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.