Drama; Never-Ending Search For Truth And Wisdom

Sun, 3 Jul 2011 Source: Appiah-Adjei, Daniel




Drama; Never-Ending Search For Truth And Wisdom

Although, some aspects of the study Drama extend beyond the purview of philosophy, philosophical inquiry is always at the heart of the dramatic enterprise. The word philosophy comes from the Greek words philos, meaning lover and sophos meaning wisdom.

To be a lover (philos) entails not only having a positive attitude toward the object of our affection (wisdom in this case) but also taking action, actively pursuing that object. It is a truism that, this interplay of attitude and action is reflected in the study of Drama.

On the theoretical level, drama includes theories regarding both attitudes and action; drama education also goes beyond theory by challenging us to live consistently with our moral values.

Philosophical Drama unlike most academic disciplines involves the expansion and systematic nurturing of a basic human activity, rather than simply the accumulation of knowledge. Philosophical dramatists consider the natural sense of wonder and basic human needs to find higher meaning and value of our lives. As small children, we wondered and ask countless questions about the world around us. Didn’t we?

Indeed, child Psychologists note that curiosity and ethical concerns about justice and sharing emerge spontaneously in children sometimes, between the ages of eighteen (18) and thirty-six (36) months, regardless of their culture and without prompting from adults.

Wisdom begins in self-knowledge. According to British philosopher, Philippa Foot (1920), wisdom, unlike ordinary knowledge or cleverness, presupposes good ends and the search for values. Drama’s most common feature is that we all share a common humanity, but how we proceed in our quest for wisdom and the good life varies, to some extent from person to person and from culture to culture, because we all have different personalities and different experiences.

This does not imply, however, that wisdom is relative. Rather, it suggests that there are several paths to wisdom, just as there can be several paths to the top of the mountain. Drama therefore employs many forms to address a particular issue. Through tragedy, comedy, farce, melodrama, Abibigoro, Anansegoro, Theatre of Symbols and what have you?

Becoming Autonomous

In seeking answers to questions about the meaning of life and the nature of moral goodness, the Dramatist goes beyond conventional answers. Rather than relying on public opinion or what others say after watching the philosophical ideas of the Dramatist, it is up to each of us as critics or audiences to critically examine and analyse our reasons for holding particular views. In this way, the study of Drama encourages us to become more autonomous.

The word autonomous comes from the Greek word auto (self) and nomos (law) .In other words; an Autonomous Moral Agent is an independent self governing thinker. A Heteronomous Moral Agent in contrast is a person who uncritically accepts answers and laws imposed by others. The prefix, hetero means “other”. Being an autonomous thinker is not same as being independent, in contemporary sense of living one’s own or being financially independent. In fact, our culture believes that community bonds are very important. Because philosophical Drama encourages people to be independent thinkers and to question deeply held beliefs of their society, most people resist thought provoking and deep thinking drama.

Instead, the dramatic episodes changed into numerous films do not encourage us to be deep thinkers. They are so superficial that any “independent” thinker easily gets bored with them, especially, as the language used is nothing but insults.

According to Socrates (469-399 BC) who is known as the Father of western Philosophy, wisdom is important for achieving happiness and inner harmony as well as the Intellectual and Moral improvement of the community. Drama seems to employ his approach of acquiring wisdom. Socratic Wisdom consisting of a didactic dialogue using questions and answers.

Road to Wisdom

The road to wisdom, Socrates believed, begins with the realization that we are ignorant. Drama then takes the bigger share of the credit. It is only Drama which is able to put people of all levels; Kings, Queens, Doctors, Lawyers, Masons, Teachers, Pastors, etc. on stage to make them discover how ignorant they are and upon realization, acquire wisdom in the end. By exposing the ignorance of those who consider themselves wise and important, Drama teaches them to look at life, social customs and laws in a new way. Drama, indeed, improves the never ending search for truth and wisdom.

Not everyone appreciates having their views challenged .People in higher positions are especially threatened and outraged by encouraging them to think in new ways. No wonder why some of the renowned Dramatists were either killed or imprisoned in the past.

Self realization

Some of the most important philosophical questions asked in drama are those regarding the meaning and goals of our lives. What kind of person do I want to be? How do I achieve that goal? Many playwrights plant the answers in the characters of their drama and define the goals in terms of self-realization. When Macbeth realized that he had been deceived by the witches, he resolved not to fight again.

And be these juggling fiends no more believed, that palter

With us in double sense, that keep the word of promise to

Our ears and break it to our hope .I will not fight with you

Self-realization also known as self-actualisation and enlightenment is closely linked to the idea of moral virtue. Macbeth would not have been killed by Macduff, if he had stuck to the idea of moral virtue; but pride, excessive pride prevented him from living. When shall men learn?

According to psychologist, Abraham Maslow, self actualised people are autonomous. They do not depend upon the opinion of others when deciding what to do and what to believe.

As a Dramatist, I see self-realization as an on-going process or way of life. People who are self-actualised devote their lives to the search for ultimate values. They are constantly searching for answers to questions. People who are not honest with themselves will have a difficult time making good choices in life. Being honest involves the courage to be different and work hard at being the best one can be at whatever one does. People who are lacking in authenticity or sincerity blame others for their own unhappiness, giving in to what French philosopher; Simone de Bevoir (1908-1986) called “The temptation of the easy way”.

Dramatists like true philosophers try to approach the world with an open mind. They question their own beliefs and those of other people, no matter how obviously, true a particular belief may seem. Rather, than simply accepting established beliefs until they can be justified, the writers adopt an attitude of scepticism or doubts as their starting point.

The first (rule of seeking truth) was to accept nothing

As true which I did not clearly recognise to be so; that is to say,

Carefully to avoid precipitation and prejudice in judgements, and

To accept in them, nothing more than what was presented to my mind.

So clearly and distinctly that I could have no occasion to doubt it.—RENE

By His Grace, I shall be back

Columnist: Appiah-Adjei, Daniel