What is the difference as Kant explains it between the public and private use of reason? Does Mendelssohn largely agree with Kant on this matter of the two uses of reason or not?
The public sphere is a place where people are free from obligation of their calling, and subjects are free to write or speak critically (Kant 59, Outram 2). The private sphere is a place where people have an actual duty to restrain the expression of wayward political judgment, in the interest of upholding the ruler’s will and lessening the likelihood of the outbreak of chaos (Kant 59, Outram 2). As Kant explains it, a clergyman is bound to lecture to his congregation according to the symbol of the church which he serves. But as a scholar, “he has the complete freedom to communicate to the public all of his carefully tested and well-intentioned thoughts on the imperfections of that symbol and his proposals for better arrangement of religious and ecclesiastical affairs” (Kant 60). In fact, Kant goes as far as to point out that it is indeed the clergyman’s calling to communicate his thoughts on the imperfections of the church. Kant divides actions/thoughts into either public or private categories. He does not see these categories as contradictions, and points out that if these uses are carefully separated then the clergyman should have “nothing to burden his conscience” (Kant 60). Kant sees the clergyman as an agent of his church and therefore requires him to teach something he does not agree with “as a consequence of his office” (60-61). Therefore, Kant views the clergyman’s use of his reason before his congregation as a private use of reason and his use of his freedom as a scholar who speaks to his own public through his writing as a public use of his reason (61).
Mendelssohn does not agree with Kant on this matter of the two uses of reason. He notes that “the destiny of man as a measure and goal of all our striving and efforts” and argues that the more status and duties in civil life correspond “throughout all the states, with their vocations…the more culture the nation possesses” (Mendelssohn 54). In other words, Mendelssohn does not segregate use of reason into two spheres and instead requires man to reconcile them into one way of being. As a result, he points out, “if the unessential destiny of man comes into conflict with the essential or nonessential destiny of the citizen, rules must be established according to which exceptions are made in cases of collisions decided” (Mendelssohn 55).
Mendelssohn, Moses. “On the Question: What is Englitenment?” (1784). Trans. James Schmidt. 53-57.