Immanuel Kant: “What Is Enlightenment?”

(1784)

Forming a synopsis of Immanuel Kant's self-styled “Copernican revolution in philosophy,” the essay “What Is Enlightenment?” (1784) delineates the central ideas through which the German philosopher defined the direction of early-modern philosophy. The essay was written at the culmination of the Enlightenment (ca. 1650–ca. 1800), a cultural movement marked by an emphasis on the power of reason and science to discover ultimate truth and skepticism toward the institutions and traditions of the past. Kant (1724–1804) was a critic both of pure rationalism, which insisted that...

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Frederick the Great of Prussia (Library of Congress)

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