Searching for truth in postmodern philosophy class
March 20th, 2014 | Ian Richardson
The first day of the class was easy. But then again, “syllabus day” is always easy.
What got me was the next day, when I began my first reading assignment — a selection from the philosopher Immanuel Kant. It felt like I was reading Chinese.
That was when I realized I might be out of my league.
Western Humanities: Modernism to Postmodernism is a recommended elective for English majors prior to taking their senior seminar class. Before beginning this class, which is a survey of the major philosophers in the past couple centuries and how they have affected the culture around us, I’d never taken a philosophy course. But while it has probably been the most difficult course I’ve taken to date here at Evangel, it has been one of the most eye-opening ones I’ve taken, too.
Thankfully, the initial shock of that first assignment on Kant has since faded. While I’ve somewhat learned how to better read and comprehend these authors, I’ve also had to accept the fact that I’m going to grapple with understanding these philosophers — in more ways than just their writing styles. In fact, reading writers like Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida and Foucault has challenged me more than ever to examine the foundations of my faith. They are asking basic questions that I often take for granted, but really that I should be asking as well: Why do we exist? What is the point of being? What is truth?
I have enjoyed the way our professor, Dr. Robert Berg, has led us through this survey of Western thought — a way where he has us approach the text for what it says and struggle with it both on our own and as a class. He is kind to those of us in the class with minimal philosophy experience, yet he also doesn’t hold back in exploring and discussing deep topics.
I also like how our study is not necessarily interested about proving these philosophers wrong or even comprehending every single thing they say (which is a relief for me), but about recognizing their basic points and things they may have right.
Before this class, I’d also always pretty much just associated the word “postmodern” with “bad.” But in the past three months I’ve come to see that it’s not that simple — that even the ideas of atheist philosophers, many of them hostile toward Christianity, can help me prepare to converse meaningfully with those in the world around me who may not share my beliefs, and even show me ways that I can become stronger as a Christian and as a human being along the way.
At just over the halfway point in the semester, I still have a long way to go in this course. However, unlike the fear I had at the beginning of the class, I now have more of an excitement about the course and its relevance to my life. Like many of the classes I’ve taken here, Western Humanities: Modernism to Postmodernism has been an inspiration to keep searching for God’s Truth in every area of academic study — including postmodern philosophy, a place where I didn’t expect to find it.