Age Enlightenment Essays

Age Enlightenment Essays-28
Farther, new prejudices will serve as well as old ones to harness the great unthinking masses. I answer: The public use of one's reason must always be free, and it alone can bring about enlightenment among men.Nothing is required for this enlightenment, however, except freedom, and indeed the most harmless among all the things to which this term can properly be applied. The private use of reason, on the other hand, may often be very narrowly restricted without particularly hindering the progress of enlightenment.

Farther, new prejudices will serve as well as old ones to harness the great unthinking masses. I answer: The public use of one's reason must always be free, and it alone can bring about enlightenment among men.Nothing is required for this enlightenment, however, except freedom, and indeed the most harmless among all the things to which this term can properly be applied. The private use of reason, on the other hand, may often be very narrowly restricted without particularly hindering the progress of enlightenment.

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Therefore, there are few who have succeeded by their own exercise of mind both in freeing themselves from incompetence and in achieving a steady pace.

But that the public should enlighten itself is more likely; indeed, if only freedom is granted, enlightenment is almost sure to follow.

The use, therefore, which an appointed teacher makes of his reason before his congregation is merely private, because this congregation is only a domestic one (even if it be a large gathering); with respect to it, as a priest, he is not free, nor can he be free, because he carries out the orders of another.

But as a scholar, whose writings speak to his public, the world, the clergyman in the public use of his reason enjoys an unlimited freedom to use his own reason to speak in his own person.

But the same person nevertheless does not act contrary to his duty as a citizen, when, as a scholar, he publicly expresses his thoughts on the inappropriateness or even the injustices of these levies, Similarly a clergyman is obligated to make his sermon to his pupils in catechism and his congregation conform to the symbol of the church which he serves, for he has been accepted on this condition.

But as a scholar he has complete freedom, even the calling, to communicate to the public all his carefully tested and well meaning thoughts on that which is erroneous in the symbol and to make suggestions for the better organization of the religious body and church.In doing this there is nothing that could be laid as a burden on his conscience.For what he teaches as a consequence of his office as a representative of the church, this he considers something about which he has not freedom to teach according to his own lights; it is something which he is appointed to propound at the dictation of and in the name of another. Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why so great a portion of mankind, after nature has long since discharged them from external direction (naturaliter maiorennes [those who come of age by virtue of nature]), nevertheless remains under lifelong tutelage, and why it is so easy for others to set themselves up as their guardians. If I have a book that understands for me, a pastor who has a conscience for me, a physician who decides my diet, and so forth, I need not trouble myself.After the guardians have first made their domestic cattle dumb and have made sure that these placid creatures will not dare take a single step without the harness of the cart to which they are tethered, the guardians then show them the danger which threatens if they try to go alone.Many affairs which are conducted in the interest of the community require a certain mechanism through which some members of the community must passively conduct themselves with an artificial unanimity, so that the government may direct them to public ends, or at least prevent them from destroying those ends.Here argument is certainly not allowed -- one must obey.But the right to make remarks on errors in the military service and to lay them before the public for judgment cannot equitably be refused him as a scholar.The citizen cannot refuse to pay the taxes imposed on him; indeed, an impudent complaint at those levied on him can be punished as a scandal (as it could occasion general refractoriness).That the guardian of the people (in spiritual things) should themselves be incompetent is an absurdity which amounts to the eternalization of absurdities.But would not a society of clergymen, perhaps a church conference or a venerable presbytery (as they call themselves among the Dutch), be justified in obligating itself by oath to a certain unchangeable symbol in order to enjoy an unceasing guardianship over each of its numbers and thereby over the people as a whole, and even to make it eternal? Such contract, made to shut off all further enlightenment from the human race, is absolutely null and void even if confirmed by the supreme power, by parliaments, and by the most ceremonious of peace treaties.

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