Brandon John ADP, SCS/1108/029 Question 2: Philosophy in Ancient Greece and its Influence on Western Culture
“My advice to you is get married: if you find a good wife you'll be happy; if not, you'll become a philosopher.” – Socrates, Greek philosopher Socrates, like many of the greatest minds in history, was rather different from others in his time. In the quote above, we catch a glimpse of his genius in his likening of an unhappily married man to that of a philosopher. The implication is indirect but obvious enough: when life becomes rife with problems, it forces the common man(or woman) to sit down and think. While thinking has been in mankind’s repertoire of abilities since we first evolved beyond the intelligence of a walnut, the art of philosophy takes it to a whole new level. William F. Lawhead, in his academic work ‘The Philosophical Journey’ proposed several definitions for philosophy. According to him, philosophy is the asking of questions about the meaning of our most basic concepts. He also claims that philosophy is the search for fundamental beliefs that are rationally justified. Basic stuff, really; these are widely-accepted definitions. It was in his analysis of the thoughts of Danish philosopher and literary genius Søren Kierkegaard(1813 - 1855) that I found the most fascinating: “Kierkegaard believed that it is much easier to be complacent, to be self-satisfied, and to stick with beliefs that are comfortable and familiar than to be painfully and fully honest with ourselves and to subject our deepest convictions to examination. In Kierkegaard’s day, everyone was claiming to provide the answers to everyone else’s problems. Kierkegaard, however, though that his greatest contribution to society would be to provide the problems to everyone’s answers. Only in this way, he thought, would we be goaded into searching for those answers that are worthy of our belief. Kierkegaard has provided us with a unique definition of philosophy: Philosophy is the search for self-understanding.”
This, dear readers, is the great irony of life. Problems create philosophers, and philosophers create even more problems. Not for kicks, mind you, but to stimulate our thoughts and challenge our beliefs in such a way that we gain a better understanding of ourselves and life in general. It is a difficult process of discovery, loss, and rediscovery; nothing escapes the scrutiny of the philosopher, who asks questions that no one else would. Understandably, this has earned many a philosopher the enmity of the public, mostly from practitioners of applied science who find such questions trivial, and the methods of philosophers questionable. Plus the way they prattle on and on is kinda annoying. Be that as it may, nothing can detract from the legacy that these philosophers have left behind, and nowhere else in the world was their influence on Western culture more profound than in Ancient Greece. The civilization of Ancient Greece(or Hellas as it was known then) lasted from the Archaic period of 8th-6th BC up until the end of antiquity, ca. 600 AD. In terms of territory, it consisted of several hundred city-states, or poleis that were more or less independent. This was unique in several ways. One: unlike most societies then and now, the city-states of Ancient Greece were not united under a single rule. Rather, each polis had its own polity and government. Second: in spite of this fragmentary nature, the ancient Greeks had no doubt that that they were ‘one people’; they all shared the same religion, the same language, and the same basic culture. This did not stop them from fighting amongst themselves, however. In fact, the poleis were never really united unless threatened by a dangerous common enemy, as was the case in the Greco-Persian Wars. Two poleis that played a major role in those wars, Athens and Sparta, also...
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