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Kleist and Tieck: Challenge on Enlightenment

            The Enlightenment marked the rise of "reason" as its leaders advocated free, rational thinking and pursuit of knowledge. Although the idea behind Enlightenment allowed for great progress in social and scientific matters, some believed that Enlightenment thinkers were still not getting at the essence of what it meant to be self-conscious and rational individuals. Enlightenment thinks such as well-known Kant and Voltaire discuss the need to make public use of reason and emphasize that many determined individuals must do so in order to stir the community and start reform, all the while promoting mental freedom from the shackles of tradition and faith. They wanted individuals with one important quality: self-certainty from rational deduction; someone who confidently thinks himself right based on reason. Though not completely against Enlightenment, writers Heinrich von Kleist and Ludwig Tieck saw a problem with the Enlightened way of looking at the world. In their works, "On the Marionette Theater" and Puss-in-Boots respectively, Kleist and Tieck use the common theme of self-reflexivity to challenge the tenets of Enlightenment and present their own views on the world, most importantly resisting the new set of norms created by the Enlightenment.
             An important idea shared by "On the Marionette Theater" and Puss-in-Boots is the deviation from a linear progression that seems to come hand in hand with Enlightenment. Kleist suggests that there are three forms of consciousness in a cycle: none at all like an animal, some like humans, or infinite like God. Mentioning the biblical story of Adam, Eve, and the tree of knowledge, Kleist says "we would have to eat again off the tree of knowledge to fall back again into a state of innocence" (Kleist, p. 26). Mankind started off as beings with no self-consciousness, whether it was from not having eaten the apple of knowledge as in the bible or from having evolved from less complex animals.

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