“Enlightenment is man’s release from his self-incurred tutelage. Tutelage is man’s inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another. Self-incurred is this tutelage when its cause lies not in lack of reason but in lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from another. Sapere aude! [Dare to think!] “Have courage to use your own reason!”- that is the motto of enlightenment. ” – Immanuel Kant, German Philosopher
The Enlightenment era, also known as The Age Reason, was a European intellectual movement of the late 17th and 18th centuries emphasizing the liberalism of reason and individualism rather than tradition. It was heavily influenced by 17th-century philosophers such as Descartes, Locke, and Newton, and later, Kant, Goethe, Voltaire, Rousseau, and Adam Smith. These intellectuals that are recognized as part of the Enlightenment era were men of intellect and distinction – men of letters, most were not academics although they didn’t want for anything. As Kurt Vonnegut would say, they were “fabulously well-to-do,” and they had ample leisure time to build their philosophies.
We have name-checked a few of the proponents of the Enlightenment, such as John Locke and Rousseau, and we have shown that the Enlightenment era arose out of a “rational” reaction against the monarchy and its legitimizer, traditional Christianity. What the Enlightenment promised was the liberation of Humanity. What we got instead was the scientific method, the Industrial Revolution, institutional slavery and colonialism, the “free market” economic totalitarian systems of capitalism and communism. In The Social Contract, Rousseau begins with a statement that is at the heart of liberalism,
“Man is born free but everywhere is in chains.”
The first half of this statement is demonstrably false, while the ending is obvious. A baby is not “born free” on many levels, because when a baby is born, its essential nature is that of dependence and necessity. The parent will also have to spend money for the child’s survival, including health care, food, and shelter. Rousseau, who does have some good things to say about human beings and their relation to the state, was no doubt was speaking in terms that underlined his liberal definition of virtue. Again, the Enlightenment was an intellectual and theological project that claimed to have at the end of history, the liberation of human beings, through rational, scientific and economical means. When speaking of Equality and the Equal Money System, we usually hear that Equal Money will never work because it posits a utopia. Well, they do not know that the Enlightenment, the philosophical, political foundation upon which stands the modern world, promised a utopia. And what we have gotten instead was colonial oppression and slavery, world wars, corporatism and 80% of the world’s human population scuffling of 20% of the world’s resources while the 20% of the world yammer proudly about “Freedom,” and “Liberty” as stateless corporations pathologically fight over who gets to divvy up the ocean water rights to sell to the people. Human beings are now “less free” than in anytime in history. So why do we pretend that we are free?
One can see the writing on the wall… there are only a few playouts that are likely to happen if we stay on this course. The world will slide into a technological horror story of plastic oceans and virtual, phony media reality, or superstitious religious fundamentalism will splinter everyone into separation and exclusivity. The Enlightenment allegedly began as a refutation of the superstition of the Church and its legitimizing of the monarchial State, and promised through the use of Reason and Rationalism, human beings would finally live in “freedom.” But such freedom never existed. Freedom is impossible. There can only be Equality, and when human beings finally figure this out, only then will such a utopia that the Enlightened promise will come to pass.