Philosophy and Literary Artists as Guardians of Public Conscience

Philosophy and Literary Artists as Guardians of Public Conscience

Philosophy and Literary Artists as Guardians of Public Conscience

Having considered how philosophers have influenced  the public conscience of the people, there  is also another aspect that is also important in the transformation of any society. Literature is another important factor that influences societal change and guard public conscience. Literature, has the twofold task of aesthetic gratification and edification.

By edification, the literary artist, through his work, teaches lessons of life,  affirming  or  correcting our biases. This is because literature attempts to convey an experience  believed  to have some significance for human understanding. Like philosophy, it provides a kind of framework within which people can perceive, understand and interpret the world in which they live.

It also challenges some societal norms, values and customs, identifying new possibilities and trends. For example, George Orwell’s Animal Farm is a critique of Josef Stalin’s era. The author was a member of the Independent Labour Party and was also a democratic socialist. He  denounced Stalin’s corruption of the original idea of socialism and employed this allegory of his novel to bring to the public’s consciousness the ills in Stalin’s era.

  • Outside Philosophy, identify another thing that influenced public conscience?
  • Literature

You can now try to contextualize the role of the literary artist especially as they relate to the African experience. Wole Soyinka, in his novel The Man Died, gives a picture of the brutality of military regimes. The novel is about his travails and the travails of other people who suffered brutality in the hands of the military men during the Nigerian Civil War between 1967 and 1970. Soyinka was arrested on his return trip from the Eastern part of Nigeria which was about  to secede from Nigeria.

He had hoped that dialogue would end the blood-letting instead of tanks, warship and ammunition. As a writer, he had written to some prominent news dailies and his articles were threats to the Nigerian army. He was not in support of the secession neither was he for  the position of the Nigerian Government led by General Yakubu Gowon.

During his time in prison, he came in contact with various people. He noticed how some people were unjustly treated for crimes that they did not commit; how Ambrose Okpe and Gani Biban soldiers from the 3rd Battalion who were charged the murder of Emmanuel Ogbonna, an Igbo photographer, were actually living comfortably in prison. This gave him the clue that some high- ranking officers were behind the gruesome murder of the innocent man.

Also,  he noticed how some people were so quick to trade the truth and justice for the protection  of their lives and, in all this, remained resolute to protect the interest of those who were innocent while he suffered ill-treatment for not disclosing a single name of his fellow associates. In all this experience, he was able to coin the title of the book The Man Died. The man who fails to stand   for what is right or who is quick to prevaricate to save the hair on his skin is the man who has  died.

While the book provides an aesthetic gratification since it was published after the end of the civil war, it also proffers insights into how corrupt a government can be when it ceases the reins of power without the mandate of the people can be.

  • The book: The Man Died exposes ills in the society and such illsare?
  • The brutality of military regimes and how people were so quick to trade the truth and justice for protection of their.

Philosophy and Literary Artists as Guardians of Public Conscience

James Ene Henshaw’s This is Our Chance is a collection of various plays put  together. The  author tried also to depict the society. In the play “A Man of Character,” he tried to show the futility of the greed for money. Kobina who represented a man of character was satisfied with his standard of living and was not lustful for riches.

However, he was made to go through the crucible of trials for him to actually prove  his  character. His wife Ayodele left him because he could not provide for her luxury which other women enjoy from their husbands. As if that was not enough, his office was burgled and no evidence could be traced to anyone, but to him since he had the keys and there was no break in  the office’s safe.

He stood his ground and remained resolute that, instead of cutting corners just to prove his innocence, he would follow due process. He contacted his lawyer and was later vindicated of the theft in the office and his wife returned appreciating the quality of contentment in the husband. This play has a moral dimension. The author attempted to show that good character pays rather than being dubious.

Also, it portrays what a good law enforcement agent should be as represented in the character-  role depicted in the person of Mbedu, who was a police sergeant. The good character depicted by this sergeant reminds us of corrupt policemen who are more than eager to collect bribes even before they are lured into it. He refused to allow himself to be bribed by Serinya, sister-in-law to Kobina, who wanted to vindicate her in-law through dubious means the play also shows that evil act cannot justify good act.

In the two works cited above, some ideological underpinnings can be deduced and inferred. In  The Man Died, Soyinka is trying to bring to  the awareness of the public the ills of military  regime. A prognosis that the novel offers implicitly is that evil will continue to thrive unless people stand up against it.

The play “The Man of Character” depicts one argument that is still debatable among some ethicists as to what determines the moral worth of an action. While some argue that the end justifies the means, some are of the opinion that the circumstances surrounding the act determine the morality of an action. Hence, a society can hardly thrive without the contribution of ideas by philosophers and imaginative writers.

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