Up@dawn 2.0

Monday, April 25, 2016


Caleb Morton (#6)

Early 20th century. The Great Depression is approaching and the world is already bathed in stressed relations between countries and powers. A man promising to take care of problems rises to power. The man does the thinking for the masses. And why not? Less work for them. Adolph Hitler uses this power and persuasion to lead the world into some of the darkest times it has seen.

Simply desiring for others to do the thinking for you leads to disastrous times. Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, and other villainous entities represent this. Although it may not fully stop such extreme examples, many a philosopher has thought on the epidemic of letting more powerful "thinkers" control the thought of the many. Immanuel Kant was a bit of a front runner on this movement of thought. In his essay "What Is Enlightenment?", Kant even made famous the phrase "sapere aude", meaning "dare to know."  Within the essay, Kant challenges the reader to use their own understanding. Kant goes on about "having the courage" to use your own understanding.

Consequences of not doing so can be seen in aforementioned examples. Even seen in history, when people dare not to think for themselves and simply trust the wills of others, catastrophe impends. Had citizens of Germany thought for themselves in bringing someone to power and not followed the loudest (or arguably strongest) thinker, horrid times could have possibly been evaded.

But one can think, can Kant's idea be translated into more modern situations? And although one could believe that such mass control hasn't existed for a while on such a large scale, others could disagree. In conjunction with Kant's ideas, author George Orwell coined the term "groupthink" in his book "1984," which displayed the post-apocalyptic world that can be brought about when strong thinkers are allowed to run rampant with no opposition.

Another issue Kant can easily be related to is obvious conformity in current society. From university Greek associations to governmental institutions, "groupthink" can be seen in clothing, desires, aspirations, and even associations. People, simply put, want to fit in. Exclusion is feared. Becoming a social pariah is among one of the worst things that can happen to someone in today's age, or at least one would think. Even worse, opposition to this conformity is both shamed and punished. Kant's philosophy is absolutely neglected on modern society, which diminishes innovation and creativity in society. If one chooses to carve their own path and follow the thoughts of Kant, one can see the world from a unique point of view, with unique aspirations, and improve society in manners in which others choose not to witness.

Can individualistic persons save humanity? Simplistically, one would say no. But Kant's "sapere aude" can be seen already in history. Henry Ford dared to think on his own and use what he knew, and popularized the incredibly effective use of the assembly line. John Milton chose to follow his passion and utilize his mind, and, in turn, crafted one of the most complex and highly-regarded literary masterpieces in history, "Paradise Lost." Although it's easier to allow others to craft your thoughts, Kant explains and exemplifies that the opposite more so benefits society and the individual.

1 comment:

  1. Sadly, groupthink is all to evident in our time. Good luck to your generation!

    But I wouldn't look to Henry Ford as an example of enlightenment. He was a notorious anti-semite and promoter of conformism, saying people could have a Model-T in any color they liked so long as it was black. His assembly line produced efficiency but also a larger market.

    So the solution, as you say, is to create a critically-minded public capable of using reason and thinking courageously. Again: good luck!