Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Kant on maturity

However, despite the post on Rousseau below, I actually greatly approve of learning. It's one of my big passions, encouraging adults into learning, especially those who haven't engaged in lifelong learning since school. Here's Kant, in a memorable description of the urge to immaturity in modern man. This was written in 1784, but if anything things have got worse. Nanny-state, health-and-safety madness, it's an increasingly infantilised world:

If I have a book to serve as my understanding, a pastor to serve as my conscience, a physician to determine my diet for me, and so on, I need not exert myself at all. I need not think, if only I can pay: others will readily undertake the irksome work for me. The guardians who have so benevolently taken over the supervision of men have carefully seen to it that the far greatest part of them (including the entire fair sex) regard taking the step to maturity as very dangerous, not to mention difficult. Having first made their domestic livestock dumb, and having carefully made sure that these docile creatures will not take a single step without the go-cart to which they are harnessed, these guardians then show them the danger that threatens them, should they attempt to walk alone. Now this danger is not actually so great, for after falling a few times they would in the end certainly learn to walk; but an example of this kind makes men timid and usually frightens them out of all further attempts.

The message is clear: "Have courage to use your own understanding!"

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