The Greeks and Western Thought

The origins of western thought can be extensively found in ancient Greece. Athens and surrounding areas in Greece produced some of the most influential and brilliant philosophers, scientists and mathematicians. The works and teachings of these philosophers, scientists and mathematicians not only opened up the minds of citizens living in that time period but also influenced many societies around the world. Western thought is based around questioning “how” and “why” life is the way it is. From early childhood western people are taught to ask fundamental questions about how things work and why things are.

This questioning is stimulated by our emphasis on education and learning. This is in contrast to other cultures where people are taught to merely accept their existence. The Greek philosophers considered these basic questions to explore the basic principles of the universe and the meaning of existence. In ancient Greece there were several schools of philosophy and the sciences. For example there was the Ionian School that explored the scientific explanation of natural phenomena. Thales was one such member and he mainly focused on astronomical, physical and meteorological phenomena.

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Thales was also revered as one of the “Seven wise men of ancient Greece”. Another philosopher that came from the Ionian School was Anaximander. Anaximander being a disciple of Thales, believed from which all things evolve is an intangible and invisible substance called “apeiron” meaning the “boundless”. By his quote he could mean a form of a god or everlasting spirit. The third great Ionian philosopher was Anaximenes who agreed with Thales assumption that a primary substance is something familiar and material.

What he meant by this was that the changes that things undergo are explained in the condensation of air. What he meant by this isn’t exactly clear but the point about science is visible. The science that is related to philosophy can be tied into western thought by presenting statements that are scientifically asking a question about the origins of life. Around the same time frame many other philosophers had their take on the meaning of life. However it is also important to know that each and every one of these philosophers had something important to bring to the table.

Another important philosopher to note would be Heraclitus. Heraclitus questioned the Ionians on their theory on the primary substance. He believed that a primary substance could well be fire. This different take on opinions was all natural and normal. Heraclitus also maintained that all things are in a state of continuous flux and that stability is an illusion. He could very well mean that the world is unending and that humans always open up new doors and never stop living. Heraclitus also adopted the “Logos Doctrine” which identified the laws of nature.

The “laws of nature” is a valid description and answer to some of the simplest questions in the origins of western thought Coming from the same time frame but maintained a different belief was that of Parmenides. He maintained one main belief, ” Everything that exists had always existed”. This quote is meant for anybody to think what he or she wants to about it. Parmenides and the other Eleatics came up with ways they thought would solve the problem of logical consistency thus meaning that life should be organized and prioritized.

Independent in his own beliefs yet asked and studied similar questions was Socrates. As we know Socrates did not record any of his thoughts therefore his student, Plato, wrote down his thoughts and teachings. Socrates mainly believed that everyone should recognize and acknowledge him or herself for who they really are. Socrates wanted every person living to dig deep inside themselves and find something that stands out, something that needs to be worked on or merely what your capable and not capable of doing. With Socrates teachings came a high punishment of being condemned to death.

Before they would execute him, Socrates took his own life and became a martyr and dominant figure throughout history. Ever since his death Socrates teachings and beliefs have had a large impact on many world societies. Even though Socrates and many other philosophers were looked down upon in their time, in the modern era they are praised for their willingness to break down controversial barriers to really allow room for exploring with freedom. Most educated people in the common era can probably say that “corrupting the youth” was not what Socrates did and certainly not what he intended to do.

In conclusion the philosophers/scientists showed much intellectual curiosity in that they all asked different questions and gave their input on various beliefs. Overall The Greek philosophers didn’t want to just live but to explore life and live it to the fullest. Just like Socrates quoted “live your life to the fullest”. The Greeks not only explored unknown phenomena but also explored all aspects of life. All of the ancient philosophers wanted to “dig deeper” and provide reasoning for life’s mishaps and phenomena. Thales for example wanted to explore our universe and our natural state on earth.

He wanted to discover the “backbone” of occurrences. Each of the philosophic schools all carried different intent into new meaning. At the same time all of the schools had philosophers that all asked questions not only to better themselves but for the advancement of the youth and adults. However Socrates was accused for “corrupting the Youth” with his beliefs and theories. The Greeks were certainly a main contributor to Western thought in that they provided new strategies for thinking, provided a higher expectation for excellence and asked those very critical questions that had a very large impact on the world.