SHS Web Conf.
Volume 161, 202312th Kant-Readings International Conference “Kant and the Ethics of Enlightenment: Historical Roots and Contemporary Relevance”
|Number of page(s)||8|
|Section||Kant and the History of Enlightenment Ethics|
|Published online||08 March 2023|
Kant and Mendelssohn on the limits of the Enlightenment
London School of Economics and Political Science, European Institute, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE
* Corresponding author: email@example.com
Kant’s conception of the Enlightenment, contrary to Mendelssohn’s, cannot be limited or constrained by designating a special sphere where ‘enlightened’ claims are applicable and another special sphere where ‘enlightened’ claims are not applicable. In contrast to some of the literature, I show that no single domain concerning human affairs is beyond Kant’s conception of the Enlightenment to the extent that no single domain is outside of reason. I show this to be the case by looking, first, at Mendelssohn’s conception of Enlightenment and its links to his understanding of moral progress and conscience. Because ‘Enlightenment’ designates the correct use of one’s own theoretical faculties, it is the task of formation (Bildung) to prevent the Enlightenment from extending beyond its legitimate domain. Thus, for Mendelssohn, the sphere of formation stands in stark opposition to the sphere of Enlightenment. I then look at Kant’s response to the question of what Enlightenment is and show that his deceptively simple answer is in fact underpinned, on the one hand, by a rather complex account of reason’s universality, public nature and communicability and, on the other hand, by a complex account of reason’s historical development. Kant’s conception of Enlightenment, unlike Mendelssohn’s, does not stand in opposition to a practical sphere insofar as Enlightenment designates the process of breaking away from immaturity (Unmündigkeit), a process the scope of which is necessarily unlimited.
Key words: Kant / Mendelssohn / Enlightenment / reason / history / progress
© The Authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2023
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