Kant’s definition of enlightenment — that is, of maturity in the ethico-political sense of the term — is well known. He does not merely say “think for yourself!” but qualifies it with “argue [räsonniert] as much as you please, and about what you please, but obey!” Drawing on the Critique of Judgment, I elaborate a Kantian reinterpretation of the relation between thinking and obedience. I argue that finding the courage to obey the guidance of another is in fact necessary for radically thinking for oneself. This paradoxically-sounding Kantian redefinition of enlightenment maturity in turn illuminates Kant’s paradoxical relation to the Revolution.
Omri Boehm is Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research, New York. Born in Gilon, Israel, he received his doctorate at Yale University and has participated in research projects at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich as well as at the University of Heidelberg. His academic fields of interest are Kant, early modern philosophy, and the philosophy of religion. His book publications include The Binding of Isaac. A Religious Model of Disobedience (2007) and Kant’s Critique of Spinoza (2014). He is currently writing a book on Descartes’ conception of the will, Passion, Freedom, Reason (working title).