Posted by: Dan | March 31, 2006

Sapere Aude!

Immanuel Kant once wrote that the Enlightenment could perhaps be summarised by a single imperative: Sapere aude! Think for yourself!

A few hundred years later, we would do well to consider whether or not thinking for ourselves is all it is cracked up to be. We all think for ourselves, and, consequently, we refuse to recognise the thoughts of others as more truthful, valid, or persuasive, than our own.

Enlightened Western culture set out to liberate itself from religion and Nietzsche proclaimed this liberation to be so complete that we even managed to kill God. Yet, I don't think that this is the case. Our liberation, our commitment to thinking for ourselves, has not turned us into atheists. It has turned us into pantheists. We are all gods in our own minds. I am the sole authority in my life. God is not dead — I have replaced him.

Of course, a return to pre-Enlightenment forms of domination is hardly appealing (although post-Enlightenment forms of domination are just as lacking in appeal). Thinking for ourselves is not a completely worthless exercise. Therefore, I simply want to suggest that we continue to think for ourselves but that we don't take our own thoughts too seriously. This corrective is especially important for those of us who are pursuing Christianity within the academy. We need to heed Paul's injunction in Romans 12: “do not be wise in your own estimation.”

So, I'll think for myself, but, when push comes to shove, I'll submit my thoughts to other authorities and allow them to correct me.

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