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SOC203H1 Lecture Notes - Immanuel Kant, Town Hall Meeting, Protestant Reformation

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Authority and Public opinion:
1. Enlightment :
a time
a process
2. what is enlightenment? By Immanuel Kant 1784
3. Public Opinion:
institutional locations
4. the authority of public opinion
5. Hegel’s antagonism
6. Tocqueville’s skepticism
7. Marx: the problem disappears
- authority has many stands towards it but today’s lecture will be
authority and public opinion on achieving reason.
1. enlightenment is a time in 1700s a period in western Europe with
center of enlightenment being associated with Paris, a time of
skepticism on receiving ideas like religious ideas, nobility
preceding others, protestants reformation (moving away from
catholic church) - the protestant reformation can be seen as an
individualism leading into the enlightenment. Another strand that
was leading to the enlightenment was the scientific revolution
that included the formulation of scientific ideas, the gathering of
ideas rather than using the indicative ideas.
- enlightenment is a movement consisting of thinkers believing
in reason and that it should be protected and that it will free
- it’s a process today many are skeptical about the
enlightenment project and people say that we have applied
reason into the world like industrialism but look at the
environmental destruction. The reason was overused making
environment suffer. Another example is the rational working
of work, organization, government, and overall forms a form
of alienation. For some beaurocratization is seen as rationality
that is taken too far.
2. in 1784 newspaper conference held a competition and the
question was what is enlightenment in which Kant won. Kant will
argue that if a child is not enlightenment they are subject to the
priest and ruler and therefore is not grown up. Than he goes onto
say how will people to do this? he says it is hard to grow up
intellectually and smart but he says if people are in groups doing
interaction they will highly think for themselves. H says that
people who think for themselves they cant go that far because it
requires a lot more when you are on your own. Kant uses a
religious language which is ‘’calling’’-refers back to our reading

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for next week
- if people are allowed to gather together and express their
opinions freely than reason is bound to be expressed
- he also thinks about his critics do not argue believe, do not
argue pay your taxes, etc.
3. Public opinion it is kind of information that is used for
politicians or public voting. Public opinion emerges when the
public is open to debate freely and when these phone calls are
made for surveys for politicians it does not occur because it is a
private conversation. Kant on the other hand was thinking about
debates, making arguments that don’t make sense, and
eventually an agreement to emerge from different ideas. So Kant
was thinking of interactions between people on matters that are
important to society,
- institutional locations- the newspaper can be part of this
- the country that is divided into 2 parts one being the state
(like the legislatures, courts, public beauracrizies, the military,
the police and the other part being the civil society that
includes family, religious organization, voluntary organization,
economic organizations, and the state also includes the public
realm while the civil society has the private realm. When the
professor talks about the town hall meeting he is talking
about something happening in civil society as well as
newspaper columns
- what intersects between the civil society and the state is the
parliament that brings individuals from both parts and settle
ideas. In the end the idea that is won over is the consensus
idea and so parliament is a vital institutions for the public
debates as it advances ideas, criticizes, and it is also a place
where laws are passed. Laws are there to limit the
interactions between individuals that inappropriate.
- Kant was attacking authority, like the priest and the military
and urging people to think for themselves. When he was
writing it was a time when monarchy prevailed and the
problem for him that monarchial rule can go over reason that
is not the interest for the public. Kant is making a substitution
for the ruler to have reason. He is saying we have 2 options
which is being ruled by a noble descent and who is to say that
rule is not unfair? In a civil society we need to be ruled by
reason which is why parliament is central to his argument.
The need for people to talk in public and the reason is tried in
law and the parliament governs itself through reason. The
representatives of civil society talk, and translate their
opinions into law which regulates civil society.
- parliament is an important institution because it allows civil
society to argue itself through reason
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