Kantian Enlightenment through Kafka's Colony

1461 Words Jul 9th, 2018 6 Pages
Of the many intellectuals who have offered answers to questions of morality, freewill, and enlightenment, Immanuel Kant is one of the most challenging and intriguing. His writings have been used as the basis for analysis of contemporary writings of every age since first they were conceived and published. Benjamin's views on law, the ethics of J. K. Rowling, race studies, and basic modern morality have all been discussed through the use of Kant's philosophical framework. (Gray, Mack, Newton, Wolosky)
Through Franz Kafka's short story, “In the Penal Colony,” I intend to expand this discussion to include maturity as it relates to enlightenment via Kant's essay “An Answer to the Question 'What is Enlightenment?'” In which Kant describes two
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The officer's zealous devotion to his duty also creates problems when considering greater enlightenment. He has wholly immersed himself in the position of Judge of the colony and operates with a single-mindedness which disallows any conflicting information to ever be acknowledged. His language demonstrates this internalization. In the above quote, he uses the word “judgment” where the word “opinion” could have been used. He also uses the word “verdict” in favor of the word “decision” frequently. These substitutions are small, however they demonstrate that his image of himself—his identity—is directly related to his duties. The reason this devotion is problematic is because greater enlightenment can only occur when the members of a society are able to think freely. The officer does not argue with the way things are done, he is a staunch supporter of the status quo and never thinks about how to improve anything. The officer is arguably not an enlightened man, but he remains nonetheless a mature man, acting (out of ignorance) in accordance to the highest level of his own enlightenment. He believes his actions to be right and just even as they are falling out of favor with his peers. Even the act of suicide which he commits when confronted with the obsolete nature of his work is the action which best fits his
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