Talk:Answering the Question: What is Enlightenment?

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What is enlightenment is a magazine edited by the American guru Andrew Cohen and an essay by Immanuel Kant. [1] I know the magazine a bit. The current content could be moved to enlightenment_(concept). Andries 20:47, 11 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Cleanup request[edit]

An article on the subject might be useful, but just a list of various translations does not an encyclopedia article make. And it should be at What is Enlightenment?, anyway. RickK 19:35, Sep 9, 2004 (UTC)

it is so a pity that the first who answered this question - Mendelssohn is not even mentioned. Kant himself said that if he would know about Mendelssohn's article he wouldn't bother writing his. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:09, 22 March 2016 (UTC)


First of all, I aqree with the previous editor -- I serly question the point of listing these translations and am not convinced that Kant's essay should have a separate article -- the essay is short enough that one could just as easily have Kant's essay! In the meantime, I have made what I believe are three improvements:

1) I corrected the translation of Unmuendigkeit -- "dumbness" is just plain wrong. Any of the other words mentioned, such as immaturity, minority, tutelage, etc. would be better, immaturity is the closest word in current usage, and dumbness, which implies stupidity, is absolutely wrong and totally at odds with Kant's meaning. He could have used "Dummheit" in German if he meant that.
I thought about this for some time, and I think "dumbness" is the best translation if you look at Kant's meaning. "Immaturity" is too prosaic and implies the loss of dumbness is a normal part of growing up, which in Kantian terms it clearly isn't. Minority/nonage are even worse, as these carry legal meanings and are (largely) age-related, which is too far from Kant's meaning. "Dumbness" also reflects the same core meaning in English as Unmuendigkeit has in German, i.e. inability to speak on one's own behalf (in the sense of "dumbstruck", or in the sense of being too immature). Rd232 16:26, 27 September 2005 (UTC)
I agree that while "dumbness" might be a possible translation for "Unmündigkeit" in other situations, here "immaturity" is a much better choice. A13ean 17:22, 8 September 2007 (UTC)
2) I took out the wikilinks to Enlightenment(concept), since it's only a disambiguation page, and the only thing on it that relates to Kant's essay is Age of Enlightenment, so I put that in instead.
3) I took out the proposed wikilinks for words like "tutelage", "nonage", and "immaturity", since those are dictionary matters, not encyclopedia matters.
Jeremy J. Shapiro 02:16, 27 September 2005 (UTC)
I have never been in an "edit war" in Wikipedia and don't intend to be involved in one. Your interpretation of "dumbness" is a personal, idiosyncratic one, which you are imposing on this translation of Kant. If you look up the meaning of "dumb" in any normal dictionary, it does not list as one of the meanings the lack of maturity or responsibility. And if you pay attention to how people use it in English, they use it to mean either stupid or lacking in intelligence. If you look up "muendig" in any German dictionary, it says that it means literally "of age", and figuratively it means mature and responsibile, just as "unmuendig" means the opposite of that. As a person who is both a professional German to English translator and who wrote part of his dissertation about this essay by Kant, I can tell you that "unmuendig" doesn't mean "dumb". The fact that the root of the word in German has to do with the power of speech, as does the word "dumb", doesn't make "unmuendig" mean "dumb", that's a deliberate twisting of the meaning. And that's why there isn't a single existing scholarly translation that translates it as "dumb". For you to distort the translation to fit in with your own personal, idiosyncratic meaning is a disservice to people who might consult this article in Wikipedia and get a distorted idea of what Kant meant. In my understanding of Wikipedia culture, what you are doing counts as the forbidden "original research", which I understand to mean, among other things, replacing generally accepted knowledge with one's own personal ideas, theories, and interpretations. If you have any doubts about the Muendigkeit issue, don't argue with me, consult a) a dictionary, b) the translations of Kant included in the article, c) any Kant scholar or German scholar, and d) Wikipedia, since if you look at the article dumb to which you made a wikilink, you'll discover the meanings given there are "A derogatory, usually offensive term for one who is mute (see: speech disorder)" and "A derogatory term for one lacking intelligence. (See: Idiot)", and clearly Kant didn't mean a person who was an idiot or had a speech disorder but just meant someone who was immature or not a full-fledged autonomous person, which is not at all what "dumb" means. Jeremy J. Shapiro 17:35, 27 September 2005 (UTC)
Er, hi. I seem to have upset you because you think you're an authority (you may be right, tho your initial comment didn't suggest this) and I disagreed with you (I may be right); well OK but it's not quite an edit war yet. Let me clarify - looking at Kant's essay as a whole, I think "dumb" is the best translation. This is a looser translation, slightly further away from the usual meaning of unmuendig, but I think more clearly conveys Kant's meaning in the context of the essay, for the reasons stated above. To restate those slightly differently, for me immaturity/etc is not very compatible with an Unmuendigkeit arising not from "Mangel des Verstandes, sondern der Entschließung und des Mutes". Immaturity is normally about lack of all sorts of things, but courage and decisiveness are not top of the list. The problem, to be clear, is not merely the translation of "unmuendigkeit" (standard term, look in dictionary) but of "selbst verschuldete Unmündigkeit" (Kant's term, trickier). Ok, if you still disagree, try getting a wikipedia:third opinion - see what others think. Rd232 18:27, 27 September 2005 (UTC)
Actually, i kind of agree. The text kind of jumps from the actual meaning of Unmündigkeit (which is a very good part) to the statement: "but may also be rendered dumbness". To my mind this jump needs at least a clarification (anything may also be rendered into anything), but preferably an alteration.
My German is not good enough to assess all connotations, but Unmündigkeit as far as i understand it implies a lack of assertiveness rather than dumbness. It is more of a choice, albeit not a very active one, than simply the state of being dumb. Unassertiveness is kind of a toungue twister though! :-) --The Minister of War 16:17, 6 October 2005 (UTC)
Well, first of all, under no circumstances should an individual Wikipedia's editor personal interpretation be allowed to supersede the work of the recognized scholars in an area. It doesn't matter what RD232 thinks: "dumbness" is not only inaccurate, it will give anyone who reads the article now a misleading understanding of Kant's essay, based on the meaning of "dumbness" in English. Second, the article right now is a serious problem, because instead of summarizing Kant's essay and discussing its significance, it is a comparison of different translations of a kind that would be in some obscure work of Kant scholarship, and is inappropriate for Wikipedia. I'm personally not even convinced that "What is Enlightenment" needs a separate article, but if it does, it should discuss briefly the series of articles that were published on this in the Berlinische Monatschrift, of which Kant's was only one, and then discuss what was unique about Kant's contribution and why it came to be considered perhaps the single most influential statement of what the Enlightenment was about. Jeremy J. Shapiro 17:24, 6 October 2005 (UTC)
Well, one can argue about "the" meaning of dumbness; maybe the secondary sense has eroded too much today, especially in the US, though I think even the primary meaning alone isn't too bad a translation, in context ("selbst verschuldet"). Is it better than the alternatives? I'm not sure anymore. Shapiro is certainly right about the focus of the article. Rd232 19:22, 6 October 2005 (UTC)
I appreciate RD232's approbation. Perhaps sometime we can all work on additional aspects of the article. I don't know much about how it impacted different people subsequently, this would be interesting to know. Jeremy J. Shapiro 19:41, 6 October 2005 (UTC)

To cut a long and tiresome story short about words: With "Unmündigkeit" Kant plainly meant "immaturity", i.e. not being mentally aware. What surprised me is the fact that there was no proper reference made to Kants spiritual "Umfeld" such as his relation to the editor of the "Berlinische Monatsschrift" and the restriction he had to bear with the censorship at the time. As far as his relationship to Fichte is concerned this is certainly overrated. Kant was a thoroughgoing Aufklärer and had not much understanding for the idealistic "Hokuspokus" of Fichtes "Wissenschaftslehre" (doctrine of science) which he - like Schopenhauer later - would have considered as "Wissenschaftsleere" (emtyness of science) and of people who claimed his name as deciple. He would have been closer to Schopenhauer than to Hegel, Fichte and so on. If there is any further interest in the matter, please look up in the "German Wikipedia" my entry regarding "Johann Erich Biester", Kants friend and the editor of the Berlin Monthly. Hans W. L. Biester

"One is responsible for this immaturity and dependence, if its cause is not a lack of intelligence or education" Whence in hell does "or education" come from? There is nothing that corresponds to it in the German text. As to the Unmündigkeit story: Kant himself explains in the following sentence what he means by this. Well I don't know if in English it would make sense to write "dumbness is the inability to use one's own intellect without the direction af another", but if it doesn't I think it is impossible to translate "Unmündigkeit" with "dumbness" in the first sentence.(Revilo178, a German)

What Kant states is simply THE concept of enlightment and it is pretty plane and simple. Ithink the irony later is unecessary. And Unmündikeit means in this context the inabillity to make decisions about someones own life and leting someone else make these decision for oneself. And I don't think that this does not require an own articel provided how few people seem to remember this concept. hito a German too

Just a short addition to this old discussion: "unmuendig" means immature, but it also was - and occasionally still is - used in the sense of "lacking freedom" or meaning "dependence". Kant clearly refers to a lack of intellectual maturity AND intellectual freedom/independence/autonomy. Intellectual freedom and atuonomy are pivotal themes in Kant's work. Stefan Thiesen 11:42, 17 Sept. 2010 (CET) —Preceding undated comment added 09:07, 17 September 2010 (UTC).


I am not a specialist in philosophy. I have been looking around in many sources about the specific context of Kant´s publication (and I mean: what was the Berlinische Monatsschrift, who else answered, did Kant receive an answer himself in the magazine, etc.), and all that I am getting is "he answered to the question, among many other important philosophers". Only Mendelsshon is sometimes mentioned. I am not sure if I should be posting this here, it is rather a request than a discussion, but if anyone happens to know something about the issue I will be very thankful and I think the article will be a more complete one. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Pmgram (talkcontribs) 15:11, 3 September 2011 (UTC)

Several people sent in essays, one of them being the Jewish-German philosopher Moses Mendelssohn. Foucault, in his brief 1980s essay which is mentioned at the end of the present article, makes several interesting points about Kant, the essay and his relation to the age - and he points out that Kant's reply was the one that most clearly described enlightenment as an epoch, a particular age (which had broken through in his own lifetime) within world history - and also an essay that showed a clear intention of making philosophy the investigator of the present time, of history as it moves around us and through us at any given time, of the fluent relationship between human history, "the now" and thinking. That kind of "Now's the Time" preoccupation of philosophy was new at the time, and has remained part of the compass of philosophy ever since (at least most traditions of modern western philosophy). (talk) 11:58, 27 April 2014 (UTC)

No active discussion of issue[edit]

of it being a personal reflection of someone other than Kant, the work being a personal reflection. Do see there is text which is interpretation, historical revision from the present but that is a matter of lacking attribution which the other tag covers, and most of it is apparently factual, common present time interpretations of late 18th century europe. (talk) 09:23, 23 April 2017 (UTC)

Do you have any sources claiming it's a personal reflection of someone other than Kant? If not, there does not seem to be an issue to be discussed, only an opinion. Kleuske (talk) 14:01, 23 April 2017 (UTC)
Right, that's why I removed the tag. Thank You. (talk) 14:30, 23 April 2017 (UTC)