The basic idea that Francis Schaeffer had in mind while writing this book was to bring out various characteristics that were evident in each stage of the development of mankind’s thinking. Over time, various theories have been put forward by scholars concerning the culture of thought by the western world. The writer of this book also had a view that can be described as one of the greatest contribution to the world of thinking which he began with the Ancient Roman’s view on issues concerning arts, science and religion up to the present or modern perspective of the same. The report will analyze the author’s view on the development of western thought, his solution to various challenges and then the overall view of the subject.
In his thirteen chapters of this book, Schaeffer unfolds his argument from the most remote age of time. The book opens with the time of the Roman Empire whereby the gods and other religious theories had a major influence on many people’s way of livelihood and beliefs. This time was also characterized by rulers who had a near complete determination of people’s decisions. He notes that Rome eventually ‘crumbled from within’ due to the inability of the system to answer various issues facing it. By setting the base of his analysis on these times and the prevailing conditions the chapters that followed were to be used to bring out the flow of ideas concerning the development of human thinking culture.
After the Ancient Rome, there came the middle ages whereby information was suppressed and uncertainty was looming in the society (Schaeffer, 2005). It was a time when religion especially Christianity was greatly distorted due to the prevailing uncertain situation. The Bible for instance was greatly distorted and truth compromised by the rulers and the political class. This led to the rise of revolution reformation and renaissance stages.
These were stages when the importance of the role both man and nature was beginning to be accepted in the decisions unlike previously where gods and set beliefs were the only determinants of the society’s lifestyles. Schaeffer subsequently goes on to describe the thinking perspectives of mankind improving based on the fact that there was a realization of basic freedoms as time went by. Reformation of the system came at a time when philosophical chaos was evident in the society and many people had different views on religion art and other aspects leading to frequent clash of thought (Schaeffer, 2005).
Having analyzed the evolution of man’s thinking up to this point, Schaeffer tends to bring on board the 20th century thinking of man. He argues that this modern way of thought has a direct influence from the previous perspectives. He notes that people presently seek explanations and evidences from very diverse sources before accepting any new arguments. This is due the emergence of the modern science where experiments and proof is everything. These are the times when independent thought is accepted and absorbed.
The author further portrays the individualistic thought as a better form of thinking of people. According to Schaeffer (2005) philosophy from people with various knowledge backgrounds and experiences is important in shaping a society’s opinion. However, in much as this modern concepts of the human mind look good and ‘independent’ they had a risk of raising pessimism in the human analysis of things.
Due to the pessimism that was being experienced the idea of post modern philosophy and science arose whereby there was a need to seek explanation of unclear circumstances. This meant many theorists embarked on seeking explanations of various phenomena regarding the human mind. Schaeffer noted this in his ninth and tenth chapter where explained how the seeking of the explanation was due to the quest of the human beings to find reason on what they do.
On top of that philosophical mind had to be expanded and seek those explanations. Fragmentation of concepts into various subjects and topics was the only way to do all these. This means wide topics and issues of life were classified into different departments or sections for scrutiny. These topics and various aspects of life that included music art philosophy culture and social setting are demonstrated in the most understandable way.
But in his latter chapters of the book, Schaeffer tackles the social relationships and lifestyles people lead and how they have an effect on the way of thinking (Christian Notes, 2010). For instance he tackles the issue of the widening gap of the rich and the poor. In this book, the tenth chapter has a substantial section that tends to relate the modern society to the old Ancient Roman Empire whereby the inward selfish aspect takes supreme. He gives an example of how the affluent and wealthy class is being idolized and many people depend on them. It’s at this point that one can point out the decline in the morality of the society, just like first stages of human development namely The ancient Rome.
He further seeks to show the similarities between the earlier stages of human development and the later stages.. He clearly demonstrates that there have been minimal changes that have taken place in the actual sense. For instance the authoritarian class in the early stages of human development which was present in the Middle Ages and other earlier stages are similar to the present day rich and affluent that tends to manipulate the society through business politics and the general economy of the present day governments.
However, as a neutral commentator, one cannot assume that fact that the author is a Christian whose religious background and ideals are strong and precise. He bases his argument in a religious perspective while his readers and audiences are mostly secular. This has brought in severe criticism from various quarters. They may be analyzed in a nutshell.
First one may say that his book having few pages and wide concepts one can’t be able to exhaust the stages of human development well. He explains some concepts quite clearly but he falls short to explain others because he assumes that the reader knows the extent of what he has in mind. But the author tries his best in doing the pictorials to bring the clear picture out. There is an understanding that the author brings out that makes the reader refer to others books as. in addition Schaeffer does not give an open answer to the way we should live as the title of his work tends to prepare the reader (Christian Notes, 2010).
But all in the entire book has a clear step by step tackling the concepts of lifestyles. The ideas he explains in this book have a smooth flow of one stage correcting the mistakes the previous stage dint address. This means that the ideas of ancient perspectives and modernisms have their own repercussions and consequence that are constantly being sought to be corrected and constantly evaluated.
The book has a good approach on the issue of modernity and the realities that are attached to it. It relates the similarities that existed to the present view of modern thinking. The 20th century perspective gives alternatives of attainment of human freedoms with minimal tyranny but also not forgetting that all these come with responsibility from the said individuals.