The work, which becomes a new genre itself...
William Shakespeare wrote once, “All the world's a stage/And all the men and
women merely players…” Welcome to the world that is full of drama and intrigue with all the people merely on stage to act upon it. The stage offers everything an actor needs and the different ways a stage can be setup are innumerable. The people though, are “merely” on stage to use the stage for themselves, the players’ role. The stage is the world we live in and we are the players interacting with the world all the time. Shakespeare phrase is magnified more than before because of the advances in world communication and because of the access to the many cultures that make up our world. We now can talk to anyone anywhere at anytime on the earth. News about world events is instant and information no longer only in one place but can be communicated to many different places in a matter of seconds. The world is no longer a closed off area where one culture is the lifestyle, the world in every place in now an arena for many different cultures. It is this arena whether people want the information of the world coming in or not coming in. This arena is called postmodernism, claming that different groups have different beliefs about belief itself. The modern era was one that there was one belief, one faith, one truth; one group had one belief about belief itself. When the world was able to see all the different cultures around it, it then became more than one group who had a choice to more than one belief. The modern era rarely had a chance to sample the outside world mainly because it was held that objective truth and social belief were one in the same. Now in the postmodern era we can’t avoid all the different ideas and philosophies that come our way and we are forced to find what fits us as truth and what isn’t truth; the rest we can’t decide becomes a suggestion we don’t throw away just yet. We have at our fingertips a massive buffet of choices and all it takes is for one to look at them all and make a choice. This era also says that if you choose wrong, then one can surely go back for seconds and choose again. Postmodernism is always causing the stage to change and the players are now wearing mixed together costumes and philosophy is no exception when it comes to this constant change.
Epistemology is an area of philosophy that has been affected by postmodernism. Epistemology is the study of knowing the nature of knowledge. It seems normal in our time to seek truth and understanding and one can’t imagine that a person has never taking on the task of finding knowledge. Indeed though people were set in a one belief system and had no inclination to even think more about there own ideas or to even challenge them. Many people were content in the idea of having one absolute truth and if other ideas happened to come along that they were void and not worth even considering. A classic example of this absolutist idea is religion. Fundamentalists claim that the Bible is the one and only truth and that any moral human reasoning is unreliable. This claim has also been used in powerful positions in the past. The Church using this power of the one and only truth of the Bible have attempted during the middle ages to crush the progress of science. Science in itself was postmodern of the time claiming that not just the Bible was truth but that there were many truths in the world outside of ourselves. Rene Descartes in the 17th century made a scientific theory that meet with the church’s view but at the same time gave a model that meet mechanical and physical principles. He claimed that the mind and the body are separate from each other; the mind was God given and didn’t follow any type of physical law and that the mind because of it’s higher ability commanded the physical lowly body. The church had little opposition to such a view because it fit well with their requirements already. Although this isn’t a radical view from the church, Descartes laid down the foundation stones for science itself and from these ideas about human behavior and human makeup future researchers could build off of. At about the same time in the 17th century Galileo appeared to promote physics but this time his views didn’t agree with the Roman Catholic Church. Galileo developed a theory called the Copernican theory that challenged the Church. The Pope sent a messenger to Galileo to warn him that such ideas should only be discussed hypothetically. Galileo took this advice but when his published book came to the public he was arrested and put on trial. He was put in house arrest for the rest of his life but during that time he completed another work that included the physics of moving and accelerating bodies. This was a great work for its time and like Descartes set foundation stones for future researches such as Newton. Slowly the Church lost it’s power and the kings of the world regained the upper hand over religious powers and as the Church lost its influential hold on people’s thoughts the public was free to explore many other ideas outside the Church. Science sparked that there wasn’t only one truth or that the Bible wasn’t the only truth in the world. These ideas still develop into our present time where people go so far as to deny God and claim that Science is the only way of the world. The Church though is still around even though over time Christianity has broken up into many different forms. It’s important to remember that postmodernism has replaced the ideas that people have once thought but it hasn’t replaced the systems that people have made. This is why billions of people still consider themselves “Christians” but because of postmodernism some consider themselves Amish while others are Quakers and while others still believe in Christianity while are practicing physics and believe in science. But today it’s now radical to think the Bible is the only truth in the world.
Not many believe in the one truth of the Bible anymore and in political philosophy not many believe in the kings of old either. The original form of government was the monarchy. A monarchy consisted mainly of one person who inherited a seat of power over a whole group of people. The monarch could do what he wanted when he wanted to. If the monarch wanted someone dead because they look funny, then no one would argue back. The Bible even gives a list of things that any monarch could get away with from enslaving one’s children to taking away property for personal use. This system seemed to work for thousands of years most likely because anyone who would challenge the monarchy would be killed and the people at the time felt reliant on the great power of the monarch. People need leaders and so the monarch was the one leader who could guide and promote the welfare of the state. Hobbes in his essay Leviathan said similar that without a solid leader, even if that leader is one of corruption, there would be chaos and destruction everywhere. Thus everyone knew deep inside they needed a single man to run the affairs of the state. As the Mishnah says in Chapter of the Fathers: “Pray for the welfare of the government, because if people did not fear it, a person would swallow his fellow alive.” Why would anyone want to cause a revolt to make a new government? Obviously, all the people of the world had a copy of Leviathan in their homes. The cycle of monarchies and absolute rulers ended thousand of years later with the American Revolution that sent shock waves through the entire world and caused the British Empire in the end to loss all of their distant colonies. It seems that one had to get away from presence from the monarch to understand that human beings can live on there own. The distance from George III in Great Britain was about 5000 miles. Having that much space from the main government and on top of that Britain barely monitoring what the colonies did produced a lot of freedom. This gave so much freedom and detachment from the monarch that when Britain did need to tax the colonies from being bankrupt from various wars that the colonies found the taxes outrageous. Also tighter trade restrictions to other countries such as Spain caused more upset feeling between the colonies and the mother country. This way of life, not living under the shadow of the monarch, caused ideologies to be formed, ideologies strong enough to cause a revolution, a war against the strongest empire at that time. The Leviathan was discarded in a sense, the people were fighting an already established ruler to form a new government, one to prevent radical monarchs from taking power. The colonists endangered their own lives, if we look at it from their point of view, to from a government that was an experiment and mostly likely would end in turmoil or civil war. Of course they had to win the war first and most likely all the founding fathers would have been hung, and they most likely expected to be hanged. They did win the war though and through the brilliance of the founding fathers did make this new government that brought equality to the people and that shunned the idea of the monarch. This era is called the “Era of Passion” because the founding fathers were so passionate in their work and most of them were extremely paranoid that the new government formed would lead to another monarchy that they went to great lengths to argue with each other about what was best for the newly formed America. In time America influenced the world greatly and has been a key figure in history since the country has been formed over 200 years ago. Most other countries started revolutions modeling America, France being a shinning example of over throwing their monarch to replace it with a just-people based government. Just recently the country of Iraq will be slowly reforming their government away from the totalitarian model. It might not be just like American’s government, but the people of Iraq are quite happy to be rid of their former monarch, so happy that the people of Iraq are burning pictures and breaking statues of the former ruler. In the postmodern era, monarchs do not rule anymore, but all different people have a say in what their government can and should do.
A monarch probably had good taste in choosing art for his house and other people either later on in time or at the same time probably disagreed with the monarch calling his taste degrading to art and the artist who was forced to paint what the ruler wanted for his household. Aesthetics is the area of philosophy that asks what is beautiful or what is tasteful. This obviously is not an easy question to answer seeing that some people call graffiti “beautiful” and others call a standing toilet in a museum “tasteful.” In fact the entire history of art is one huge postmodern event. At least every hundred years a new form of art is founded and the old form that was new is not replaced forever. History is always repeating itself because the older critics always call the new form of art as something repugnant and that it doesn’t conform with the common old form. In the end though the new form wins out and eventually someone will stumble upon a newer form of art that will replace and the cycle continues constantly. It seems from this that art has always been subjective and never has been objective, maybe never been modern but has always been postmodern. Although art has changed radically, at one point in history there were established rules in painting styles. Even if the art formed changed, no one would break the universally accepted rules of style. No one would break those rules until Edouard Manet that is. In the 1860s, Manet painted two paintings that caused a major uproar in the art community. The first painting was Luncheon on the Grass that has two respectfully dressed men and one naked woman having picnic. The nude in a picnic setting upset many older critics seeing that the nude wasn’t made as an allegory and that the nude didn’t even have seemingly higher purpose. It was only a nude who looked at the viewer with a witty challenging face. The painting itself had no purpose in general, more of an modernized update of something that Raphael painted 300 years earlier. Luncheon on the Grass was more of a challenge to the art community, a way to challenge the traditional ways of art. The second painting Manet painted was called The Fifer that broke most of the rules of style. The background in the painting is plain, a solid color and this background didn’t make the painting a traditional “window” to gaze through but more of looking at canvas of flat color. The fifer boy himself is painted with flat solid colors and lacks any shadows or angles. Manet called this flat one color design the “color patch.” These two paintings was a revolution in the art world and it would extend into the next 150 years with Claude Monet all the way to Picasso and Braque who continued to break the traditional rules of art instead of working within the established rules of art. Anyone who has wondered around in the MET in New York City has seen the amazing changes started with people like Manet that a single dot is now art and paintings that have no meanings at all, called aesthetics “art for art’s sake,” have taken central stage in the world. Even though it appears that art is always changing and would seem to be always postmodern, we see from Manet that art had some objective modernist parts left only to change with the postmodern era.
Going from Aesthetics, the final category to consider in philosophy is ethics. Ethics involves figuring out how a person acts responsibly. People make laws in a society to regulate the behavior of others; laws are made to protect the lives and property of others avoiding the chaos that would happen without these laws. The laws are regulated in the courts and these systems of justice make morality. Laws themselves need to be ethical to truly make a moral society though. In the past court systems have given over unjust decisions mainly because of outside influences. One outside influence is religion. In the 13th century one outstanding court trial was brought against Nahmanides, a well know Jewish scholar, by a Jewish convert to Christianity challenging him against why he didn’t believe in Jesus. The trial was really a debate in front of an audience and in the end Nahmanides won the debate but was forced to flee the country because he won. Other times laws have been extremely harsh for the punishment. In the middle-east area if a thief is caught stealing an item, he pays by getting his hand chopped off. Laws have also been considered ethical only because the majority of people support the law. Slavery, the concept that a human being can own another human being as his own personal property and thus do anything he wants to that person, was considered by most of the world as legal. The court system though over time did change to represent everyone equally. In today’s society over most of the world, courts do not judge against a person’s religion. Laws are now made to be fair and kind to other people instead of hand chopping. Laws now take into consideration the rights of each person, considering them innocent until they get a fair trial. In our time, laws are constantly being made to protect people and enhance their lives.
Postmodernism is slowly taking over and influencing the world as we know it. Philosophy is no exception to the era that postmodernism is creating. Postmodernism is involved in our lives whether we want it or not.