I was born in 1986, the year in which the Internet Engineering Task Force was formed. Despite the facts that I grew up in an ever digitalizing world, that some of my best friends are prominent Israeli bloggers, and that accordingly the thought of writing a blog (etymology: a web–log) had crossed my mind, this will be my first blog post to be written and published. I have never managed to keep even a journal for more than a week or two, but for a task worth of 25% percent of my final grade, I’m afraid I don’t have much choice.
Alright then; I will, though admittedly reluctantly, attempt at blogging. But how can one unwillingly blog on life writing and its Western prototype, autobiography, a term that, according to Smith and Watson’s “Reading Autobiography,” originally “privileges the autonomous individual”?
I’m not sure, but it might be worthwhile to return to the philosopher Immanuel Kant.
Writing at a period in which autobiography, according to W&W, “emerged […] and subsequently became definitive for life writing in the West,” Kant (who was, perhaps because only rarely stable, a Privatdozent at the University of Königsberg for most of his career, and was appointed professorship at the age of 47) opens his famous Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment? with the following declaration:Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance from another. This immaturity is self-imposed when its cause lies not in lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without guidance from another. Sapere Aude! “Have courage to use your own understanding!”–that is the motto of enlightenment.
Kant’s reference to immaturity, “the lack of resolve and courage to use [a person’s knowledge and understanding] without guidance from another,” evokes questions of power, knowledge and politics, perhaps similar to those that had brought Smith and Watson to advocate a shift from “autobiography” and “memoir” to “life writing” and “life narrative.” Kant’s “guidance from another” refers, of course, to the Church and monarchy’s enforcement of theological, ethical and political knowledge and practice; interestingly enough, Smith and Watson’s “autobiographical subjects” are also subjected to myriad networks of similar coercion.
In this sense, how is this post, whose writing was prompted by institutional demand, corresponds with the Enlightenment autobiographical attempt to “use your own understanding,” (Kant) your own “experience,” your own “self knowledge” (W&W)? This question is one that I don’t have an answer to yet.