Sugar and Slavery; Global Enlightenment




Week 6: Sugar and Slavery; Global Enlightenment



Write a few sentences explaining what Kant is arguing in each of the following passages. Make sure to note if any of quotes remind you perspectives provided by Olaudah Equiano or previous historical actors we’ve encountered in this course.


“Immanuel Kant, What is Enlightenment?” (1784)


  1. Sapere Aude

“Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why so great a proportion of men, long after nature has released them…..READ UNTIL… freeing themselves from immaturity and pursuing a secure course”.


2.Private and Public Reason


“The public use of one’s reason must always be free, and it alone can bring about enlightenment among mankind; the private use of reason may, however, be very narrowly restricted, without otherwise hindering the progress of enlightenment”.


“And what a people may not decree for itself may still be imposed on it by a monarch, for his lawgiving authority rests on his unification of the people’s collective will in his own. If he only sees to it that all genuine or purported improvement is consonant with civil order, he can allow his subjects to do what they find necessary to their spiritual well-being, which is not his affair”.


  1. Progress


“A man may put off enlightenment with regard to what he ought to know, though only for a short time and for his own person; but to renounce it for himself, or, even more, for subsequent generations, is to violate and trample man’s divine rights underfoot” (281).


“One age cannot bind itself, and thus conspire, to place a succeeding one in a condition whereby it would be impossible for the later age to expand its knowledge (particularly where it is so very important), to rid itself of errors, and generally to increase its enlightenment” (281).


  1. Route to Enlightenment

“Perhaps a revolution can overthrow autocratic despotism and profiteering or power-grabbing oppression, but it can never truly reform a manner of thinking; instead, new prejudices, just like old ones they replace, will serve as a leash for the great unthinking mass” (279).



Wu Jiangzi, The Scholars (1755)


How do the following passages reflect Jiangzi’s critique of the civil service examinations system? What kind of system is he articulating in its place?


“Listen, son, to my dying wish: Marry, have children and care for my grave; but don’t become an official. Promise me this and I shall die in peace” (251).


“If you use goodness and justice to win the people, you will win them all – not only in Chekiang. But if you try to conquer by force, weak as the people of Chekiang are, I am afraid they will not submit” (252).


“ When she was five or six he had engaged a tutor to teach her the Four Books and the Five Classics so that by the time she was twelve she could expound the classics and read essays, having thoroughly mastered the works of Wang Shou-hsi” (271).


Anybody who buys the rank of scholar of the imperial college can go in for the examination”, said the man who had just spoken. “Since Mr. Chou is so learned, why not buy him a rank so he can take the examination?” (261)

“But after reading it for the third time, I realize it is the most wonderful essay in the world – every word a pearl. This shows how often bad examiners must have suppressed real genius” (264).


“He may be my son-in-law”, he said, “but he’s an official now – one of the stars of heaven. How can you hit the stars in heaven?” (268)

“Why should I go on killing pigs? My worthy son-in-law will be able to support me in style for the rest of my life…”(269)


“Listen mother, do you know of anyone, past or present, who is entitled to be called a brilliant young scholar without having passed the examinations?” (273)