The Moral Inevitability of the Enlightenment and the Precariousness of the Moment

Review of Metaphysics 62 (2):285-306 (2008)
Kant’s essay An answer to the question: What is Enlightenment? has developed into the representative text of philosophical Enlightenment in the course of the past two hundred years. Yet most interpretations tend to assign to it a univocal meaning that is incompatible with its apparent polysemy. While taking the latter into account, the author closely investigates Kant’s essay and offers a balanced interpretation of its meaning. On the basis of this reading, it becomes apparent that we should understand Kant’s idea of the enlightenment process in a normative sense. As a result, the emphasis in the text shifts from a historico-philosophical promise of an “Enlightened Age” to the view of a precarious, risky “Age of Enlightenment” which Kant claims to live in. There is ample textual evidence that Kant wanted to intervene with this essay by cherishing the hope for more enlightenment.
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