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What is enlightenment?

The question has sometimes been asked (and answered) in philosophy, whether the historical Enlightenment has been sustained. Adorno and Horkheimer, for instance – in Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944) – claimed that the historical Enlightenment had dialectically been transformed into the subjection to, if not enslavement by, technical rationality and an impersonal system of administration. Willi Oelmüller claimed that the historical Enlightenment was as yet “unsatisfied” (“unbefriedigt”); that is, that there is much to be done to realise the historical (mainly 18th and 19th century) optimism and promise of human emancipation from superstition, unfreedom and rational immaturity.

It is Michel Foucault, however, who more recently has come up with one of the most original responses to the question, “What is enlightenment?” (as a state of being, instead of a historical movement) – a question to which Immanuel Kant had also provided an answer in a famous essay by this title. It is the differences between Kant and Foucault that are illuminating, especially concerning the question, what would count as an enlightened stance today, in contrast to what it was for Kant in the 18th century.

It is well-known to philosophers that Kant gave philosophy its character as an independent theoretical discipline which, with its own distinctive methods, is in a position to pronounce what would count as rational-experiential knowledge of the world (namely, knowledge inscribed within certain “phenomenal” boundaries the transgression of which would be illegitimate). Importantly, Kant regarded rational-experiential knowledge of things in the world (eg Newton’s mechanics) as having universal validity, given that all humans share the same rational faculties (forms of intuition, namely space and time, and categories of understanding such as causality).

In his essay on Enlightenment (which, one should recall, was the historical manifestation of modernity), Kant insists that it amounts to a certain liberating use of reason in the face of the “authorities” that have traditionally subjected humankind to all manner of restrictions and constraints, especially of a religious and political nature — but even intellectually, regarding what one was “allowed” to think, let alone acting in accordance with one’s thoughts. Enlightenment, for Kant, is therefore nothing less than achieving “maturity” at last, and accordingly the motto of enlightenment is, for Kant, “Aude sapere” — “Dare to think” (or: “Have the courage to think for yourself”)!

Just how radical this exhortation on the part of the philosopher from Königsberg is, few people seem to realise even today – all around one on a daily basis, one witnesses people unthinkingly and uncritically clinging to convention, following the latest fads and “obeying” so-called authorities (with little or no qualification for being authorities of any kind), without thinking (and acting) in a comparatively autonomous manner.

Interestingly, Kant distinguishes between the private and public uses of reason, where it may come as a surprise that he accords the public use of reason more freedom than its private use, as far as obedience to authority is concerned, because in the private domain one is like a “cog in a machine” who has to do one’s duty regardless of what one thinks. In the public domain, by contrast, everyone is entitled to participating in a rational debate on anything of public interest, and – even more radically – Foucault points to Kant daring to suggest (to Frederick the Great) that citizens are obliged to obey a ruler on condition that the latter, too, rules in a way compatible with reason. Needless to say, this implicitly justifies rebellion when rulers – or today, ruling parties – engage in unreasonable actions.

Importantly, then, reason may only be used within certain rational-experiential limits, in politics as well as in science, where phenomena in space and time are concerned, or where reason enables one to address questions of morality and freedom of the will, which all humans have access to. Questions concerning the immortality of the soul, for example, fall outside the legitimate domain of human reason, for Kant.

Characteristically, Foucault concentrates on something that would probably escape most readers of Kant, preoccupied as they are with the latter’s three critiques of reason. For Foucault in his own essay on Enlightenment, by contrast, what is most striking and instructive about Kant’s work is the fact that he questioned the standing of philosophy in his own time, compared to the way it had been done before the 18th century (which was very different from Plato through Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Descartes and Spinoza). Foucault takes his cue from Kant on this issue of the contemporary status of philosophy: what makes philosophy distinctive today?

Foucault’s answer is indebted, as he indicates, to French 19th century literary figure Baudelaire. Baudelaire’s reflections on modernity (which is virtually synonymous with Enlightenment). This is a significant move, in so far as Baudelaire’s aesthetic concerns are themselves a manifestation of a fundamental historical shift away from Kant’s own focus on moral and political preoccupations in the essay referred to. In a nutshell, what Foucault finds in Baudelaire, is a curious – and I am tempted to say proto-poststructuralist – interest in interbraiding the particular and the universal, or the fleeting moment of “becoming” and the lasting, enduring moment of “being”. The importance of this for our own understanding of, and acting in relation to, the present (our present) should not be underestimated.

Foucault does not believe that we can still, today, subscribe to Kant’s belief that we are able, on transcendental (conditional) grounds, to arrive at universal truths, valid for all time. He points out that we can learn from Baudelaire to discover something of permanent (“eternal”) value in the fleeting moment of the present, as long as we attempt to understand, grasp or intuit “what” this contingent moment is. (Baudelaire gives the example of contemporary painting, which captures something essential, if fleeting, in the predominantly black clothing of people, reflecting a 19th century preoccupation with death.)

In the process of acknowledging its utter singularity in our gaining a purchase on an event, (artistic or intellectual) according to Foucault’s interpretation of Baudelaire, we transform it. We have here a paradoxical acknowledgement of the (becoming-) reality of the ephemeral moment, and a simultaneous “violation” of it – albeit a salutary one – by bestowing a certain permanent value on it even as we come to terms with its ontological particularity. In a word, this paradoxical, difficult elaboration on the present-in-flux amounts to a kind of invention, which, in Foucault’s understanding of Baudelaire, is especially the case for the modern individual, who – instead of “discovering” what she or he really is, “invent” themselves.

In characteristic fashion, however, Foucault does not leave it at this. While he is in agreement with both Kant and Baudelaire about an enlightened modernity’s critical stance towards itself, he introduces an original twist, which bears on Baudelaire’s identification of the permanent in the ephemeral as well as on Kant’s epistemic valorisation of universality. In his words (What is Enlightenment, in The Foucault Reader, ed. P. Rabinow, pp. 45-46):

“The critical question today has to be turned back into a positive one: in what is given to us as universal, necessary, obligatory, what place is occupied by whatever is singular, contingent, and the product of arbitrary constraints? The point … is to transform the critique conducted in the form of necessary limitation into a practical critique that takes the form of a possible transgression … it will separate out, from the contingency that has made us what we are, the possibility of no longer being, doing, or thinking what we are, do, or think … to give new impetus, as far and wide as possible, to the undefined work of freedom.”

Can we be “enlightened” in this sense today? Can we conceive of philosophy today, in these simultaneously “ancient” (Greek) and “novel” terms (which ascribe an undeniably practical-ethical function to philosophy instead of a merely academic one)? Can we free ourselves transgressively from the merely contingent, but ostensibly “necessary”, exploitative economic system that clings to (and dominates) all sectors of society and to the biosystems of the planet like a tumour, threatening to suffocate them? Can we dare to be different in a manner that would be therapeutic for the human race as well as for Mother Earth? Our lives may depend on it.


  • As an undergraduate student, Bert Olivier discovered Philosophy more or less by accident, but has never regretted it. Because Bert knew very little, Philosophy turned out to be right up his alley, as it were, because of Socrates's teaching, that the only thing we know with certainty, is how little we know. Armed with this 'docta ignorantia', Bert set out to teach students the value of questioning, and even found out that one could write cogently about it, which he did during the 1980s and '90s on a variety of subjects, including an opposition to apartheid. In addition to Philosophy, he has been teaching and writing on his other great loves, namely, nature, culture, the arts, architecture and literature. In the face of the many irrational actions on the part of people, and wanting to understand these, later on he branched out into Psychoanalysis and Social Theory as well, and because Philosophy cultivates in one a strong sense of justice, he has more recently been harnessing what little knowledge he has in intellectual opposition to the injustices brought about by the dominant economic system today, to wit, neoliberal capitalism. His motto is taken from Immanuel Kant's work: 'Sapere aude!' ('Dare to think for yourself!') In 2012 Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University conferred a Distinguished Professorship on him. Bert is attached to the University of the Free State as Honorary Professor of Philosophy.


  1. M. De Freitas 207029097 (1 of 2) M. De Freitas 207029097 (1 of 2) 30 October 2012

    First thing that comes to mind after reading Kant’s essay, was creative art institutions that we enrole ourselfs into, in hope of nurturing our creative side. What is frighting is how these exact institutions have turned us into the “domesticated cattle” that Kant speaks of. We are ultimatly puppets of authority, and a perfect example of this is within our current thesis. We are all eager to experience new ideas, new perspectives, but yet we are so confined. We all seek to express our own autonomy but yet find ourselfs trapped by ‘authority’.

    Kant makes a great point in his expression of ‘nonage’ and how we are all ‘mirrors’ of the current norm. We as individuals adopt a relation to the present. We all want to belong to the present but also have the ability of departing from it. But I feel that social reality is not established once and for all, I believe that we don’t reach enlightment in a sense of the ULTIMATE destination, as reality is non-dual. In excepting the notion of enlightment, we need to understand that it perhaps isnt a destination as Kant puts it but it is the manner in which we continue to invent who we are. Facault has it right , who we are, what we are, is ultimatly always in flux as a direct result of keeping up with social, spiriual and politival transformation. We are always trying to ‘invent’ ourselfs as aposed to ‘finiding’ ourselfs.

  2. M. De Freitas 207029097 (2 of 3) M. De Freitas 207029097 (2 of 3) 30 October 2012

    Within architecture, we have so many building principles in which we have to adhere to and to a certain extent, limiting our freedom of expression. We tend to be afraid to step out of our comfort zone. We find ourselfs stuck in conventional terms, afraid of being rejected by society as we are all trying to find ground, find our identity. We as architects conform to this norm untill we are established in our profession. This sense of “establishment” within the Architectural industry, then allows us the freedom of expression, but prior to this, we are afraid, as none of us want to be negatively branded. I could perhaps use an example of Zaha Hadid, the first woman to win the Pritzker Price. For decades she languished in the shadows of society, as her work was dismissed as “unbuildable” and rarely comissioned. Her breakthrough and recognisition came along when she designed the Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati Ohio. Im not a personal fan of her work, but one can clearly notice in reviewing her protfolio, the extent in which she had to tone done her expression in order to be “excepted” or noticed in society for her incredibly artistic ability. In the softening of her wild avant-garde aesthetic, attitudes toward her were also softened and she finally become excepted as a talented architect and is now one of the worlds most famous.

  3. M. De Freitas 207029097 (3 of 3) M. De Freitas 207029097 (3 of 3) 30 October 2012

    Ultimately I believe that in order for Architecture to offer itself as a transgressive innovation that will go against the grain and offer itself as a necessary obligation, we need to understand the duality of enlightment, which is not merely an intellectual appreciation of freedom, it is the cessation of the pursuit of power, fame, wealth, virtue, pleasure and so forth, and in this, find its own innovation as a continual in flux. If we all stop striving to be so virtuous and except that we are goodness in itself right NOW, we will begin to except that all pleasures available in the world are merely dim reflections of who we are. I believe in this way of thinking, we will infuse our mind with a sense of pure authenticity, wholeness and confidence that can weather any storm that comes along with “authority”. This I believe can be the essence of emergence from this ‘self-imposed nonage’ and ‘mirrors’ of current trends, and thus innovate and perhaps universalise architecture that is not confined to the boredom of the norm.

    This being said we too need to remember, as Kant says:
    “Argue as much as you like, and about what you like, but obey!”

  4. Fred. Jagter (206009054) Fred. Jagter (206009054) 30 October 2012

    How can there be a universal truth when every part or point in the world is totally different from one another regarding the technological, geographical, cultural, socio-economic and political conditions? I believe every single part in the world have different state of enlightenment, intellectual or spiritual awareness and for this reason, having a single universal truth that encase everyone is a far-fetched concept or idea.

    With this, I rally behind Foucault, against Kant’s belief that we are able to, supernaturally, arrive at a universal truth for all time. Architecture has and will always be affected by science and technology, and these evolve with time therefore creating a universal architecture that is valid for all time would be impossible since time is never stagnant. For this, I also agree with Baudelaire that what we can do is to invent something of a transitory moment reflecting the time, technology and the phenomenon of a certain place where the invention would be. Having a universal architecture would mean every part in the world is the same which is not the case.

    Enlightenment is brought about by a distinctive character of a human race, which is competition. There is no how we can ignore this characteristic because everything we do, we consciously or unconsciously striving for more and better all the time. What we experience now in the world is all about who can do what and be supreme from others. This strive brings about new ideas and advances but…

  5. Fred. Jagter (206009054) Fred. Jagter (206009054) 30 October 2012

    …if we have one common, universal truth, there would be nothing to set yourself against and know whether you are advancing or just in one place.

    The other aspect that strengthens my believe that having a single universal truth would be inappropriate is that, there are totally different building standards and regulations from one part of the world to the other and that is obviously because of their place’s different phenomological experiences.

    Even with the ever changing time and technological advances, I believe we should still be learning from our past and like Baudelaire emphasised, acknowledge our current state of socio-economic, political and technology but yet respect the phenomological experience of each part of the world, in architecture, critically responding to the place’s geographical and cultural conditions. I believe this would make architecture interesting since one would not have to guess where a certain building is.

  6. Blyda Blyda 30 October 2012

    Conventions in architecture are often a rather passive spatial or formal expression of society at a specific time and place and are thus dependant on, and the product of historical choice. If architecture willfully transgress from society at a specific time and place will it still be valid or meaningful? Or what will it imply?
    In an Essay on Architecture in 1755 Laugier questioned the architectural convention of the time to copy Renaissance buildings. He challenged architects to transgress from this notion and to give functional and structural reasons for their designs.
    Gehry explicitly transgresses from the linearity of Laugier’s primitive hut with the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. The curved forms of the Guggenheim museum illustrates the manner, or the computer aided technology with which it was conceived, designed and constructed. It is illustrative of society and technology at a specific time and place. The transgression is thus arguably meaningful, but is it necessary and universal? It, also, still remains a historic product or convention confined to a certain time and place.
    What will be enduringly valuable in architectural terms today and not simply a passive reflection of society or technology at a specific time and place? What will serve to question society? Perhaps reconsidering and reinterpreting the honesty, simplicity and warmth of the primitive hut?

  7. Michelle Haas (207012792) Michelle Haas (207012792) 30 October 2012

    The age of enlightenment brought about the shift of people being ‘forced’ to obey the Church and governed by religion, to listening to and understanding rational thought and knowledge of those stepped up and beyond the Church constraints and wished to make knowledge free to everyone and what the public was ‘allowed’ to know was no longer controlled by the Church. But once again we are governed by another group who control the rules and hide the truths = government.

    I think both Kant and Foucalt positions on what enlightenment is, is correct. Kant’s rational-experiential knowledge having universal validity applies to certain things in the world, while Foucalt’s enlightenment being place & time specific relates to other things which are more individual or smaller group specific.

    Achieving enlightenment in Architecture requires us to move away from the theories and movements of the famous architect’s that are forced upon us in studying architecture and rather focus on thinking of our own theories, outside the boxes of previous movements, which is place and time specific, but universal in the sense of obeying ‘authoritative’ rules and legislature.

  8. Alana Pohlmann s208024586 Alana Pohlmann s208024586 30 October 2012

    Kant answers the question of, “What is enlightenment?” in his first sentence of the essay: “Enlightenment is a man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity” He argues that immaturity is self-inflicted not from a lack of understanding, but from the lack of courage to use one’s reason, intellect, and wisdom without the guidance of another. In essence: our fear of thinking for ourselves. Kant understands that the majority of people are content to follow the structures set in place in society that dictate the replication of thought and not the encouragement of the revolution of thought .
    It is difficult as an individual to step out and go against the thoughts of the present, because we are so uncomfortable with the idea of thinking for ourselves. Kant believes that we are so frightened of this idea, because we have never “cultivated our minds”. We have sat back for so long and have accepted the preconceived ideas that have been fed to us from these hierarchical structures. In order to progress as a society, and more specifically as a profession, we need to abolish these sort of structures in order to allow the freedom of the exchange of new ideas and thoughts. Resistance is necessary for development. We need to create congresses and institutions that not only allow for debate, but also encourage it. We need to limit the production of these glossy magazines that stipulate the trends but rather produce publications that exhibit the success of new individual ideas.

  9. Azille Kruger (207029788) Azille Kruger (207029788) 30 October 2012

    Kant defines enlightenment in a negative way, as a way out, a process that releases us from the status of immaturity. Kant states that: “Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity”, meaning that immaturity is self inflicted, not from a lack of understanding, but from a lack of courage to think for one’s self.

    Thus, he proposed a motto for Enlightenment – Aude sapere , “dare to know,” or “have courage to use your own reason.”
    Foucault stated that Enlightenment is: “ The moment when humanity is going to put its own reason to use, without subjecting itself to any authority” ,but, reason should be subjected to critique to define whether that reason is legitimate or not.
    Foucault pictures Enlightenment as an attitude rather than an epoch, a mode of relating to contemporary reality.

    We are all part of the total system and as each person is part of this, so too is each movement in history, it defines who we are and how we came to this point in time. Whether that place is good or not is the question.
    I agree with Foucault when he states that we cannot subscribe to Kant’s idea of Universal truths that are valid for all time.

    The Modernist movement for example, tried to free itself from historical processes to form a single Universal truth, thus moving away from the particular/ culturally specific, but, it resulted in architecture that was sterile and oblivious to the particulars of its inhabitants.

  10. Azille Kruger (207029788) Azille Kruger (207029788) 30 October 2012

    Even though we are all part of a bigger system, we still have qualities that are particular to a specific group or a specific person. I feel that there can never be a single truth. Our differences are what defines us and represents our development through the ages. Thus it is important for architecture to represent and protect the physical representation of our existence in a world with 7 billion unique individuals. However, it does not only rest on the shoulders of one group of people, but it rests with each and every inhabitant of planet earth to discover and play their role, rather that prescribing to a predetermined idea of what they should be or do.

    The only constant is change. Throughout the course of history the world we live in has changed dramatically. Rather than trying to tie us all together, I think there is greater merit in collaboration between individuals and groups of people. The idea of Open Source architecture is a good example of this. By making Information and technology freely available, they invite collaboration and participation to find a solution that is relevant to the challenge at hand. Thus, there is greater merit in “evolution” rather than in a radical transformation.

    So, we can be Enlightened today, it just depends on whether we have the courage to think for ourselves, and more importantly, to think with reason.

    And maybe to: “Stop thinking, and dream a bit” – Le Corbusier

  11. YUSHA EBRAHIM s208092099 YUSHA EBRAHIM s208092099 30 October 2012

    In Kant defining Enlightenment as an age shaped by the motto Sapere aude (“Dare to know”), he maintained that one ought to think autonomously, free of the dictates of external authority. To an extent one could agree that in the 21st century, technology such as the World Wide Web has created a network that has created a “laze” that one thinks with ones fingers rather than the brain (information easily accessible preventing one from thinking for one’s self). We have become so engrossed in the technological enhancements that we forget the questioning and understanding of these fundamentals towards the reality of life itself.

    Kant beliefs the sense of an enlightened approach and the critical method required is that “If one cannot prove that a thing is, he may try to prove that it is not. And if he succeeds in doing neither (as often occurs), he may still ask whether it is in his interest to accept one or the other of the alternatives from the theoretical or the practical point of view. With this understanding it can be directly related to the teachings and the inventions towards architecture that presents itself in society today.

    The questions arises as to how can one transgress conventions in architecture? In today’s time it is more of a “problem” than “question”. As a student of architecture one can understand for one to transgress inventively it’s not about arguing and questioning the inventions but rather creating and inventing an unorthodox method in terms of…

  12. Louw Grobbelaar 210014172 Louw Grobbelaar 210014172 30 October 2012

    After reading both, Kant’s and Foucault’s, essays on enlightenment I came to the conclusion that in both cases the main kernel is that of change. To me, Kant has an active response to change by daring one to think and question one’s stance in his/her setting. This ‘dare’, one could only imagine (especially during those times of forceful submission), must have constituted in an era of change in the philosophical discourse and paradigm formulation. To be accepted as an acceptable norm until two centuries after just proves, to me, how radical and difficult this train of thought, especially for it’s time, must have been. Although flawed in stating that enlightenment could be achieved Foucault sets him right by contradicting the statement by stating that enlightenment should rather be viewed and perceived as a pursuing process to become enlightened, which might not even be achieved.

    In architecture, I personally don’t believe in architectural eras during or “after” modernity. I rather see it as an architectural blur between various responses and paradigm shifts on the “current franchised” concern. Even the current “universal-sustainable style”, as I would like to call it, is merely a desperate response to a prolonged natural over exploitation. For global sustainability to be achieved an enlightenment in ALL human beings needs to be awakened, and not only in architects alone who are responsible for the designs. The over exploitation is a direct result of our demanding greed for…

  13. Mwisya H H (210000236) Mwisya H H (210000236) 30 October 2012

    Kant’s argument that enlightenment as one’s autonomous ability to think and act accordingly for one’s self in the midst of the restrictive authorities of current modernity on one hand, and it’s singular application within rational limits of politics and science on the other are in my view valid but fall short as per the latter argument.

    On the other hand, Baudelaire’s open ended approach is accommodative of reason. Historically the age of enlightenment set the tone for the belief in the power of the individual, human reason and innovation became the new mantra, opposed to the prevailing authorities of the time characterised by restrictive religious doctrines.

    The architectural discourse today takes on a similar approach, dominate by classifications into movements and styles, with some valorised and others applauded, the latter spearheaded by the current trend of the “star” architect, through whom many a student have unthinkingly and uncritically set as the benchmark.

    It is at this point that I find Fouccault’s poststructuralist pluarility of meaning (”eternal”) discovered through one’s own intuitive understanding as a more reliable stepping stone in the quest for a true architectural enlightenment.

  14. Garg Unzola Garg Unzola 31 October 2012

    “..reason may only be used within certain rational-experiential limits..”

    Just a hunch, but I don’t think that this portrays Kant’s view accurately. Even if it does, even ‘intuition’ is a kind of reason. For more on this, try The Emotion Machine.

    Sounds to me like a case of trying to infer arbitrary limits on the use of reason. I don’t believe there are such limits. If we only reason and can only reason within certain rational-experiential limits, where do unicorns and leprechauns and gods come from?

  15. Lerys Hendricks 206008970 Lerys Hendricks 206008970 31 October 2012

    We spend most of our lives in institutions being taught to think and encouraged to think out of the box, especially at tertiary level. Teaching itself is also a process of departing one’s own knowledge which stems from one’s own ‘rational,experiences”. Even while learning to “dare to think” we still are being indoctrinated with someone else’s belief system.
    Enlightenment gave birth to a new way of thinking and this also gave birth to inventions which gave rise to technology. Its intentions was to liberate from conditions and religious belief systems of the past; conversely we are still bound by the process of life and dependent upon inventions produced by thinkers.
    I almost get the sense that to be liberated implies total detachment from society, which means either being an island or constantly battling with the world, or rather not conforming to popular beliefs. Is the problem of liberation routed in belief systems. In the end everyone believes in something and is governed by it.
    As Kant states, ” have courage to think for yourself” this leads me to believe that it is a personal endeavor that requires introspection, individuality and independence, when this is coupled with reason and experience one can move out of a comfort zone and be liberated. Freedom is a choice and requires will for it to manifest. In concluding, I agree with Kant in stating that enlightenment is a result of ‘maturity’ which can only be reached through experience and knowledge.

  16. Lerys Hendricks(206008970) Lerys Hendricks(206008970) 31 October 2012

    We spend most of our lives in institutions being taught how to think and encouraged to think out of the box especially at tertiary level. Teaching itself is also a process of departing one’s own knowledge which stems from one’s own “rational, experiences”. Even while learning to “dare to think” we still are being indoctrinated with someone else’s belief system.
    Enlightenment gave birth to a new way of thinking and this also gave birth to inventions which gave rise to technology. Its intentions was to liberate from conditions and religious belief systems of the past; conversely we are still bound by the process of life and dependent upon inventions produced by thinkers’ e.g. social networks, technological inventions, systems.
    I almost get the sense that to be liberated implies total detachment from society which means either being an island or constantly battling with the world, or rather not conforming to popular beliefs. Is the problem of liberation routed in belief systems? In the end everyone believes in something and is governed by it.
    As Kant states, “have courage to think for yourself” this leads me to believe that it is a personal endeavour that requires introspection, individuality and independence, when coupled with reason and experience one can move out of a comfort zone and be liberated. Freedom is a choice and requires will for it to manifest. In concluding I agree with Kant when he states that enlightenment is a result of maturity which is only reached…

  17. Daniella Lubbe Daniella Lubbe 1 November 2012

    Lets push everyone’s comment or explanation of enlightenment aside. What is enlightenment to me?
    In the era we live in today, we have legal rules that gives us freedom, freedom of speech and the freedom that has been fought for, for so many years through different struggles, might that be the in the form of discrimination, race, religion, sexual orientation etc. These rules gives us enlightenment, but what about the media? Capitalism?
    The media is so powerful and it “brainwashes” us to think and to act in a certain way according to society, one has to look a certain way, one has to have the latest technology, social networks, where you have to be apart of this.
    The power of media contradicts the modern era we live in, where it is suppose to be freedom of chose, enlightenment, but we are “forced” into a certain direction, and we are totally blind sided.
    What about capitalism? This is not democratic, and our economy is being punished for this, as this has reached a boiling point through certain things like the mine strikes, where the labourers risk their lives everyday in going to work at the mines, and they get paid minimal wage, how is this enlightenment, is this a form of capitalist bullying? So this begs the question, how much has things changed since the 18th century? As in certain areas we have enlightenment, but yet, society is “bulleyed” by the people that control us, confine us, how can we break free from this and how can we express it through…

  18. Daniella Lubbe Daniella Lubbe 1 November 2012

    architecture. I believe it is up to the individual, to decide their own boundaries and limits in their design, and what they want people to experience in the architecture that they create.
    After all, no one can be forced into any direction or experience because our thoughts will always remain our own. Enlightenment is deconstructivist, death of the author.

  19. Sasha Botha Sasha Botha 1 November 2012

    After reading this article, that addresses the role of enlightenment in our modern day society, it became clear that just as all aspects in life enlightenment experienced the various stages during the past centuries. The birth, the vibrant growth and the exposure to the changing world.
    As Adorno and Horkheimer claimed that historical enlightenment had been transformed into subjection to technical rationality and an impersonal system of administration.

    On a level of rational-experiential knowledge of things in the world, having a universal validity, all humans share the same rational faculties. When Kant insists that the historical enlightenment was a liberating use of reason in the face of the “authorities” that have traditionally subjected mankind to all manner of restriction and constraints and what one was “allowed” to think.

    This is what you perceive enlightenment to be and we still consider the world being in this enlightened phase. As Konigsberg suggested; few people seem to realise on a daily basis one witnesses people inthinkingly and uncritically cling to convention, what society portrays to be “correct”and obeying authorities.

    Are we still living in the enlightened era or are we subjected to blind consumerism, no longer thinking for ourselves.

    As Kant also stated that it depends on every person whether they listen to reason or not, regarding politics, science, questions of morality or freedom of will. The choice remains the individuals.

  20. Sasha Botha Sasha Botha 1 November 2012

    Then Baudelaire has the theory of interbraiding the particular and universal. The moment of “becoming” to the lasting, enduring moment of “being”. As Kant calls it, achieving “maturity”at last and when you “dare to think”.

    I see enlightenment as that moment where you experience such clarity that everything you have experienced accumilates in that moment or as Baudeliere stated, to discover something of permanent “eternal” value in the fleeting moment of the present.
    He also said that the modern individual have to “invent” themselves, no longer “discovering” who they are.

    The Renaissance is seen as the search for accumilation of past knowledge, it is where knowledge of thousands of years have united. Where as enlightenment was a conscious effort to break with the past, all that has been discovered and taught over thousands of years. The question is, are we still breaking away from convention and the prescribed manner of living or do we conform to society and “authority” (technical rationality and impersonal system of administration).

    To emphasise the one question of this article: “Can we dare to be different in a manner that would be therapeutic for the human race as well as for Mother earth?”

    Yes, this is needed, both for the human race and for planet earth. We have reached the 21st century Renaissance period and we are in need of a new, more life changing enlightenment (vision) in order to see the “light of day”.

  21. Luke M s208032607 Luke M s208032607 2 November 2012

    Kant saw the character of philosophy as an independant theoretical discipline that unequivocally called for rational-experiential knowledge of the world – however this knowledge was to be understood withing given boundaries. Anything outside of which was seen as illegitimate.

    Foucault questioned the standing philosophy of his time, like those before him, searching for what made it distinctive to the particular time. Like baudelaire he was interested in a meshing together of of the particular and the universal. How value can be discovered and percieved in the ephemeral if we can grasp what the contignent moment is (the character and particular conditions of the time) understanding its essence and what it says of the particular time.

    Freedom has no limitaions it is “the power to determine action without restraint”/independance of dogma. I feel we should never replace one set of experiential limits (rational or irrational) with another. Rather enlightment should be understood as a continual process of critically engaging with the given of a particular time allowing for transgressions, evaluating them and learning from them.

    If the current generation can unplug and and critically reflect on itself,outside of any limts, and come to understand how we have arrived at our dependancies and the shifts they are creating, then we may undestand what our time essentially says of us and where we should transgress self-imposed limits to effect positive changes avoiding…

  22. Christiaan vd Spuy Christiaan vd Spuy 2 November 2012

    ‘Enlightenment’ encourages individuals to break out of the conventional norm of non-thinking and rather be analytical and critical about the forces forming part of our everyday lives. In essence, as Kant sums it up, one should ‘Dare to think’ or ‘Have the courage to think for yourself.’

    This in no way should motivate individuals to blindly go against the conventional norms for the sake of the ‘enlightenment’, but rather inspire us to critically engage with true absolute realities and to investigate the origins of these realities.

    It is, though, a human instinct to sub-consciously believe in some form of ‘authority’ for the reason that if the mulitude believes in it it must be the right answer or way of doing things. Not only is this some form of manifestation for religious and political faculties, but also influences other aspects of our daily lives, including architecture.

    Pre-Modernist architecture (Pre-Industrial Revolution and Pre-Enlightenment), like Baroque architecture was concerned with facadal and decorative pleasantries, unlike the justification of unique desicions which is found in Modernist and Post-Modernist architecture.

    Back to the ‘Enlightenment’ as a universal concept. I feel that with the role of the media on the population and its influences, we are unfortunately moving backwards again into a non-thinking generation and lacking a true understanding of the universe and planet earth with its current problem relating to the use of…

  23. Christiaan vd Spuy Christiaan vd Spuy 2 November 2012

    … Climate change.

    An important question to ask is what should happen to serve as a catalyst that could rejuvinate the ‘Enlightenment’? What major discovery or invention must be made to create this mind shift?

  24. Yanesh Beeharry (207059637) Yanesh Beeharry (207059637) 2 November 2012

    For something to exist as a universal truth (which science always strives to unravel) there ought to be something “non-truth” that validates the truth. That is something which it cannot be. “Reason may only be used within certain rational-experiential limits”, I would question whether creativity is not an outcome of reason. Even unicorns and god come from this source whereby reason tries to explain the inexplicable in an attempt to find truth. It is only a question of which truth to use to create something beautiful as an image or icon. Even there, there is a logic which illustrates an attempt to communicate a meaning at its best. Thus it comes back to which methods apply best to our senses. As such a work of art will imply a use of reason within certain rational-experiential limits.
    God was an image created to explain inexplicable phenomenon. Unicorn as an image which being “non-truth” allows for one’s mind to wander and question “truth”—“What if”.

  25. clinton victor (203015525) clinton victor (203015525) 3 November 2012

    If enlightenment can be seen as the constant reinventing of ones self based on ones ever growing past, then architecture would be enlightenment to buildings if they were alive. At least enlightenment in practice because although it might not be achieved each new style of architecture attempts to break free from and improve on the previous style. Man could learn from the process of architectural enlightenment to reinvent current human behavior.

  26. Ungwang Boiteto (207034687) Ungwang Boiteto (207034687) 13 November 2012

    Kant makes a very profound argument by stating that enlightenment may only be attained through a proactive personal exploration of one’s own thoughts away from the confines of social dogma. Although an opposing train of thought, Zen Buddhism also puts great emphasis in monks meditating and finding their own personal spiritual enlightenment, through strenuous introspection and contemplation.
    Kant’s states “Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity”, according to this immaturity is self inflicted, not from a lack of understanding, but rather from courage and comfort to pursue one’s own ideas. Unfortunately not many people know that they are blindly following a pre-determined path and ironically it is the few who are educated and made aware of this that actually write philosophies about enlightenment, it is therefore by its nature a scholarly thinking man’s game. It is Kant’s stance take on a universal enlightenment however that does not seem to have relevance, even though we all share the same rational-experiential faculties we do not all have the same views, needs and cultures and therefore will not have the same enlightenment. It is therefore more important to celebrate personal individual enlightenment in people and to share those ideas than to strive for a universal ideal that may take longer to achieve.

  27. Ungwang Boiteto (207034687) Ungwang Boiteto (207034687) 13 November 2012

    Kant’s idea of enlightenment and innovation are therefore intrinsically related in the way new ideas are explored and how they can be used to improve the existing situation. The nurturing of young minds to explore individual ideas and the celebration of those ideas is also very important to society, so is the tolerance and appreciation of different takes on any given topic. Once people can feel free to share and reinterpret other’s ideas selflessly without corporate or profit driven incentives, we will be able to restore our environments and planet to the condition it is supposed to be in.

  28. Jonathan Mac Lachlan (205042392) 01 of 02 Jonathan Mac Lachlan (205042392) 01 of 02 16 November 2012

    I think the article addresses or rather highlights the topic in the question from a western perspective in the post-industrial age. In doing this, we see that this question is about perception and one’s own perspective on the subject, influenced by culture and time.

    While some may say that knowledge and rational fundamental truths are enlightenment, other may argue that it is based in a more esoteric or spiritual understanding of the world and one’s own place in it. Every culture or society in the world differs from one place to another, even within these societies even homogenous ones, we see different opinions been offered on the subject. Thus, I disagree with Kant’s idea of a universal truth for all time.
    Every different place or even person in the world has a different set of beliefs and values, so an “over-arching” singular state of enlightenment, whether it be intellectual or spiritual is misplaced in my opinion.

    Also, our place in time will critically influence our perspective and understanding of things. Each generation feels it is better placed than the one that came before, adding to the previous generations’ knowledge or more importantly, sometimes changing it. Believing they have a better answer, of course until that in turn is questioned. So, will or can we ever really arrive at an ultimate understanding?

  29. Jonathan Mac Lachlan (205042392) 02 of 02 Jonathan Mac Lachlan (205042392) 02 of 02 16 November 2012

    Perhaps if there is one “universal truth” or answer to the question of “what is enlightenment”, it is that we simply do begin to question things for ourselves. Each will find their own answer. Just as renaissance thinkers started to challenge the ideas of the church and brought in an age of enlightenment from their perspective, when they questioned the “truths” of their time. Again we see that that these “absolute truths” and fundamentally held “beliefs” that were challenged were not held by the whole world to begin with, they were primarily European, a product of time and place. In turn these new “truths” have been and will be challenged again with new ideas offered in their stead.

  30. Stefan du Plessis (208090017) Stefan du Plessis (208090017) 21 November 2012

    We live in the age of enlightenment. As Kant puts it enlightenment is the process that releases us from the status of immaturity and from someone else’s authority to reason for ourselves. Enlightenment is a combination of will, authority and the use of reason. I think from Kant’s paper on enlightenment and the emergence from nonage we can learn to question building typologies and challenge the design brief to construct an idea that could possibly lead to better functioning of the building. This will make the user aware that the architect really thought it through. As students we must make use our own reason and argue on possible alternatives, rather than subjectively accepting previous examples as the only, or right way. We require the freedom to make our own decisions. I think industry is placing too much emphasis on sustainability as a label rather than creating buildings that form a part of nature, and we can challenge this fundamental concept of sustainability through alternative construction methods.

  31. gc gc 22 February 2015

    Thank you for a good, useful and informative post that must accrete now.

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