The different bodies of knowledge, mathematics -natural sciences, human sciences, history, the arts, ethics, religious knowledge systems and indigenous knowledge systems- have all undergone tremendous changes over the course of history. The changes have been in different phases of which there has been a revolution in the ideas, each evolving and being influenced directly and indirectly by different factors. This evolution has since affected our understanding of the universe. The historical developments taking part in each of the areas of knowledge has been marked by specific key events, occurring at different times. The different times further had specific characteristics that influenced the occurrence or the development of the key events in the areas of knowledge. This paper takes a look at the occurrence of different key events in the areas of knowledge and holds the hypothesis that the key events happening in the development of the different areas of knowledge should be judged in the context of the times in which they occurred. This is in appreciation of the fact that different times were characterized by different key aspects which can be said to have contributed to the said developments.
The developments in the different bodies of knowledge have been influenced by man’s desire to solve particular challenges encountered during their development. Some of these challenges were characterized by some tasks being unbearable or driven by the need to make things better. It is, therefore, important for the key events in the different areas of knowledge to be considered or judged by considering the standards or norms of the specific times that they occurred. The development of mathematics, for instance, during the Sumerian and Egyptian ages was mainly influenced by the need to improve the ease of doing business (Mastin, 2010). It is also at the moment that trade was developing. The many events that marked the development of mathematics at the time were thus influenced by the norms and standards of the specific times.
People hold different cultural perspectives. These cultural perspectives vary with age. The values and standards that characterized a given time in history can be viewed in the context of the experiences of the people at the time. Humans have been known to have different views on issues, and have further developed different principles of reasoning at each stage of their development or the occurrence of a key event. There is thus, development of different pictures of reality that is painted over the course of human civilization. The whole of this concept is called “cultural relativity” and is one of the approaches to explain phenomena that were entrenched in the past such as polygamy, cannibalism and witchcraft among others (Baghramian & Carter, 2016). One theory, for instance, holds that due to increased wars at certain periods of history, there was massive loss of lives of men, leading to a dire shortage of the males. Culturally and militarily, it is men who took part in the war. The shortage of men thus implied that there were more women, especially young women, than men (Poyrazlar, 2013). This led to the legalization of plural marriages among cultures such as the Muslims. The more the wives a man had, the faster it was to replenish and boost back the population (Vallely, 2010). The development of such a practice, thus, can be viewed in the context of the prevailing circumstances, in this case of war, which were everywhere.
In the same context, further, it is important to recognize that viewing some things in the context of the times that they occurred is empirically bound- the perceptions are bound to change in the near or distant future. The standards of the immediate times that they occurred, rather than the present times, should be used as the scale of measurement or judgment. In the present times, for instance, there has been a lot of development in the area of morality and ethics. Some events and occurrences that happened in the past may be viewed as unacceptable in the today’s modern society. Their occurrences, however, may have been occasioned by specific humanitarian consequences or challenges that affected humanity at the said times. Famines and the dire lack of food, for instance, has been known to spark cannibalism in some societies in the world at specific times. Cannibalism was practiced as a very last resort to the need for food by people going through the situation. In this regard, arguing the extent to which cannibalism can be deemed acceptable using the current moral and ethical yardsticks without considering the specific occurrences that pushed the people to do that may be unfair. In this regard, the act can only be judged using the standards of the specific times. The best example of such cannibalism is the Donner Party case of February 1847 in Nevada where the members of the Donner Party are said to have resorted to cannibalism when their food supplies went down (History.com Staff, 2013). From the case, it is clear that the team had no other alternative and the judgment of the case should only be done basing on the standards or situations at the time.
The influences of certain people in the past societies have been due to the need to fill some void in the society. Past civilizations have been characterized by leaders who, when viewed using the standards of today, may be considered evil due to the many atrocities that they committed or due to their unwelcome character. But before committing to judging them, it is important to appreciate that the leaders only filled a desire or yearning that was everywhere in the societies that they represented. At the same time, it is critical to appreciate that they were very popular at the time. One such leader is Adolf Hitler. Hitler today is considered as the personification of the devil due to the many brutal killings of innocent lives that are attributed to him. It is, however, critical to consider the situation at the time in the country. At the time, Hitler was viewed as a leader and hero who was to lead the people through the tough period that they had gone through. The country had gone through a tough time after being forced to pay war reparations, their assets and military ripped off, and a general hopelessness (Noakes, 2011). The Germans yearned for revenge and a person who would do that, and Hitler did just that. The Germany of that time saw him as their protector, and they gladly rallied behind him. In this regard, before judging Hitler using the standards of today, it is important to consider the exact situation. Hitler’s actions, though bad and detestable as they led to massive loss of life and destruction of property, should only be condemned basing on the standards or the feelings of the people at that particular time. In this regard, the events as they happen in the different bodies of knowledge, since they serve critical significance today, should be judged first by considering the standards of the particular time in which they happened.
On the contrary, however, it is critical that some events are not judged basing on the standards at the time of their happening. Basing on the Germany and Hitler case study, using the standards as they were at the time will result in a vindication of Hitler of the many atrocities that he committed. It would result in unfair judgment. In the case of Germany, it would be unfair in the sense that the many Jews will have the feeling that justice has not been served if the judgment is based on the perceptions at the time of the uprising. In this regard, it is important that events are looked at from both the perception of the times in which they happened, and from a modern standpoint. The modern perceptions include a strong appreciation of the Human rights and what Hitler did is clearly wrong and unacceptable (Noakes, 2011). In this regard, the use of modern principles of morality should be considered in judging such extreme actions, and there is no justification for justifying such acts. This is a perfect case that suggests the significance of judging the events in the historical development of areas of knowledge not just basing on the standards at the time of their occurrence, but also basing on the modern or present day values and standards.
As shown from the discussion above, it can be deduced that judging events using the modern standards only can be detrimental; and it is critical to consider the standards in which the events happened. This is one of the best ways to be objective in the analysis and explanation. The development of knowledge is always changing and what is known today as factual may not make sense tomorrow anymore. Such similar events and circumstances have often presented themselves in the modern times. One of the main challenges to Hillary Clinton’s bid for US presidency, for instance, has been her past mistakes. She has been accused of use of personal emails as noted through email leaks, her role in the country’s foreign policy and aspects such as abortion. It is, however, significant to appreciate that the mistakes may not be an exact representation of her character and this is given credence due to her increasing likelihood of her presidency.
In this regard, the hypothesis that key events that happen in the historical development of areas of knowledge should always be judged in the context of the specific time or era in which they happened holds. This is the only way to understand some of the critical occurrences in the historical development of the different bodies of knowledge as some of them cannot be explained using conventional approaches. At the same time, as noted above, there should be a dual consideration for both the perceptions and standards at the times of the events’ occurrences and the present-day values and standards to draw more meaningful conclusions.
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History.com Staff, (2013). Did the Donner Party really resort to cannibalism? – Ask History. [Online] HISTORY.com. Available at: http://www.history.com/news/ask-history/did-the-donner-party-really-resort-to-cannibalism [Accessed 24 Oct. 2016].
Mastin, L. (2010). EGYPTIAN MATHEMATICS. [Online] The Story of Mathematics. Available at: http://www.storyofmathematics.com/egyptian.html [Accessed 24 Oct. 2016].
Noakes, J. (2011). BBC – History – World Wars: The Rise of Adolf Hitler. [Online] Bbc.co.uk. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwtwo/hitler_01.shtml [Accessed 24 Oct. 2016].
Poyrazlar, E. (2013). A Story of War and Polygamy. [Online] Vocativ. Available at: http://www.vocativ.com/world/syria-world/story-war-polygamy/ [Accessed 24 Oct. 2016].
Vallely, P. (2010). The Big Question: What’s the history of polygamy, and how serious a. [online] The Independent. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/the-big-question-whats-the-history-of-polygamy-and-how-serious-a-problem-is-it-in-africa-1858858.html [Accessed 24 Oct. 2016].