Dialogue and Universalism

Volume 31, Issue 2, 2021

Do We Need a New Enlightenment for the Twenty-First Century?

German MelikhovOrcid-ID
Pages 231-245

Productive Misunderstanding
Independent Thinking as the Horizon of the Enlightenment (On the Example of Polemics between Immanuel Kant and Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi)

The article focuses on understanding some of the self-evident premises of the philosophy of the 17th–19th centuries that make up the horizon of the Enlightenment. One of these premises is Immanuel Kant’s idea of independent thinking. Based on the analysis of the polemics of Kant and Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi about the “extrasensible abilities” of the reason, the question is raised about the possibility of understanding someone else’s concept based on other existential preferences. Answering this question, we distinguish between the concept of the Enlightenment and the practical principle of the Enlightenment and show that the supporter of the ideology of the Enlightenment (Kant) and his critic (Jacobi) appear in the light of the principle of independent thinking as the spokesmen of the spirit, not the letter of the Enlightenment. A condition for understanding someone else’s concept is a productive misunderstanding, which is one of the aspects of the principle of independent thinking: the acceptance of the self-evident as incomprehensible, the shift of one’s attention to one’s own how-being and the perception of thought as a gift.