form of democracy that is feasible in a state of significant size, then his description amounts to little more than a caricature, as it will obviously not function in the way he describes – representative institutions of some kind will clearly be necessary. Either way, there is something straw man-esque about his argument. Secondly, Kant's contention that a democracy “is necessarily a despotism, because it establishes an executive power through which all the citizens may make decisions about (and indeed against) the single individual” (Peace 22) is surely equivalent to arguing that democracy is despotic because it can potentially exhibit despotic features, which is surely a patent non sequitur. There is absolutely no reason why voters in a democracy must necessarily vote in a totally self-interested and despotic way with respect to minorities. Indeed, it is entirely plausible that voters will vote in a way that defends the rights of others, even if it is to their material disadvantage, because they believe that such rights have an inherent social value. Kant might reasonably claim that direct democracy is flawed because it has the potential to lead to despotism, but to claim that it is therefore necessarily despotic is simply not a sustainable argument.

       This may seem like a somewhat trivial criticism to make, but it ties into the the second problem with Kant's comparison between democracy and republicanism. Even if we grant that the possibility of despotism under a direct democracy necessarily makes it a despotism, the same argument can be levelled at representative republicanism. For just as voters in a democracy will not necessarily vote in a self-interested and despotic way, there is absolutely no guarantee that the representatives in a representative republic will necessarily represent all those they are charged with representing in an adequate manner. Whether they represent a constituency within the state or the entirety of the citizenship, and regardless of the way in which they come to hold office (electorally, hereditarily, by lot, etc), it is highly plausible that they will have interests which they can promote through that office, and which if promoted will run counter to the interests of at least some, conceivably most, and possibly all of the people they represent. It is of course true that the interests they promote and how they promote them may depend on the means by which they come to hold office. For example, if the official is democratically elected, she may seek to promote the interests of those who elected her, whereas if she is elected by lot she is more likely to promote her own interests and the interests of those most important to her. However, the important point is that there is no iron-clad way of guaranteeing that representatives represent the “general will” (Peace 22). Indeed, historically speaking it is a fairly uncontroversial point that a great many representative governments have primarily (or even exclusively) represented a majority, and made decisions against the will of a minority. Even granting a division of power between the executive and legislative branches of government, a tyranny of the majority is still entirely possible (and indeed plausible) under a representative government. If, as Kant argues, the possibility of despotism under direct democracy necessarily makes it a despotism, then the possibility of despotism under a representative republic must necessarily make it a despotism as well. In short, if Kant's criticism holds against direct democracy, then it holds against representative republics too.

       Of course, the above arguments do not significantly undermine Kant's overall model, but simply counter his claims regarding the relative merits of representative republicanism versus direct democracy. However, the last point does highlight a more serious problem with Kant's attempt to ground the process of enlightenment in a socio-political model of public freedom and private or civic duty. Such a system essentially grants citizens the freedom to voice their opinions in exchange for the obligation to obey. However, this means that all forms of civil disobedience, unsanctioned protest or industrial action are effectively forbidden. The dissenting citizen's only legitimate recourse is to try and persuade those charged with representing him that a given policy marginalises him, or is in some way contrary to the values of the republic. If for whatever reason the representative fails or refuses to represent the marginalised citizen adequately, that citizen has no way of legitimately defending his rights in a Kantian republic.

       This is especially problematic when one considers that historically, groups have often only been able to challenge unresponsive representatives through the use of force, or by bringing the power and influence of their civic role to bear. In Economy and Society, Max Weber charts how the burgher associations in the emerging cities of western Europe came to acquire the rights and degree of representation we now associate with them. As Weber points out, the burgher associations were not originally significant in a legal, political or social sense:

"Everywhere, not only in England, the burgher associations of the emerging cities were initially treated by the political power, the lord of the city, as passive liturgical associations of urban landowners who shared in certain specific tasks and duties as well as privileges . . . the economically most important of the privileges initially were not in a formal legal sense acquisitions of the burgher associations, but the property of the political or manorial lord of the city. It was he, rather than the burghers, who formally acquired these important rights which were to the immediate economic advantage of the burghers." (Weber 1248)

The burgher associations thus began with no legal rights or status. They merely exercised the rights of the lord with his permission and on his behalf. Even the functionaries they elected to court did not represent them, but rather the lord (Weber 1249). They lacked any independent representation or rights.

       Weber contends that the burgher associations gained legal and representative legitimacy principally by defying and usurping the existing social order. He acknowledges that “[i]n a formal sense the corporation of the burghers and its authorities had their “legitimate” origin in (real or ficticious) privileges granted by the political and at times by the manorial powers”, but maintains that “quite often, and especially in the most important cases, the real origin is to be found in what is from the formal legal point of view a revolutionary usurpation of rights” (Weber 1250). In other words, rights were rarely granted due to what Kant would consider the legitimate persuasion of representatives, but rather through collective action in defiance of ethe authorities.

       Indeed, although to begin with these actions were often actively and continually resisted by existing representatives (Weber 1251), such disobedience did not just involve defying the law by asserting the right to confraternize. Rather, it subsequently extended to “seizing all or the major part of judicial powers and the supreme command in wartime”, with judicial officials “now obtain[ing] office from the sworn burgher fraternity by election rather than from the city lord by appointment” (Weber 1253). The burgher associations then typically moved to curtail or limit the capacity of the existing powers to deploy coercive force against them, by razing castles positioned within the city, and asserting clear legal boundaries regarding the proximity of any new military fortifications. These rights were “obtained either by force or by extorted or purchased grant from the emporer or the bishop” (Weber 1254). Wherever he looks, Weber finds that “the urban communes originated in revolutionary usurpation by asssociations of burghers, merchants and urban rentiers who either united with the resident knights-as in the South-or with the confraternitates and guilds of the artisans-as in the North-to seize political power” (Weber 1256).  Adequate and satisfactory representation could not be achieved through persuasion, or even public confraternization, but instead required civil disobedience or the direct use of force. Weber's central point in these sections is that the legal rights and political representation obtained by the burgher associations were primarily the result of collective action in defiance of existing laws. His examples not only show that those in power pften do not represent those they are charged with representing, but also that the public use of reason is rarely sufficient to persuade representatives to act against their own interests. Simply put, though at the time Kant was fortunate to live under a relatively benign monarch, Frederich II of Prussia, he was just that: fortunate. His claims about representation and the public use of reason seem thoroughly naďve in the light of Weber's empirical take on the way representation and rights are obtained in practice.

       Yet it is still worth asking whether we can fashion a version of Kant's argument of an enlightened republic that takes account of these criticisms, and can be reconciled with Weber's analysis of the progression of legal and political representation in western Europe. For if this can be done, I believe the resulting model might serve as a strong and persuasive position from which to defend the idea that social freedom need not come at the expense of social stability. There are two approaches that would move Kant's position beyond the range of the above criticisms, one of which I believe would further this goal, and one which would not.

       The easiest way to bring Kant's model clear of these problems would be essentially rhetorical in nature. Much of the fire I have directed at Kant could be deflected by presenting roughly the same argument in a less strident tone, scaling back the strength of Kant's claims whilst preserving the core of his position. Essentially, representative republicanism could be presented as better than direct democracy or other alternatives, without being held up as infallible or inherently just. Such a defence would essentially make the far more limited claim that representative republicanism may not always be superior to direct democracies, but in practice would tend to result in societies that are more fair, more just and more peaceful. The first, and less important problem with such an approach is that its highly consequentialist undertones would make it very difficult to square with the rest of Kant's philosophical views, or even his original reasons for supporting it, such as that it “springs from the pure concept of right” (Peace 20). More importantly, scaling back the strength of Kant's claims necessarily lessens the utility of his argument for the purposes of denying that there is a trade-off between freedom and stability. For if it is restated to claim no more than that representative republicanism will tend to produce better results than direct democracy or other alternatives, then for the argument to have any force it must be grounded in an empirical demonstration of that claim. Any such empirical study is bound to be difficult to produce and extremely contentious, so that what remains of Kant's argument will have very little persuasive power. For these reasons, I think a purely argumentative or rhetorical restatement of his position will bear very little fruit.

       Rather, I think a more fundamental change is needed. A full account of how Kant's argument in favour of the representative republic could be reshaped so as to resolve the above problems whilst still being philosophically significant is well beyond the scope of this paper. However, I will attempt to briefly sketch what such an argument might look like. First of all, I believe that space can and should be made in Kant's argument for representative democracy, and that this should be explicitly preferred to monarchical models, which Kant expresses a strong preference for throughout Perpetual Peace. This is not simply a case of pandering to modern sensibilities: democratically elected representatives are far more likely to really attempt to represent those who elect them than a monarch, or any other kind of representative whose continued holding of the position is not necessarily linked with their performance in it. Representative, democratic republics do not exclude any of the features Kant finds so admirable in representative republics; they merely add a check against potentially unrepresentative representatives.

       Moreover, I believe that the scope of legitimate public freedoms should be widened to include peaceful civil disobedience, industrial action, and other forms of protest that cannot reasonably be interpreted as constituting the public use of one's reason. Kant's criticism of direct democracy, that it easily results in a tyranny of the majority, is an old but valid line of argument. Furthermore, it also holds true (to a greater or lesser extent) of almost any form of democracy, representative or otherwise. That is why the right to engage in peaceful civil disobedience or protest is considered to be such an important feature of a just democratic state. It provides minority groups in a democracy with a legitimate way of defending their rights and views when the public use of reason has failed to persuade voters or representatives. It also provides those who are insufficiently articulate, educated, or influential to persuasively express their thoughts through language with an alternative means of communicating their dissent. Kant's concept of the public use of one's reason is effectively limited to “[men] of learning” (Enlightenment 55), but in democracies those who are marginalised or under represented are often those who lack the resources, intellectual or material, to bring their views into the public consciousness through language. Hence a broader concept of what constitutes legitimate expression is necessary if this new emphasis on representative democracy is to satisfactorally address Kant's own concerns about the potential for democratic despotism.

       A restatement of Kant's original argument along the above lines would, I believe, present clear structural advantages over both direct democracy and non-democratic representative republics, with democratic institutions keeping representatives in check, and a broader range of legitimate forms of expression providing a bulwark against majoritism. Finally, it would be wholly consistent with Weber's analysis of how representative power structures evolve.
"I want truth for truth's sake, not for the applaud or approval of men. I would not reject truth because it is unpopular, nor accept error because it is popular. I should rather be right and stand alone than run with the multitude and be wrong." - C.S. DeFord

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Lord Wilmore

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Re: An Answer to the Question: "What is Enlightenment?"
« Reply #8 on: July 03, 2012, 09:21:17 PM »
Quote
Works Cited

Kant, Immanuel, and Hans Siegbert. Reiss. "An Answer to the Question: What Is Enlightenment?" Kant: Political Writings. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1991. Print.

Kant, Immanuel. "Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch." Perpetual Peace. London: Penguin, 2009. Print.

Weber, Max. Economy and Society. Ed. Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich. New York: Bedminster Press, 1968. Print.
"I want truth for truth's sake, not for the applaud or approval of men. I would not reject truth because it is unpopular, nor accept error because it is popular. I should rather be right and stand alone than run with the multitude and be wrong." - C.S. DeFord

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17 November

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Re: What is Enlightenment?
« Reply #9 on: July 04, 2012, 02:39:17 PM »
I think the most dangerous aspect of Kant's version of enlightenment is ...
... that it favours the haves over the have-nots.
... Kant effectively outlaws civil disobedience

Thank you for this information which indicates that Immanuel Kant shared the aristocratic views of Voltaire who was 30 years older and probably influenced him.  Voltaire was a racist aristocrat who believed that black people were not human and that democracy was the "idiocy of the masses."  Men who write on behalf of the wealthy are hypocritical at best when they attack corruption. 
Sadly, Kant was evidently opposed to Rousseau who to his credit favoured the "have-nots."

Voltaire does seem to have been inclined to attack faults in Christians more than others which can be a blessing in disguise to a Christian who is worthy of the Name.

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John Davis

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Re: An Answer to the Question: "What is Enlightenment?"
« Reply #10 on: March 08, 2013, 11:49:53 AM »
Enlightenment is a much older subject and be traced as far back as the Mayans, Egyptians, Sumerian , and Eastern roots.

To be honest, with the hordes and hordes of knowledge from all these sources, in the end enlightment, like most things, are what you make of it.
Quantum Ab Hoc

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17 November

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Re: An Answer to the Question: "What is Enlightenment?"
« Reply #11 on: January 07, 2015, 08:02:00 PM »
Although I am not interested in Joseph Priestley's religious doctrines, I like his social and political writings which include a refutation of Edmund Burke's critique of the French revolution.  He was in the camp of Rousseau and Tom Paine. 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Priestley

I was very careful in selecting a book by William Godwin, known as the father of anarchism and decided on Godwin's refutation of Malthus's famous (anti-people) overpopulation theory. 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Godwin

Prior to agreeing more wholeheartedly with Lenin and Stalin, I extensively read and investigated the anarchist Prince Kropotkin of Russia who was one of the most famous of those influenced by Godwin.  Kropotkin like most anarchists was one of the most critical of leftists towards the Bolshevik revolution. 

Anarchism is distinguished by the fact that it does not believe in government, but it was another anarchist (of all people) who initially convinced me of the need for government to defend the cause of the weak and exploited and the powerful.  I once heard Noam Chomsky make this defence of government in his critique of Bill Clinton's policies as a continuation of those of the Reagan-Bush era. 

I weighed what Chomsky said and concluded that anarchists and businessmen both want the same thing.  They both view government as evil - albeit for different reasons.  I later actually discovered that the anarchist William Godwin credited right wing philosopher Edmund Burke as a key influence for anarchist ideas in his most famous work.