Postman was a epistemologist.
The premise of his book is epistemology, how everything that we see is not what we see and or we misinterpret it. Epistemology means “concerned with the origins and nature of knowledge.” The majority of Postmans text, which was written in 1985, intricated a type of prediction in our society. As we read through Amusing Ourselves to Death, we compare themes from 1984, and Brave New World, and compare and contrast the authors views on our society.
Media is one point where Postman uses epistemology as a presumption, he believes that a civilization’s media metaphor has a direct impact on the way that we define the truth (17). A writing based culture favors the permanence of the written word, a culture based which is based in an oral tradition will consider proverbs of the highest value, but what is our basis as a visual and entertainment based society ? A point that Postman makes in chapter to is how television decomposes our mind and our views. One of the fears that he has has inspired an epistemology wherein entertainment is the only way we obtain something.
People are more interested in a newscaster wardrobe rather than the news that they are communicating or teachers have to have a level of energy and or enthusiasm to entertain people to be considered competent. The guidance that is needed to navigate the impediment that is posed by television is that we need to be more knowledgeable and retaining to the information that is being told/shown to us. The real fear is that media will have total control with us being ignorant of the matter.
The news in a way echos the general thesis that is presented by Postman when pertaining to media- the news no longer has the ability to inform and inspire citizens, instead has became a frequent entertainment channel that diverts us.Another point that is made by Postman is how politics whether it is oral, written or in any other form should motivate and educate us so we can take action in improving our live, but instead “is just like show business” (Regan 125). Postman fears that the discourse that has already been inspired by television has created a whole era of “image politics” (130). The premise is that we do not look for candidates who have our best interest or best represent us, but rather who looks like the best candidate. We do not look at a candidate who has good morals and actually represents something with pride and dignity but we rather ignore what they represent and focus on the image that television turns candidates into.Postman does suggest in the final chapter improvement for our current “relationship” with television, but his suggestion seems to belie another interpretation- that although we try to take action and change, all the suggestions are likely to fail. For example, in chapter 3, Postman explains that what was most intriguing to him was that the printed word had a certain monopoly on the public entertainment and education. With this it became the media metaphor for this culture, and it had a certain influence where people expressed themselves in “lineal, analytical structure” (41).
He further explained that since the 17th century everything that was of printed matter was all that was available. There was no television or media, no photographic displays. Every public business was channeled through print, which became the model of the society.Postman also explained another one of his fears, which is religion. He fears that the basic tenets that we now have has been compromised by the discourse that is brought by television. He seems to make the point to praise the potential that humanity has to induce spiritual experiences so society can get a better understanding on how television dampens this potential. Postman described a time during his life where there were 35 religious operated organizations, and within those organizations he observed the real way that people have church rather than the entertainment that they show on television, which he described of having “no ritual, no dogma, no tradition, no theology, and above all, no sense of spiritual transcendence” (117). Postman’s book in entirety is devised by the disagreement between Brave New World (Aldous Huxley), and 1984 (George Orwell).
In 1984, Orwell creates a society where the government repression is the cause of the loss of love, freedom and everything that you would consider a characteristic of life. In contrast, Brave New World, Huxley paints the picture of a dystopian society where people are shallow and have a desire to partake in shallow entertainment and technology. Also showing that the government is not the repressor of the society, but a substance called soma which is like “Christianity without tears”(217). Postman presumes that Huxleys belief for the future will be more accurate than Orwells. Translating to say that, Postman supports the belief that entertainment will be the cause of our demise rather than the government.
As readers from the future, you must evaluate our society and see if Postmans predictions were true. Postman makes claims in the book that with simple observation, anyone can “predict,” but the difference between prediction and inevitability is that prediction is a prognosis, meaning something can change and inevitability, where whether you like it or not it will happen. For example, seeing the evolution of technology over the years and how people go for the new, big and better thing, it was inevitable that eventually everyone will be so caught up with the “big and better” that it would consume us. Postman has claims and predictions, but no suggestions on how to change the course that we are on.
If ignorance isn’t a bliss than it is just the lack of knowledge, the knowledge that we aren’t obtaining because there is no where to obtain it. Postman does make good points about our consumption of false media and our lack of interest in the truth, but is there a truth to consume ? Or even better, is there anything we can utilize with the information that we do learn ? Postman’s claims are insubstantial if you look at it in its entirety, but going through it meticulously he made points that in our near future will become our present. But that is the job of “future readers” is to determine the authenticity of his foreseen predictions. Nevertheless, contemporary readers should be compelled to identify for themselves the relation between Postmans society and the society that is present.