Thursday, 20 August 2009

Rephrasing, Paraphrasing Kant's "Reply..."

"... to the Question: 'What is Enlightenment?'"
Wenn denn nun gefragt wird : Leben wir jetzt in einem aufgeklärten Zeitalter ? so ist die Antwort : Nein, aber wohl in einem Zeitalter der Aufklärung. [If it is now asked, “Do we presently live in an enlightened age?” the answer is, “No, but we do live in an age of enlightenment.”]
Enlightenment, not "being enlightened" but "being in the process of enlightening [Aufklärung]" or "becoming enlightened," is reason's constant readiness for critical self-examination – a constant crisis and not a status quo.

This is why I would consider "The Age of Sentimentality" (Sterne, Rousseau, Laclos) and Romanticism as a continuation of Enlightenment and not as simple objections or counter-reactions. Les liaisons dangereuses is a wonderful demonstration of how instrumental reason seeking to play games without sentiment becomes unreason and absurdity.
Online texts:
German original, Immanuel Kant, "Beantwortung der Frage: Was ist Aufklärung?" (1783) – www.prometheusonline.de.
English translation, by H.B. Hisbet (?), "An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?" (1784)

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