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What is philosophy?

Philosophy uses a rational method of inquiry to study reality and the human
experience. A rational method of inquiry seeks understanding by relying on reasons, evidence, and
arguments rather than tradition, custom, authority, or common sense. In that sense, philosophy is
similar to science and math. They share the same origins.

Philosophys goal is to put forward persuasive arguments and draw plausible conclusions, which any
other rational human being might find reasonable. If someone does not agree, he or she must analyze
the merits of the argument and supply new reasons and evidence for drawing a different conclusion. In
this way, philosophy is a dialogue. The first philosophical writings, those of Plato and Socrates, always
took the form of a dialogue between two or more people searching for the truth together on the basis
of sound reasons and evidence.

Historically, philosophys three main areas of inquiry included the study of the true, the good, and the
beautiful. These three categories have been expanded over the centuries to include science, knowledge,
reality, nature, justice, morality, politics, art, media, technology, and culture. Our course applies
philosophy to the study of contemporary culture and the phenomenon of cultural change.

Modernism and postmodernism are cultural movements in art, philosophy, literature, music, politics,
technology, and culture. They both represent periods of drastic cultural change. Modernism was
dominant from the 1850s to the 1950s. Postmodernism has been dominant since the 1950s and remains
so. Each one was a product of the historical period out of which they emerged, as well as a reaction to
it. Modernism was a product of the broader historical period known as modernity.

Not to be confused with the modernist movement in culture (or modernism), modernity (aka the 500
year old modern world, modern era, or modern society) dates back as far as the 1600s. Modernity
began at that time with a number of significant historical projects: the scientific revolution, the
beginnings of capitalism, the rise of the modern nation-state, the German Reformation in religion, and
the birth of modern individualism. Over the course of the 1700s and 1800s, modernity also included the
Enlightenment, the birth of democratic states (France and the US, for example), industrialization, and

In the 1850s, modernism arose as a reaction to modernity and modernization, but it was also, in many
ways, a product of modernity. Modernisms themes, genres, patterns, and styles emphasized individual
truth, expression, originality, and autonomy.

By the 1950s, a very different set of cultural attitudes and patterns began to appear, which we now call
postmodernism (meaning after modernism). Like modernism, postmodernism arose as a reaction to
modernism, but it still shared some of modernisms traits. As well, postmodernism reflects some
significant historical changes that began to occur from the 1950s to the 1980s. Postmodern culture is
critical of truth, expression, originality, and autonomy. Its themes, patterns, genres and styles emphasize
difference, plurality, invention, artifice, cynicism, irony, networks, and pastiche.

Our objectives in this class are to recognize these cultural shifts in the 19th and 20th centuries, to
consider ways of explaining how and why they happened, to put forward arguments with reasons and
evidence about what is good and bad about our own era, postmodernism, and to pursue strategies for
critically engaging postmodernism as responsible citizens of the world.

The worldview of modernity which has dominated western civilization for three hundred years is
presently being replaced by what has been described as postmodern culture. While the period of
transition is characterized by a growing sense of fragmentation, marginality, paralysis and numbness,
many people hope that postmodernity will be able to engender a worldview that will overcome the
individualism, economism, technicism and scientism of the modern era. The implications of this cultural
shift and emerging worldview effect literally every dimension of cultural life. This course will discuss
postmodernity as a cultural phenomenon, trace its implications in various areas of cultural endeavour,
and work toward an integral Christian worldview that gives guidance in a postmodern world. Of
particular concern in this course will be to plumb the resources of Scripture for such a cultural context,
specifically the text of Colossians. How do we read a text that claims unconditional truth and authority in
the face of a postmodern hermeneutic of suspicion.