Sapere aude!

Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s own understanding without the guidance of another. This immaturity is self-incurred if its cause is not lack of understanding, but lack of resolution and courage to use it without the guidance of another. The motto of enlightenment is therefore: Sapere aude! Have courage to use your own understanding! . . .

Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why such a large proportion of men, even when nature has long emancipated them from alien guidance, nevertheless gladly remain immature for life. For the same reasons, it is all too easy for others to set themselves up as their guardians. It is so convenient to be immature! If I have a book to have understanding in place of me, a spiritual adviser to have a conscience for me, a doctor to judge my diet for me, and so on, I need not make any efforts at all. I need not think, so long as I can pay; others will soon enough take the tiresome job over for me.

— Immanuel Kant, “What is Enlightenment?” (1784)

3 thoughts on “Sapere aude!

  1. Years ago I was set on having “Sapere Aude” tattooed above my hip bone. I went to the parlor, had the words drawn on me in script, and then for some reason backed out last minute. Part of me is quite glad, now that I’ve stepped away from full on enlightenment philosophy–including Hume and Kant–and become more of a existential phenomenologist. Still… I’m kind of disappointed I didn’t go through with it.

  2. Pingback: “Sapere Aude!” | To a dusty shelf we aspire

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