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Summary/Response: Kant's Public and Private Use of Reason

milkee_0923 2 / 2  
Sep 17, 2009   #1
I appreciate the help.

Balanced Freedom

With music being such a staple in youth culture, it seems that each teenager has a soundtrack to their life. But, are they just innocently listening to their favorite tunes? Or are they in for something more? In the media it seems that certain groups that are affiliated with particular genres of music, often seen with styles such as hard-rock/heavy metal, are pinpointed when something within their community goes awry, as having been strongly influenced by the music they listen to. The 1950's was a time of social change in the youth of society. This change was a result of the Rock-and-Roll music that originated in the 1950's. Rock and Roll gave teenagers the freedom to develop independent ideas from those of the older generation, and it allowed for conformity among members of the younger generation. Through the eyes of Immanuel Kant, an 18th-century German philosopher, balancing the utilization of both public and private use of one's reasoning are ideas to pursue in order to gain acceptance of Rock-and-Roll music in society.

William J. Bennett, a fan of early Rock-and-Roll music and a guitarist of the 1950's, suggests Rock-and-Roll music is anti-authoritarian in his essay, "What Hath the Beatles Wrought? Rock-and-Roll and the Collapse of Authority." He explains in the sixties that rock music is built "on icon-smashing, rebellion, and a heavy whiff of sex," however; he still considers rock music a form of art. Bennett also believes Rock-and-Roll music is a way for the youth to express themselves, to rebel and push the limits. He viewed this as a problem because adults failed to be responsible to their children to provide guidance toward rock music in the correct direction. The irresponsibility from the home led to a collapse in authority and disastrous consequences and expanded into corporate boardrooms. Bennett concludes that "in an increasingly nihilistic cultural environment that says there are 'No Limits,' it's not surprising that some rock-and-roll music-like so many other things-has gone too far." Thus, leading to the question "Could we have enjoyed the good aspects of rock-and-roll revolution without eventually ending up with the trash we now face in the 1990's?"

The public use of one's reason deals with oneself as a freethinker. This type of reason is nonrestrictive to the individual. Public reason should be free if the public is to become open-minded only if they are to rely on their own reason without the guidance of another. The musicians and artists fall into this type of reason by their self expression through the sound and lyrics of rock and roll. Rock music is a form of art that as revolutionized from a sooth rhythm to hard driving bass, fast tempo, and drums create a rhythmic mix sounding like something about to explode. This freedom of speech resulted from the common emotions of the youth "to rebel and push the limits." According to Bennett, "Rock deserves an honorable mention on the list of little innovations that eventually convinced the residents of Eastern Europe that they could live more interesting lives without communism." Although Rock-and-Roll music played some good roles in society, it pushed the boundaries of morals by uses of explicit lyrics influenced by drugs, drinking, sex, and rebellion.

The private use of one's reason, on the other hand, may often be very narrowly restricted without the use of one's opinion. In private use one must obey otherwise the completion of the task is impossible. The freedom of speech is taken forbidden and one must obey. The roles of parents, the government, and record companies take part in this position. Parent must take the responsibility of their children to give proper guidance toward the views of Rock-and-Roll music. This is one of the reasons why the youth is pushing the limits. The youth have to rely on external sources for knowledge thus questioning "Why not?" do drugs, drink alcohol, have sex, and be irresponsible. The government should also take responsibility for the collapse of authority. They could have enforced censorship of explicit rock music to the minorities, but nobody is there to teach them, except their environment exposed to rock and roll. The record companies take part, but they are more concern with making profits. According to Bennett, record companies stated "We happen to be and industry [rock music] that runs fast, it runs hard, it sells the manifestation of the rebellion that kids need to exercise. I mean, it's their job to rebel and we that that rebellion." The lack of direction from parents, the government, and record companies contribute to the disastrous consequences. They must follow Kant's concept of private use of one's reason because without reason their purpose to lead the youth is unlikely to be fulfilled.

Competence is the balance of both public and private use of one's reason. The musicians, artists, parents, government, and record companies must know how to determine when it is right to obey and right to argue. In terms of social obedience it is often necessary, but any effort to delay the public's free use of reason should be forbidden. By society taking up their roles everyone as a whole will move closer to acceptance of Rock-and-Roll music.

Referring back to question, "Could we have enjoyed the good aspects of rock-and-roll revolution without eventually ending up with the trash we now face in the 1990's?" The answer is "Why not?" With the use of Kant's idea of public and private use of one's reason society can enjoy the revolution of Rock-and-Roll music. The balance freedom from society puts out many ideas of individuals to moderately change culture. New limits are met with each enlightened generation by the equilibrium of public and private use of reason. The movement of culture progresses forward, setting the bar higher to reach new "culture breaks."

EF_Simone 2 / 1,986  
Sep 17, 2009   #2
You deserve credit for attempting to apply Kant's conception of public and private reason to a modern question. However, I see two broad problems with this essay. First, and deepest, I'm not sure you understand the distinction Kant made. You seem to be assuming that "private reason" means the private thoughts of any individual. Kant spoke of "private reason" in specific juxtaposition to the "public reason" used by rulers, administrators, and other public figures to justify or explain their actions. Thus, the public/private distinction doesn't quite apply to individuals who do not act in such functions, as all of their reasoning is private.

But perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps you have a line of reasoning that clearly explains why Kant's public/private distinction does, in fact, apply to private citizens such as those who listen to the controversial music in question. And that brings us to the second problem I see with this essay: Your line of reasoning is not clearly stated. You do a wonderful job of providing background information, so much so that your line of philosophical thought gets lost.

Try this: State simply and clearly: (a) a summary of Kant's notion of public versus private reason; (b) the reasons why this applies to the question at hand; and (c) what we can conclude by applying Kant's notion of public versus private reason to the question at hand. Then, put this succinct summary of your reasoning into your introduction, just after you draw the reader in with your description of musical controversies.
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Sep 17, 2009   #3
You can read a summary of Kant's views (which are always more accessible than the original) here: plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-social-political/

The concepts are tricky, because they go against our intuitive understanding of the words, with officials using their private reasoning when they toe the gov't line and their public reasoning when they challenge it, but you seem to be on the right general track.

I agree with Simone, though. This seems like an odd topic to use when discussing these particular concepts? Is your goal just to write an argumentative essay on music? Was "Could we have enjoyed the good aspects of rock-and-roll revolution without eventually ending up with the trash we now face in the 1990's?" the prompt question? If so, Kant can go away. You can deal with this question in much better ways without him. If your goal is to write about Kant, why not get rid of the music element? I suppose private reasoning can still apply to a person who is acting in a specific role vis-a-vis any authority, including parental authority, but really, this seems like a more trivial topic than others you could have chosen.
OP milkee_0923 2 / 2  
Sep 21, 2009   #4
Thank you I appreciate the help.

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