Global Studies I

The Greeks have contributed to Western civilization with advancements in government and philosophy.

One of the most commonly used governments in the world was from Athens. The Athenians ruled themselves with a type of government called a democracy. Right now the United States is governed by a democracy but there are a few differences. In Athens they were controlled by a direct democracy, which means all the free males voted on laws. In America we have a representative democracy, which means that the people vote for a representative they believe will do a good job voting on laws in the legislature. Another difference is that in Athens citizenship was based on Athenian ancestry. Unlike Athens in America to be a citizen you can be born in the U.S. or you can be sworn in. The Athenians believed that men were superior so they did not allow women to have any political rights even voting. Although, the U.S. used to believed that they now govern with women as equals. Another difference is that the Athenians permitted slavery. Slavery in Athens was based on war or debts owed. Even though slavery is not permitted now it used to be. It was then based on race, which was totally unfair to the African Americans. This is just one country effected by Greek democracy.

Many great philosophers that influenced European philosophers were from Greece. One example is Socrates. Socrates was one of the strongest critics of the Sophists. One reason is because he believed that definite standards did exist for truth and justice. However, he tried to convince other Greeks to question themselves and their moral character. He believed that, “there is only one good, knowledge: and only one evil, ignorance.” Another great philosopher was Plato. Plato was a student of Socrates’. He wrote down his conversations with Socrates, “as means of philosophical investigation.” At about 385 BC. Plato wrote, The Republic, his most famous work. This book set forth his vision of a perfectly governed society. Amazingly it was not a democracy. He thought the person with the greatest insight and intellect from the ruling class should be chosen to be philosopher-king. His writings dominated European philosophical thought for nearly 1,500 years. Another, great philosopher from Greece was Aristotle one of Plato’s students. He questioned the nature of the world and of human belief, thought, and knowledge. Aristotle almost summarized all the knowledge up to his time. He invented a method of arguing using the rules of logic. Then, he applied his methods to other fields such as science, physics, and biology. He once argued, “he who studies how things originated and came into beingwill achieve the clearest view of them.” These guys were three of the greatest philosophers ever to live. Their work provides the basis for philosophical methods used in the world today.

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Government and philosophy, are just a couple of ways that the Greeks contributed to Western civilization.