Plato had it, Einstein had it, I still have it…

What might we be talking about here? Perhaps you have already guessed. Yes, it’s the brain. That wrinkly grey mass of just about 3 lbs. Just imagine: if mine were lying next to those of Plato and Einstein, no one would be able to correctly identify them. In terms of our basic biological make-up, we don’t differ at all. From a different point of view, we do, and quite considerably. I can neither conceive of the world of thought of Mr Plato nor reproduce the genius of Mr Einstein. Although I have one too, I honestly never felt the need to be able to do so. But with this part of the body, in which reason and understanding and other things are supposed to reside, really incredible feats can be performed. It is one thing that we all have one. It’s another thing how we manage it. Let’s see…

But why is this on my mind right now? The present forces me to reassure myself of my own understanding. Or my reason? I confess that I had to look it up to make myself aware of the difference. As suspected, I ended up with Kant and his “Sapere aude! Dare to know!” or even “Have the courage to use your own understanding!” Of course, to use your own. Everyone has one. But applying it is hardly trivial. Many people seem to find it particularly difficult to handle it these days.  The temptation is great to unburden yourself and make use of others’ understanding. Seen in this way, you would then no longer be in your right mind, but someone else’s.

Understanding is supposed to secure our external existence. So with understanding one provides food, a roof over one’s head and everything else that serves daily life. But not only for that, but also for how we deal with information and communicate with each other in society. This external securing of existence, however, only works in connection with an internal securing of existence. According to Kant, this is what reason is supposed to do. It represents the “desire to make life meaningful” (W. Deppert) as the source of possible meaningful deeds. Reason therefore tells us what actions are meaningful.

 Without meaning, life makes no sense. That is clear to me. I would now like to ask Kant whether one could also make use of someone else’s reason. I think he would answer: “Goodness no, only you yourself are always responsible for what makes sense.” In essence, then, I can only be responsible for what I do with my reason. Consequently, I decide for myself what makes sense to me and what does not. So in the end, understanding requires reason. That makes sense! Then it is also comprehensible that it is unreasonable not to make use of one’s own understanding.

If I now look around with such thoughts and observe what is happening in connection with the pandemic, I see a vast amount of data, statistics, news, opinions, conjectures, conspiracy theories, risks, projections that are published globally every day from various sources via all media that vie for my attention. I can see that there is something for everyone. For the sceptics, the supporters, the opponents, the know-it-alls. And everything is trumpeted at different volumes and sometimes with questionable styles of speech. It is easy to find suitable arguments for any position. What is still understandable? What can we still talk about reasonably among ourselves? How much of all this is trustworthy, plausible, credible? What can I still orientate myself by?

Under this media bombardment, I find it very difficult not to lose my understanding and to remain reasonable. My desire to make life meaningful now signals to me: “Keep cool. I am with you. Don’t let yourself be confused and be fooled, take care of your health and contribute what you can to the health of society. The Robert Koch Health Insititute, Neue Züricher Zeitung and the laws are enough sources for you. Consider everything else as background noise.”  – Yes, thank you for that. That makes a lot of sense.

Sorry, but I just had to check myself here. Do you have a need like that too? Right now? Actually, the slogan about Kant’s Enlightenment is not all that new, is it?

Original text: PUE
English translation: BCO


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