Comparison of Ancient Greek Philosophy and American Philosophy

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  • Topic: Ancient Greece, Western culture, Ancient Rome
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  • Published : March 18, 2011
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Ancient Greek philosophy differs from modern American philosophy in many ways. We shall examine these differences (and similarities) in terms of family life, the wealthy, slavery, and education. Observing the lives of Greek deities and heroes in Greek mythology, in addition to Greek art, can give us some idea of what everyday life was like in ancient Greece.

Greek men had a fairly low opinion of women. Aristotle said that man is by nature superior to the female, and so the man should rule and the woman should be ruled. According to Euripides, women made disparaging comments about themselves: a) I am only a woman, a thing which the world hates.

b) No cure has been found for a woman’s venom, worse than that of reptiles. We are a curse to man.
It is not clear as to why the Greeks held women in such disdain. I would surmise, however, that the Greeks held that since women are weaker physically, it follows that they are inferior to men in general. Even in America, up until recently, women were considered second class citizens. However, in modern day America, women enjoy the same rights as men. They are allowed to vote, hold public office, and have the same opportunities for higher education and employment as men do. Negative or disparaging comments about women are not tolerated.

According to Greek tradition, the first woman, Pandora, was created as a form of punishment because men had learned form Prometheus the secret of making fire. Even though Pandora was beautiful and irresistible to men, all of her hidden characteristics were deliberately intended to bring sorrow, harm, and trouble to man. However, according to modern American philosophy, which is based on the Judao-Christian version of Creation, men and women came from the same source-material (earth), and women were created as a favor to man. That they are physically weaker is inconsequential.

Let us take a look at how Greek children spent their time. Girls would receive their entire education and training in the home, while boys might learn their father’s trade or go to school around the age of seven. This difference was a natural outgrowth of Greek culture. Women were expected to raise children and fulfill their domestic duties, while men had to learn a trade in order to support their families. Noteworthy, however, is that in Sparta, seven year old boys were trained in the military and were not allowed to leave the barracks until age thirty!

Despite what may have been a difficult life for some, Greek children did get an opportunity to play. The toys they used and the games they played are amazingly similar to childrens’ toys and games of today. In archeological sites, dolls, rattles, tops, swings and many other items have been unearthed. There is also evidence that the Greeks kept pets such as dogs, pigs, tortoises and caged birds.

When girls reached puberty, they were considered adults and could marry. Girls took their childhood toys and left them at the temple of Artemis. This signaled that their childhood was over and they were becoming adults. After marrying, the women were expected to have a baby. Not being able to bear children was seen as a curse from the gods. This was probably due to the fact that the Greeks needed a strong military, and so reproduction was important. In contrast, America does not place much emphasis on having children because the strength of our military lies not in numbers, but in technologically advanced weaponry. For example, India which has a standing army of about 3 times the size of ours, is nevertheless much weaker militarily because of their primitive weapons.

In ancient Greek society, infanticide in the form of exposure was acceptable. Even though some unwanted newborns were exposed, and some children were slaves, the works of art also tell us of the efforts that Greek parents and society undertook to protect their children. One grave marker shows an emotional scene: a relief of a father with his arm...
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