Immanuel Kant’s Enlightenment: A Journey to Utopia?

2 thoughts on “Immanuel Kant’s Enlightenment: A Journey to Utopia?

  1. Extending Kant’s own acknowledgement of the limits of enlightenment, how do you feel about how far he can be considered the ‘father of Enlightenment’ he is often deemed to be, given his view that Black people were less than human? Further, to what extent do you feel it is appropriate to pass over the racism, misogyny, homophobia (basically all the phobias!) of the philosophers often admired as pillars of the European canon, on the basis that their views simply reflected those of the time>


  2. We are having trouble getting Imran’s reply through cyberspace so this is Lucy pasting his reply below!

    Thank you for these questions!

    1.) Regarding Kant as the ‘father of the Enlightenment’: Kant certainly did play a key role in one of the Enlightenment thought’s central pillars: the individual use of reason. He was one of the first in the wider region to closely examine the place and role of reason in human societies, so in this respect he is a key figure. However, seeing Kant (or anyone!) as a sole parent figure of the Enlightenment risks distracting us from the many other facets of this broad cultural and intellectual movement.

    2.) Regarding the racism, misogyny and homophobia of canonical philosophers: thank you for raising this important issue. I think we have the responsibility to, as a bare minimum, acknowledge that many canonical figures held such views, however typical of their epoch they may or may not have been. Some have got off more lightly than others, e.g. Friedrich Nietzsche’s misogyny is widely acknowledged. Nietzsche is not considered en Enlightenment thinker, so I think the downplaying of racism, misogyny etc may have something to do with how the Enlightenment is generally perceived as a purely progressive movement. Whilst the Enlightenment was the site of many emancipatory debates, its thought was not free of discriminatory elements. Adjusting our view of Enlightenment thought may help us to bring the negative side of the Enlightenment to the fore, without discrediting its role in empowering individuals to think freely.

    Thank you again- I hope this answers your questions. Please do get in touch if you’d like to discuss this further!


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