What is Enlightenment? An Immanuel Kant rarity~

“Enlightenment is man's release from his self-incurred immaturity.”


Beantwortung der Frage: Was ist Aufklärung?(Answering the Question: What is Enlightenment?) in Berlinische Monatsschrift magazine

Immanuel Kant

Berlin, 1784


12mo. July to December, 1784. The first appearance of Kant’s most famous essay. Here, he responds to critiques from the previous year by Reverend Johann Friedrich Zöllner: “What is enlightenment? This question, which is almost as important as what is truth, should indeed be answered before one begins enlightening! And still I have never found it answered!”


In his essay, Kant argues for intellectual courage and freedom of expression as key components for advancing individual humans and society. One of the key texts for modernity.


Within this volume is Moses Mendelssohn’s September response to Zöllner where he argues for a need to set limits on enlightenment so as to maintain the fabric of society.


Also within, is the first printing of Kant’s important Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View in the November issue. Here, he argues that incessant warring will lead nations to value peaceful cooperation, expand freedoms, and eventually enter into a federal union of nations. All of this would be born from rational thinking, which reveals the best way of living harmoniously.


‘The Berlinische Monatsschrift functioned as the public organ of the “Wednesday Society,” a secret society of “Friends of the Enlightenment” founded in 1783 and consisted of 12-14 people who met regularly to discuss the prospects and consequences of enlightenment.’(Schmidt) This group included Kant, Mendelssohn, Zöllner, and others. Members were sworn to secrecy about the meetings and the discussions therein.


Contemporary paper binding, spine toned, covers rubbed, corners bumped. Internally quite clean and crisp. A sound, Very Good copy of an exceptionally scarce piece - none in the auction records, and rare in the trade.


Ref: James Schmidt, Journal of the History of Ideas

         Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

         Paul Krause

What is Enlightenment? An Immanuel Kant rarity~