Free access to knowledge and knowledge-sharing are among the most relevant claims of the so called "knowledge society", whose beginnings can be find out in the Age of Enlightenment (18th Century). As a matter of fact, in the thinking of Immanuel Kant these claims are explicitly assumed in a philosophical perspective. Thus, the need of sharing knowledge, and in general the need of freedom in the communication of thinking, is not merely held as self evident or just empirically given: on the contrary, Kant asks about its transcendental meaning, and attempts to deduce this meaning a priori from the essence of human being itself. However, this task is not systematically developed, but rather exposed en passant in different passages of his work, where, facing phenomena such as the amazing expansion of book trade, the increasing diffusion of journals and newspapers, the growing role of public opinion and the fierce fighting for freedom of press, Kant tries to demonstrate their critical significance - and therefore also the threat they may represent for the use of reason and thus for the manifestation of human nature as such. In this perspective, he elaborates the concept of the "public use of reason", which will represent the (more or less unspoken) canon for the present understanding of the modern society as a knowledge-based society. The paper analyses Kant' s thought on these topics, with particular reference to the concept of "enlightenment" and of the sense of access to knowledge in a philosophical perspective. Then it considers the misleading transformation of these critical concepts in present day society as characterised by mass culture.
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