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How Overseas Discoveries Raise Fundamental Questions About The Values And Standards Of Civilization - Essay Example

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"How Overseas Discoveries Raise Fundamental Questions about the Values and Standards of Civilization" paper examines how Shakespeare and Montaigne's writers reflect on the notion of the contrast of cultures. Both writers represent a challenge to the burgeoning rise of cultural imperialism…
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How Overseas Discoveries Raise Fundamental Questions About The Values And Standards Of Civilization
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Download file to see previous pages The historical context or background of Shakespeare's age and Montaignes is important. Shakespeare and Montaigne both lived in an age when exploration and colonial expansion was in its early phase. At the forefront of the European expansion into the new world, was the early sixteenth-century exploration and colonization of the West Indies, South, and Central America1. What is important to note, is that colonization or colonialism brought with it an imperial set of attitudes and beliefs. The people of the new world were largely viewed as uncivilized, and the state of nature that they were living in was viewed as inferior to the European invaders. It is these attitudes, for example, that facilitated the enslavement of people. Likewise, what soon followed with colonial expansion, were missionaries or the missionary movement of the Catholic Church in Europe. Both slavery and the sentiment of missionaries are premised on assumptions that the inferiority of a people legitimated their exploitation. That is, the missionary's goal was to civilize the people and take them away from what was perceived as barbaric practices. It is interesting to note that it took centuries before Europe was able to let go of its basically patriarchal views of people in the underdeveloped world2.

Expansion and colonization was an important source of fascination for Europeans in the time of Montaigne and Shakespeare3. While Europe had a geographical and therefore, cultural connection with South and East Asia, the new world of the Americas held a great deal of interest. Montaigne's sources for his writing were some of the written accounts of explorers who had encountered cultures in South America, and one of the elements that are significant is the connection with nature4.  Montaigne writes of the people of the new world, in a way that can be described as paternalistic or patronizing, but also reverent in that he sees them as living in harmony with nature: “and they are, moreover, happy in this, that they only covet so much as their natural necessities require” ...Download file to see next pages Read More
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