The Philosophy of Knowing Yourself
“if I have a book which provides meaning for me, a pastor who has conscience for me, a doctor who will judge my diet for me and so on, then I do not need to exert myself. I do not have any need to think…” Kant, "What is Enlightenment?"
Kant explains in What is Enlightenment? that in order for people to free themselves and therefore know themselves, they must learn to “use one’s intelligence without the guidance of another.” And if they do not know themselves, then they cannot feel full peace, passion, happiness and comfort with their selves. He believes that it is not the lack of intelligence that keeps us from being guided by other people in society, but it is the lack of determination and courage. He further explains that “even after nature has freed them from alien guidance,” people gladly remain imprisoned. They would rather have other people be their guide than to think for them selves.
He suggests that once people acclimate to being only their societal identity, they typically fear becoming their own selves; “After having made their domestic animals dumb and having carefully prevented these quiet creatures from
daring to take any step beyond the lead-strings to which they have fastened them, these guardians then show them the danger which threatens them, should they attempt to walk alone.
Now this danger is not really so very great; for they would presumably learn to walk after some stumbling. However, an example of this kind intimidates and frightens people out of all further attempts.” He explains that this way of life has become so natural to them and it is challenging to work them selves out of this situation. Typically, people become fond of this situation and get used to not thinking for themselves because they have never actually done it; and thus, relying on others to think for them becomes the “ankle-chains of a perpetual minority.” He believes that freedom is all that is required for this enlightenment.[i]
How does knowing thyself bring about enlightenment? It is a gaining of knowledge where people feel like they wake up and see the world for the first time. It is described as coming out of a comatose state and attaining broader knowledge of their environment. Those newly enlightened people no longer feel hypnotized and are suddenly aware of them selves. When the veil is removed, they open their eyes and see so much more than simple illusions of reality. Society isn’t an illusion, but if we do not see the big picture, we have an illusion of ourselves and the world. Because by only seeing the world through societies’ eyes, we may think that all these things will make us happy but they will not. But by seeing the world from our souls, we have a better idea of how to truly be happy.
[i] Kant, Immanuel, Basic Writings of Kant, edited and with a Foreword by Allen W. Wood, (New York: Modern Library, 2001), 135-6.
About the author:
K.J. Cleveland was born in Alabama, grew up in various areas, including Mannheim, Germany, due to her Mom being a librarian for the U.S. Army. Her mother, Sherrie Floyd, opened libraries for the U.S. Army in Sarajevo, Bosnia, and subsequently won Federal Librarian of the Year in 2001 for her endeavors. After college, K.J. Cleveland moved to California, where she began her writing career. She and her brother, Randy Jones, published The Raw You: Self-Awareness Journal for one year in West Los Angeles, followed by a book, The Raw You: A Contemplation of the Soul, which received an incredibly positive response from its readers. Other books she has written include What is Enlightenment: Theories of Plato, Newton, Rousseau and Kant on Knowing Yourself Beneath Your Societal Identity, God and the Unseen Realm and Never Give Up: Exercises to Listen to Your Heart, Set Goals and Make Your Dreams Come True. To learn more about knowing yourself and making your dreams come true, check out nevergiveup1.com, dreamscometrue1.org and whatisenlightenment.org.
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