To me the central of idea of Enlightenment and the central idea of Romanticism, as presented in the class, are reason and beauty, respectively. Early on we learnt about figures such Locke, Hume, and Kant, who attempted to set standards for which how one could act rationally and adheres to reason which is universal. It is particularly apparent in Kant’s Groundwork that reason could be the highest among all other motivations human experienced, and that for a rational agent, reason is both the mean and end for which one acts upon. For these works which we’ve read under the name of Romanticism, they generally present beauty as a higher if not equivalent end to reasoning, an alternative option that explores what reason rejects and neglects. What we have here is essentially logic verses aesthetics, reasons verses sensations. Personally I’m more inclined to arguments from the Enlightenment side, as it is rational to use reason in weighting arguments. Works which are said to follow Romanticism do bring a good point in questioning whether one ought to be rational. If we can only use reason to evaluate motivation, then what is not rational is unlikely to be evaluate by reason as acceptable. In other words, we can only assume that reason is the only worthy end. This is the most interesting takeaway from this class for me thus far. The study of Enlightenment and Romanticism in the class reveals new insights to me about Foucault’ Madness and Civilization, a contemporary book examining how madness has been perceived and treated through centuries.
I think that I align myself with a mixture of both the Enlightenment and Romanticism perspective because I think it is important to always consider both reasons and emotions when making decisions. I agree with the incorporation of the scientific method into our daily lives and how rational thinking is a reliable guide to living our lives. However, I also believe that we should always consider our emotions and feelings on these decisions because we need a balance between the rational and emotional sides of ourselves.
Throughout HUM 4 and learning about the two different perspectives, I think that it has really shown me how Enlightenment and Romantic thinking plays a role in our current society. When we discussed thinkers like Rousseau and Locke, I would look at their philosophy and think “hey, that’s kinda like this other thing we have in our government/society”. It’s really an eye-opening course that I kinda enjoyed because it allowed us to discuss and explore the foundations of our society and government.
Kant specifically says that people shouldn’t be treated as objects because they are human beings with feelings. We have to respect each other in every way possible in order to ensure that everybody is happy. I liked this about Kant because in today’s day everybody knows about respect. In order for someone to respect you, you need to show them respect in order to get along with each other. In today’s day some people don’t care about others while some people do and would do anything to get anything their way. An example is a show called “Dexter” where he cares for his sister and respects her even when the sister admitted into falling in love with him. Dexter never disrespected her in anyway and still loved her as a sister but he did think it was weird that his sister was in love with him. The moral of the story is that at the end he loved her as a sister but he doesn’t disrespect her in anyway.
Kant’s philosophy of treating people as an ends in themselves instead of as a means to an end resonates powerfully with my idea of how politicians and governments should ideally treat people in a democratic country, or any country for that matter. This is a very important idea because it strongly emphasizes on the value of human life. I find this philosophy very interesting because Kant doesn’t just state the maxim out of a personal whim or opinion; he actually provides a logical explanation to back this categorical imperative. He reasons that since morality is determined by reason, moral law is universal because reason is universal. Hence moral law applies equally to everyone. Therefore, acting morally means to treat every person as a moral agent and therefore as an end in itself, not as a means to an end.
The reality, however, is far from Kant’s ideal. Some governments and politicians around the world regularly abuse human rights. For example, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is one of the most repressive and undemocratic states in the world. Kim Jong-un exercises absolute political power over the country. The authoritarian government restricts all forms of human liberty and freedom in the country, including freedom of speech, assembly, religion, and the freedom to form political parties. The government systematically forces citizens (including women, children and prisoners) to provide unpaid labor , who are forced to build the country’s infrastructure and participate in events extolling the Kim family’s ruling and the Workers’ Party of Korea. The government uses arbitrary arrests, punishments, torture and execution to incite fear in people’s minds and gain control over them. The government partners with Chinese authorities to capture North Korean refugees and punishes the refugees for making international contact. The government does not care to protect and promote the rights of marginalized and weaker communities like women, children and crippled people. Kant would be devastated and horrified by the of abuse people, and most importantly valuable human lives, in countries like North Korea.
Kant makes a point that people should refrain from being lazy. He argues that this is what a person must learn as he/she begins to grow up. I agree with Kant, as I believe that people should work to become the best versions of themselves.
This relates to the beliefs of Kobe Bryant, who used reasoning (which is a fundamental idea of the Enlightenment) as a fundamental idea behind his belief that people should become the best versions of themselves that they can possibly be. In an interview, Kobe Bryant used reasoning to explain how one can improve himself/herself. This is what he argued: if a person wakes up at 3:00 AM everyday, then he/she is able to get way more work done than a person who wakes up at 8:00 AM everyday. And as time progresses, there will eventually be a huge gap between the skillsets of those two people, and the person who woke up at 3:00 AM everyday will be years ahead of the person who woke up at 8:00 AM everyday. Like Kant, Kobe Bryant adamantly believed that people should not be lazy, and he applied this to his everyday life, which led to him becoming one of the best athletes to ever step on a basketball court. After he retired, he said that one of the quotes he lived by was to “rest at the end, not in the middle.” This helps to explain his intense work ethic.
Kant believes that people are not objects; that human beings must be respected and not used. The only circumstance in which one would “use” someone else is if we do not use that person as a means to our end. If we “use” someone, we must respect them in the process considering more than just our own self interests. I found this concept interesting because I agree that human beings should not be treated as objects. Innately, however, I think some people are better as others. I feel that some people take others feelings into consideration, while others have no issue pursuing what they want at the expense of others.
A modern example is a Netflix show called “You.” In season 2 of the show, 2 people pursue love and will do anything to get the person they want. Although they genuinely believe they are acting out of love for someone else, at the end of the day, they perform extreme actions to get what they want.
For an author like Kant, who is a human by the way, it is easy to argue for reason and how they lead to the moral values we have. His argument about moral laws being products of rational reasoning makes sense for all of us as we have grown up being taught about some common values and certain behaviors that we should abide by. However, it is not obvious to me that there is just one kind of reasoning in this universe. I think Kant is ignoring the fact that there is a wild difference between different forms of reasoning.
An example of a wildly different form of reasoning can be realized in an artificial intelligence medium. While it is possible for us to create AI models that think like us and follow the same rules as we do, this is merely imposing our cultural biases and prejudices onto these models and making them think like us. Extensive research has shown that, in reality, we don’t understand an AI model’s logic for decision-making. When visualized, we have seen that AI models can arrive at similar conclusions as humans in certain scenarios (like diagnosing tumors from CT scans of the brain). However, they are able to do so with a significantly different methodology compared to what human doctors to by focusing on key aspects differing from those used by humans. So, if AI models’ way of reasoning is different to ours, we should also expect them to arrive at different conclusions on what’s right and what’s wrong and build different moral values.
The part about Machine Ethics is relevant in the following page:
It is pretty fun to see someone who are not as “rational” or “realistic” as people from past hundred years. Especially people like Hume, Locke, even Machiavelli. These people are more realistic. Their focus of the world, the society, or the way people should interact with each other are much more based on a realism perspective. This means that their opinions are more established with consequences and foundation principle.
Then Kant appears with his idea of morality and metaphysics. These ideas are not totally novel. When churches are still dominating the European land, seeing ideas and studies of the metaphysics and morality are very common. However, Kant appears in the time period where people are gradually becoming secular and more interested in consequence rather than the intention behind the consequence. One can argue that this recurrence in the study of metaphysics and morality represents a sign, a sign that marks the inner division of the Enlightenment movement.
But coming into a modern perspective, I do believe that Kant’s idea of “intention is more important than the result” is much more applicable to today’s world and there are indeed enough space for us to think about out intention that prompts us to make our decision.
Finally, here is a meme picture I found on internet that I find to be unexpectedly inspirational. Hope this picture can make your day.
In answering what “enlightenment” is, Kant claims that it is to think for and only for yourself and for no one else. In order to be “enlightened”, one must only consider their own feelings and disregard the feelings of others. For example, if someone were to make a large decision that would impact not only themselves but others around them, they should disregard everyone else and only think about what the impact will be on themself. This is interesting as most would see this as selfish or inconsiderate while Kant finds this to be freeing. This begs the question: Is thinking solely for oneself a selfish act or self-enlightening?
This philosophy can be seen today as birth rates are steadily declining and one of the major reasons for the decline is due to the cost and time of raising a child increasing. This has led to many would-be parents to choose not to have a child as it not only saves them a ton of time, but money and stress as well. The cost of raising a child has increased over the years as the cost of living and health insurance steadily increases while support systems such as parental leave continues to decline. However, many parents desire grandchildren for personal reasons and also to continue the lineage. If one refuses to have a child for financial and freedom reasons, would it be an act of selfishness to their parents or enlightenment to themselves?
In the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant states that there is an unconditional good where people are intrinsically good without any intentions of power, intelligence, fortune, etc. He claims that the specific obligations of a good will are called duties, in which he makes three propositions about them. The second proposition is interesting because he states that “an action from duty has its moral worth not in the purpose to be attained by it but in the maxim in accordance with which it is decided upon”. This means that one should fulfill his or her duties because of the principle of volition where people fulfill a duty without any regard for objects or desires. However, if one expects a particular result or is driven by some external motivation other than the duty, it violates this good will. Therefore, people should only act upon a duty without regard for the benefits or consequences the action may bring upon them to be considered an unconditionally good driven duty.
In a Facebook video I found, there’s a man who finds a beaver with a stick about five times its size preparing to walk across the street. The man recognizes that this beaver is probably trying to build a dam in the middle of the night and decides to leave his car and help the beaver carry the stick across the street. This man is acting out of a sense of duty in which he understands that he should help innocent animals despite the fact that he will not gain anything directly from the beaver. On the other hand, he could fulfill his duty driven from an external motivation in which he knows he will go viral on Facebook for this act of kindness. Considering both sides, I would argue that he is fulfilling his duty out of an intrinsically good will by the second proposition Kant states in which he is doing it for its moral worth and not because of any material principle.
One aspect of Kant’s philosophy discusses the freedom to make public use of one’s reason in all matters.The path to enlightenment requires that one expresses oneself and allows others to express themselves freely. Kant uses multiple authority figures, ranging from an officer to a ruler, as examples of those who use their power to place many restrictions on individuals. These restrictions all come down to Don’t argue! and Obey!, which prevents one’s ability to gain enlightenment. Kant then goes on to assert that humans must freely reason with other humans to promote enlightenment, and very few restrictions may be placed on private reasoning so that enlightenment may not be hindered.
This philosophy interests me as someone who grew up feeling like they didn’t have a voice. I had been told on multiple occasions that it was never because I didn’t have much to say (which was something I believed was the case for a long time). Instead, it was the opposite; the few people I take the time to talk to on a regular basis know that I could go on about interesting topics that I have researched, and I would be more than willing to debate about them in order to gain a new understanding of that particular topic. The problem lies in the many adults in my life, and many other young adults’ lives, who belittle our opinions and cast them aside simply because they believe us to be “ignorant” or “too young” to say anything meaningful. This phenomenon is delved into by Isabel Song, now a UC Berkeley alumni, who talks about her own frustration with the issue.
The adults in the world who refuse to listen to younger generations despite the fact that they are more than capable of holding productive, mature, and enlightening conversations are (according to Kant’s philosophy) “cowardice”, “immature”, and averse to becoming enlightened themselves.
Kant brings about the topic of “moral law.” He reasons that the morality of an action is good based on its intrinsic values; those actions cannot have any root in anything evil. For a long time, politicians have given many promises and cannot come through with all of them. It is honestly tough, as there are many checks and balances as to what a single politician can do. Would those promises violate Kant’s moral law? It’s also a matter of perspective as to what is evil and just.
This site tracks the promises of recent and current presidents. Many presidents fail to uphold their promises and even try to stall for more time. This “problem” has been going on for a long time. It’s understandable why they do so: to get more possible voters and pander to their emotional side. Would Kant’s perspective affect future votes and indirectly those promises?
Kant makes the following remark on the purpose of reason: “For since reason is not sufficiently serviceable for guiding the will safely as regards its objects and the satisfaction of all our needs…its (reason’s) true function must be to produce a will which is good, not as a means to some further end”. According to this Kant perceives reason as a mean to produce good will, the unconditional good that ensure morals. His reasoning can be summarized as follow:1.Everything in nature work in a purposive manner. 2.It is not a purpose for reason to create a will satisfying all our needs. 3.Reason has influence on our will. With premise 1 and that reason exists, one derives that reason has a purpose. Given this and premise 2, 3, one may concludes that reason purposefully influence our will, but not for satisfying our needs. Kant claims that this purpose of reason is to produce good will. However premise 1 could be problematic, and if one is to follow Hume’s view of knowledge, that one ought to proportion trust in claims according to the strength of evidence, then 1 is clearly flawed. Despite how many things we have studied, we can only find purposes in finite number of things, never enough evidence to justify a claim infinite. If 1 is to limited to a number of things in nature, excluding reason, then the argument would not be valid. Alternatively we may simply define will guided solely by reason, free from inclination, as good will, although this will make the idea of a good will irreverent to experiences or common sense, for reason is considered a prior by Kant.
Under Kant’s definition of good will Abraham making attempt on Issac’s life is certainly not an act with good will, and hence an immoral act. Abraham’s act is unreasonable: he cannot provide a reason to others why he would try to kill his son, and in the end all he show through the event is obedience without using one’s own capacity to reason, effectively prevent any possibility for good will. Was there any reasoning for the universal which Abraham could use to justify his act, he should be able to communicate it to others, for reason is the same to all human. Would Abraham use reason to judge his action, he must see that one should not kill another person, for this cannot be an universal law: if everyone is to kill another person, there would be no human left to kill or to be killed.
Kant’s discussion and theory of where “goodness” comes from in a world with rationalism and reason is interesting to me as it can be seen in all parts of our everyday lives. Everybody has interacted or have been friends with people who are “good” people with “good” hearts, but what Kant discusses is where “goodness” comes from. Kant argues that the only thing that is good in and of itself in this world is the Good Will. The Good Will is made up of a person’s free will motivated by reason, ultimately choosing its moral duty.
Someone who I believe embodies Kant’s Good Will theory is Greta Thunberg. Like all of us, Greta was born with the ability to have free will and the ability to reason and make her own opinions and thoughts. By motivating her free will by climate change awareness, her actions speak volumes for her passion and dedication to the topic. To be an advocate of this topic, however, Greta has to fight against those who oppose her movement and words (specifically big-name politicians and companies who are threatened by her growing movement), and thus her “goodness” is subject to who is seeing it. For me, as someone who is passionate about sustainability and climate change awareness, I am in awe of Greta. But if I was a company being attacked for using fossil fuels, I wouldn’t view her in the same light.
Here is an example of an adult feeling threatened by a 16-year-old’s Good Will.