The influences of rational thought on western civilization

The Greek’s notion of rational thought is a very strong reason why Western Civilization has become so influential in the world today. During their time, the Greeks spurred an intellectual revolution. They questioned the meanings of life and began using their minds to expand the world. According to Glenn Blackburn: “In many ways, they “discovered” the human “mind” through their philosophy and rational thought [ . . . ]”(64). Their “opening” of the mind influenced all ways of life and society. Major ideas blossomed like politics, governing laws, literature, art, history, and new inventions.

Scientific thinking was groundbreaking among Greek minds. Ideas of mathematics, astronomy, architecture, and anatomy engrossed the public. This revolution of rational thought dominated society and began a transition in Western Civilization because people began using reason to explain human and natural events, rather than the gods (Blackburn, 67). Even today, rational thought is used by all of us and continues to influence society. The power of the modern mind has proved greater than any other Greek could have ever expected. The creation of rational thought began in the Greek city of Ionia.

The citizens there were open to new ideas and influenced by traders from around the world. Laws were invented by these Ionians and written down to express the will of their society. The greatest and most recognized Ionian thinker was a man named Thales of Miletues. Considered one of the seven “”wises men” of the day, Thales contemplated water and its connection with the universe. Blackburn remarks that Thales ideas: “mark[ed] an important change in western scientific thought” (68). Thales also used I statements when he philosophized marking for the first time in history a human used reason and the rational mind.

Other philosophers surfaced in Ionia during this period creating the study of the “cosmos,” or universe. They also founded the study of past human affairs or history. This new idea of rational thought spread to the Greek capitol, Athens. Here politics and democracy exploded. Politicians and citizens were now able to debate issues and question justice. This form of independent thinking brought great pride and self-confidence to members of the Greek society. This allowed for huge successes for further philosophy, architecture, art, mathematics, anatomy, botany, literature, and creativity.

Among the most famous of the Greek philosophers were Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. These three contemporary “wise men” influenced Western Civilization with their quest for knowledge and thought, and their writings are still widely read today! Socrates believed that knowledge was the key to good life and that knowledge led to happy citizens with good moral conduct (Blackburn, 80). His beliefs and questions angered many of his peers so much, that they convicted him of corrupting society and sentenced him to death. Plato was Socrates’ student and according to Blackburn: “one of the most influential philosophers in Western history” (80).

He sought knowledge on creating a perfect society. Also, he opened a school for rational thought called the Academy. In this school, he stressed that knowledge was found through debate and the conflict created from them (81). The last of the three great Greek philosophers was Aristotle. He was a writer of logic, politics, and biology. He summarized most of the previous knowledge of philosophy into his own writings. Aristotle collected constitutions from many Greek states, researched them, and provided ideas for greater political thought.

There were other philosophers during Greece’s intellectual revolution, but many debated for the thrill of winning, rather than for truth or enlightenment. Questions arose from every debate or conversation and rational thought exploded. Due to the rise of all the questions on life, and possible answers, rational thought surfaced. New centers for education began opening in Greece, and all around the world. These centers spread new ideas including: writing and rhetoric, science, mathematics, innovations, arts, technologies, and medicines.

Philosophy and rational thinking continued to grow throughout the world in the next few centuries. Rational thought had become the most dominant ideology in Western Civilization. Philosophers aimed to examine human happiness, self-control, and equality (84). Also, there was a major focus on the study of science. Understanding the world from the human required many philosophers to devote immense research in science. In turn this influenced how the western world reasoned and used rational thought. Alexandria was the site of creative inventors and scientific researchers.

Citizens there built a huge library called the “House of the Muses. ” The library grew to include star observatories, lecture halls, and laboratories, and also held over half a million manuscripts (84). Rational thought allowed scientists and inventors a better understanding of the world around them. Mathematicians like Euclid and Archimedes studied geometry and higher mathematics (84). Archimedes also invented a screw pump that lifted water from the ground. Others invented navigational instruments and mapmaking abilities for ships out at sea, built small steam engines, and even washing machines.

Hippocrates, also called the “father of medicine”(84), studied the human body and Herophilus even mapped out the nervous system in humans. Geographers tried to map the world, while astronomers questioned life outside the world. Alexandria was, unfortunately, destroyed by the Christians in the fourth century. Imagine what the world would be like if all the knowledge and research had made it out of Alexandria. The information that did survive the destruction continues to help researchers to this day. According to Blackburn: “Alexandria was thus the site of the greatest achievements in Western science and mathematics before modern times” (84).

Overall, rational thought is something most of us take for granted. It is from the Greek influence that we are able to think for ourselves and make rational decisions. Great minds have helped contribute to this great civilization we live in. The Western world has forever been changed by the ability to reason and question reality. Many future civilizations used the thoughts of famous Greeks and today rational thought is more powerful than ever. The most valuable things in the world are just trinkets compared to the value of the mind.

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