Theoretical and Philosophical Overview
If a philosophy is a system of interrelated assumptions so basic as to apply to every area of experience, then in our philosophical approach it becomes necessary first to come to an understanding of how many usable and acceptable approaches to philosophy exist in the modern world, and how long they have existed. With all the "isms" and vogue philosophies that have appeared in our media and literature during the past century, it becomes necessary in any philosophical endeavor to sort out the ways in which we experience and understand.
Most scholars would agree that over the years there have been four basic philosophies: naturalism, idealism, realism, and pragmatism. Two of these, idealism and realism, include much concern for aesthetic experience and understanding. This is not to say that the other two philosophies do not include some philosophy of art, or aesthetics. They certainly do. However, idealism and realism have been represented by thinking that allows for unlimited consideration of aesthetics; that is, perception of, and reflection of, life experiences or phenomena.
Idealism, together with the more modern branch of philosophy, realism, offers more connections with the arts and aesthetic process than probably any of the other areas of philosophy. Also, the age of Plato and Socrates, with its beginnings of Western idealism, would be succeeded by a Hebrew-Christian era of more than fifteen centuries that would influence and shape the worldview, East or West, in terms of aesthetics as well as religious, social, economic, and scientific outlook. As this was a period for recognized intellectual leadership by clergy, it was most significant that philosophy was sympathetic toward religion. Such idealists as St. Augustine in the fifth cen-