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Episteme

Abstract

In “An Answer to the Question: ‘What is Enlightenment?’” Kant provides a political argument built around his philosophical manipulation of the grammatical relationship between “public” and “private”. The author here elucidates the grammatical mechanism which, as John Christian Laursen argues, allows Kant to subvert concepts. A Wittgensteinian lens shows how Kant’s purportedly antonymic terms are drawn from different lines of opposition. He stealthily uses two meanings of the word “public.” Hamann’s influential critique, which establishes that Kant’s private use of reason amounts to a prescription of mere submission to authority, is deemed incorrect, if, in Kant’s address to the mind of an enlightened government, a) such a mind is enlightened, thereby capable to judge authorities, and b) such a government submits to the overarching judge: reason. Kant’s aim is to redirect revolutionary spirit toward a more sustainable positive change: a conceptual revolution in the politics of communication.

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