Term Paper: Enlightenment Relates Man's Freedom

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[. . .] A person's actions then are not grounded in personal decisions or by society, but governed by whether or not they have faith.

One point that Kant and Luther agree on is that man is not completely free or completely in control, but in these common ideas we have very different reasoning. Kant argues that immaturity is the basis for man's lack of freedom summing this up by saying:

As things are at present, we still have a long way to go before men as a whole can be in a position (or can even be put in a position) of using their own understanding confidently and well in religious matters, without outside guidance" (Kant 55).

This guidance for Kant, is only needed because of the immaturity of man, with it implied that with enlightenment, this guidance would not be needed. We see then, that according to Kant, guidance is to make up for a lack of enlightenment, but that guidance is not required if free will is present. Luther disagrees on this point, arguing that guidance is necessary and that enlightenment is not possible without it. The guidance that Luther speaks of is God's guidance, where he describes enlightenment as righteousness, described as:

precisely the kind of faith we have in mind, and should properly be called 'divine righteousness', the righteousness which holds good in God's sight, because it is God's gift, and shapes a man's nature to do his duty to all" (Luther 24).

Luther argues that this righteousness must be given by God and is not able to exist only through free will:

Righteousness of this kind cannot be brought about in the ordinary course of nature, by our own free will, or by our own powers. No one can give faith to himself, nor free himself from unbelief..." (Luther 25).

In this we see that Luther believes that man is never free and always controlled by God. In contrast, Kant believes that man is only not free until he matures:

For enlightenment of this kind, all that is needed is freedom. And the freedom in question is the most innocuous of all - freedom to make public use of one's reason in all matters" (Kant 53).

This quote also leads us to the final difference by showing us the different focuses of the works. Kant focuses on society as a whole, while Luther focuses on the individual. The "public use of one's reason" is important to Kant because of his focus on society as a whole. An individual's reason is important to an individual whether it is publicly stated or not. Kant recognizes that some may be enlightened:

Thus only a few, by cultivating their own minds, have succeeded in freeing themselves from immaturity and in continuing boldly on their way" (Kant 52).

However, these individuals are not the focus, society as a whole is the focus. The real purpose of the importance of the public use of information, is that this public use is able to extend and develop ideas and thus lead to progress and ultimately, enlightenment for the entire society. The public use then is a means of individuals teaching each other, with the result being that the people are enlightened when the society is enlightened.

In contrast Luther holds that individuals are the key and that God is the teacher, not society or other individuals. Luther links everything to God through faith:

We reach the conclusion that faith alone justifies us and fulfils the law; and this because faith brings us the spirit gained by the merits of Christ. The spirit, in turn, gives us the happiness and freedom at which the law aims; and this shows that good works really proceed from faith" (Luther 22).

We have seen then that the two works have contrasting ideas. This contrast emerges from the fact that Kant places the relationship between individuals and society at the center of his work, while Luther is focused on the link between the individual and God. According to Luther, people have no free will as God is the giver of everything. According to Kant, people lack free will only because of their lack of enlightenment. For Kant, freedom is… [END OF PREVIEW]

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