will serve as a leash to control the great unthinking mass. For enlightenment of this kind, all that is needed
is freedom. And the freedom in question is the most innocuous form of allÑfreedom to make public use of
one's reason in all matters.
He must simply obey. But he cannot reasonably be banned from making observations as a man of learning
on the errors in the military service, and from submitting these to his public for judgement. The citizen
cannot refuse to pay the taxes imposed upon him; presumptuous criticisms of such taxes, where someone is
called upon to pay them, may be punished as an outrage which could lead to general insubordination.
Nonetheless, the same citizen does not contravene his civil obligations if, as a learned individual, he
publicly voices his thoughts on the impropriety or even injustice of such fiscal measures. In the same way, a
clergyman is bound to instruct his pupils and his congregation in accordance with the doctrines of the
church he serves, for he was employed by it on that condition. But as a scholar, he is completely free as well
as obliged to impart to the public all his carefully considered, well-intentioned thoughts on the mistaken
aspects of those doctrines, and to offer suggestions for a better arrangement of religious and ecclesiastical
affairs. And there is nothing in this which need trouble the conscience
But it is absolutely impermissible to agree, even for a single lifetime, to a permanent religious constitution
which no-one might publicly question. For this would virtually nullify a phase in man's upward progress,
thus making it fruitless and even detrimental to subsequent generations.
A man may for his own person, and even then only for a limited period, postpone enlightening himself in
matters he ought to know about. But to renounce such enlightenment completely, whether for his own
person or even more so for later generations, means violating and trampling underfoot the sacred rights of
If it is now asked whether we at present live in an enlightened age, the answer is: No, but we do live in an
age of enlightenment. As things are at present, we still have a long way to go before men as a whole can be
in a position (or can ever be put into a position) of using their own understanding confidently and well in
religious matters, without outside guidance. But we do have distinct indications that the way is now being
cleared for them to work freely in this direction, and that the obstacles to universal enlightenment, to man's
emergence from his self-incurred immaturity, are gradually becoming fewer. In this respect our age is the
age of enlightenment, the century of Frederick. A prince who does not regard it as beneath him to say that
he considers it his duty, in religious matters, not to prescribe anything to his people, but to allow them
complete freedom, a prince who thus even declines to accept the presumptuous title of tolerant, is himself
enlightened. He deserves to be praised by a grateful present and posterity as the man who first liberated
mankind from immaturity (as far as government is concerned), and who left all men free to use their own
reason in all matters of conscience. Under his rule, ecclesiastical dignitaries, notwithstanding their official
duties, may in their capacity as scholars freely and publicly submit to the judgement of the world their
verdicts and opinions, even if these deviate here Ind there from orthodox doctrine.
Men will of their own accord gradually work their way out of barbarism so long as artificial measures are
not deliberately adopted to keep them in it.
I have portrayed matters of religion as the focal point of enlightenment, i.e. of man's emergence from his
self-incurred immaturity. This is firstly because our rulers have no interest in assuming the role of guardians
over their subjects so fir as the arts and sciences are concerned, and secondly, because religious immaturity
is the most pernicious and dishonourable variety of all
But the attitude of mind of a head of state who favours freedom in the arts and sciences extends even
further, for he realises that there is no danger even to his legislation if he allows his subjects to make public
use of their own reason and to put before the public their thoughts on better ways of drawing up laws, even
if this entails forthright criticism of the current legislation. We have before us a brilliant example of this
kind, in which no monarch has yet surpassed the one to whom we now pay tribute.