Human Event Paper #5.2.5

Human Event Paper #5.2.5 - Samantha Gustafson HON 172 MW...

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Samantha Gustafson HON 172 MW 9:15 Jacquie Scott-Lynch 8 April 2005 Slavery’s effects on Humankind’s Responsibility to the Human Community The hindsight view of slavery from nearly everyone in the 21 st century is the same. It is agreed that the oppression was wrong and that it never should have happened. Yet, when one reads incidents of slavery from a time that is so far past, nearly all share the same feelings – disgust, anger, sorrow, etc. Famed Philosopher Immanuel Kant’s An Answer to the Question: “What is Enlightenment?” illustrates the philosophy behind the emotions that stories of slavery, such as Frederick Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass , produce. More often than not, these emotions are reactions to the instances of brutality and inequality and are so strong because one can identify to the character in some way or another. Subconsciously comparing oneself to the characters in these stories reminds one that one’s main responsibility to the human community is to work towards enlightenment, and according to Kant, keeping oneself or someone else from enlightenment ”would be a crime against human nature, whose original destiny lies precisely in such progress” (Kant 3). Douglass’ experiences show that slavery not only prevented the slaves from enlightenment, but the slaveholders as well. In their attempts to keep the slaves from enlightenment, the immature slaveholders kept themselves from fulfilling this responsibility also. Using Kant’s definition of the unenlightened, Douglass’ narrative shows that the slaveholders were immature. Kant stated, “Immaturity is the inability to use one’s own understanding without the guidance of another. This immaturity is self-incurred if its cause is
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Gustafson 2 not lack of understanding, but lack of resolution and courage to use it without the guidance of another.” (1). His idea of the enlightened individual is one who understands what needs to be done and does it even if no one else agrees. The social norm of immaturity brought about by slavery was so powerful that it stopped the slaveholders from thinking for themselves. Sophia Auld was a slaveholder who used her natural instinct to act civilly towards a human when she began to teach Douglass to read. Because of Sophia Auld’s immaturity, her innate knowledge was immediately abandoned to have someone else think for her when her husband – implementing the rules of slavery, objected her teachings. The act of keeping the slaves from education was so greatly accepted that for one slaveholder to be enlightened was absurd. Kant describes the convenience of this immaturity, “ I need not make any efforts at all. I need not think, so long as I can pay; others will soon enough take the tiresome job over for me” (Kant 1). With no use to think anymore, the slaveholders immerge themselves deeper into immaturity. Douglass’ narrative shows how the slaveholders structured their life around keeping the
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This note was uploaded on 04/02/2008 for the course HON 172 taught by Professor Lynch during the Spring '05 term at ASU.

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Human Event Paper #5.2.5 - Samantha Gustafson HON 172 MW...

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