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Sapere Aude is interpreted by Immanuel Kant as a way of gaining knowledge


“Enlightenment is man’s release from his self-incurred tutelage Sapere aude! Have courage to use your own reason!” that is the motto of enlightenment by Immanuel Kant

The title Sapere Aude is interpreted by Immanuel Kant as a way of gaining knowledge. The belief in a man’s way of daring to know is considered as courage to continue learning with their own reason. According to Kant, the enlightenment is man’s release from the protection or from the authority of someone. This type of conviction tells the people to pursue their freedom to discover the things around them without the control of other people. Through the said protection, a man has boundaries or inabilities to discover the things and this can be only done with the help of other people. Because of the dependence of a man, he may not realize the enlightenment or discover new things because the authority and its power are focused on the specific thing/s. Because this courage is not practiced or well-used, most of us are facing the fact that we are lost in reason because of lack of resolution and courage coming from other people. Oftentimes, we feel dumbfounded because of the presence of an authority which tends for us to follow the leaders’ way. Because of this, the freedom of being independent is slowly deteriorating and we are lacking of competency once the leader that we looked up to is not in our side.

Every people have their own knowledge but most are lacking of courage. Because of the effectiveness of learning from others and it’s accompanied efficiencies, the people’s ability to form its own activity is often based on the leader’s judgment. Kant is trying to make the people realize that every human has their free will to learn; however, if he chose to stay under the wings of an authority, he may find difficulty in adjusting once he is freed from the control of others. The idea of self-incurred learning is the general idea in freeing one-self from the authority of other people and their control on their course of life. This enlightenment is introduced to demonstrate not only the courage but also the willingness and the ability discover the knowledge he is interested at. This is also important for the growth of the individual in his own field.

However, in the Western society, most of the philosophers believe that there should be a social and collaborative dimension in order to achieve the enlightenment. The Kant’s idea on enlightenment is opposed by some of the idealists during his time and judged that the self-efficiency in learning is important but is difficult to achieve because it is so subjective and thinking for oneself might be challenging for an individual because of lack of guidance. Without the guidance or authority, learning or gaining the knowledge might be not fruitful. For example, if an individual pursued to manage one department without the proper training and guidance from the senior manager, it is impossible to capture the essence of managing and achieve the requirements needed in the department. In addition, the critics added that Kant’s idea of enlightenment is somewhat promiscuous because in the application of reality, there appears that the self-incurred enlightenment do not exists in the public sphere because of the relationship builds in the society (Allen & Hill, 2004). However, Kant argued that the ability to learn from your own self under the tutelage is difficult in an individual’s nature because there is still influence coming from those authorities that might control the individuals’ own way of learning.

In evaluation of the two opposing thoughts of Immanuel Kant and other philosophers, I can say that both ideas of gaining the knowledge are important. However, Kant’s idea of learning or acquiring knowledge explains the individual’s growth by reducing his own ignorance and using the knowledge whenever needed. On the other hand, it appears that the enlightenment of the Western philosophers is created based on the reality application or can be applied in present times. The teaching of acquiring the knowledge is bound to be focused in the present situation that is timely and can be used. The authority or the guidance is needed to have a systematic approach while Kant’s version of gaining knowledge from the individual’s duty is somewhat troublesome because he should create or formulate his own system to acquire his knowledge, implement it and follow it. Through this, the individual can acquire the knowledge that is focus in his interest. Both philosophies are important part of human’s way to survive; Kant’s expression is to make the people realize their own freedom and use that freedom to gain knowledge beyond on what the guardian can teach him. The essence of enlightenment for Kant should consider as his way on discovering the things that cannot be taught nor included in the teaching principle of the authority.

“The following people are sitting around a table at your favorite bar (or diner if you don’t drink): Martin Luther, Brother Luke De Vile (fictitious Dominican Inquisitor who judges witches), Isaac Newton, Thomas Jefferson. You are to moderate a discussion on the topic: what is the nature of man and society? Use your knowledge and imagination”

Human nature is different from one individual to the other and all reflects in the society. Through examining the philosophies of the people who funded much in the future of the society, their ideas are presented in a manner of opposing it against each other. As based on the evolution of man, the ways of living, beliefs, ethics, culture, and other human activities are changing and are called of human nature. Because of the uniqueness of each individual, most of us misinterpreted the behavior of one another. In addition, the concept of humans in the ethics, culture, etc. are different. Because of this idea, it is only right to evaluate those beliefs.

For Martin Luther, he believed that “human nature is corrupt, weak, self-centered, and in a state of rebellion from God; the fruit of the fall from grace is death”. The focus of his philosophy is God and the position of humans in opposing the God’s laws. Because of the love of God among humans, He arouses the human’s desire for redemption. Within the willingness of the human to avoid the creating sins, God can definitely give His judgment when our time on earth is ended. His expression of His love for us is through dying on the cross but humans’ faith in His promise is missing and in the end, we reject the word of God and the teaching of the Bible leaving us in sins. The life without the word of God is not worth living and it is important like our food because with the God’s wisdom we can learn how to communicate well in the society (

For Brother Luke De Vile (fictitious Dominican Inquisitor who judges witches), the humans are looking for the things that might look them and treat them powerful, therefore this desire led them is worshipping the darkness and exercising the sorcery or black magic. The use of these banned and unprecedented skills or knowledge is condemned in the society because it suppresses the weak and gives the practitioner the advantage, because the witchcraft is feared by the people. Often, they use the Book of Spells or for some the Book of Shadows as their source of power ( Through hunting the witches and prosecuting them, he believes that the unequal treatment in the society can be eliminated.

For Newton, he used the principles of science to examine the things around him. In his study of human nature and human society, he observed that the society has mixture of independence and authority (Qureshi, 1995). Human beings are suffering from the inequality that they receive in the society like the case of the slave trade that followed the road for colonization. This means that human beings, without the knowledge they can be easily took advantaged by the people higher than their being. For example, the Americans who have the most reasonable enlightenment can manage to conquest the Africans which actually exist nowadays. And because of the continuous practice, the forms of inequalities are produced and the developing countries used the developed countries (UK, USA, etc) as models. 

For Jefferson, “all human beings are created equal and are endowed with certain inalienable rights” (Sparagana, 2002). Because of the power of law and the rules of the Government, the humans and society are protected. In addition, because of the education and the guidance of the government, there is democracy, the right to believe and human rights implementation. In that way, the humans and their nature can be tamed and can be passed for the next century.

Through addressing the philosophical views of the philosophers, Luther is focused on the religion, De Vile (fictitious character) is on sorcery, Newton is more on science, and Jefferson is based on law and government. All of them are trying to address the human nature based on their observation and on their profession. However, judging the people will only promote the inequality in the society. The differences of every individual are the way on what they believe in or what they accustomed to do. For sorcery, there are black and white magic but the witch judges take all of them as one and during those times, the societies are living in full of quarrel, rage, and anxiety because they might not know who is the witch and innocent. Often, the prosecuting way is also condemned because of the lack of proof. For religion, there are different religions and yet people still live in harmony. In the idea of slavery and colony, the government and laws can be applied to help the oppressed experience the quality of life. In that way, the human nature and the society can be developed.




Allen, R.C., & Hill, A., (2004) The Television Studies Reader, Routledge: London

Charmed (TV Series), Accessed 03 Jan 2011, from

Philosophy Professor, Accessed 03 Jan 2011, from

Qureshi, J., (1995) “Isaac Newton, The Fountain Magazine”, No. 11, Accessed 03 Jan 2011, from

Spagana, J., (2002) “The Educational Theory of Thomas Jefferson”, Accessed 03 Jan 2011,


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