The Greek civilization is recognized to have been one of the foremost contributors to Western Civilization. The culture, politics, science, and educational systems of the ancient Greeks are said to have impacted the development of early Western Civilization and are thus the foundations upon which our present society is based. Many different historians, experts, and writers have tried to provide a comprehensive understanding of ancient Greek and its impact on modern society.
Bruce Thornton is one of these experts and he shows in his book that the Greeks did, in fact, contribute a great deal to our civilization. When we talk about the Greek civilization, the conversation invariably goes into a discussion of their achievements. Greek philosophers were known for their use of reason and logic. The speech forms of rhetoric and dialogue were developed and perfected by the Greeks in large agoras or public spaces where they were wont to hold numerous public discussions about intellectual matters.
The political system of democracy developed in ancient Greece and is considered by many to be their most important contribution to modern society. The literature of the time continues to regale modern audiences. The Greek epics The Odyssey and The Iliad are still capable of inspiring modern works. The writings of Plato are still the favored topics of discussion by scholars. The impact of Greek science on Western civilization is equally great. In the field of medicine, for example, one will not be considered a doctor without first taking the Hippocratic Oath.
Greek art has influenced present society by being the forerunners of aesthetics. Even architectural works like the Parthenon have had a great impact on the way Western Civilization continues today. By simply looking at the works of the ancient Greeks and comparing present-day Western society, it is clear that the Greeks were able to contribute to all aspects of Western life today. But Bruce Thornton asserts that there is a deeper and more primal contribution by the Greeks.
The entirety of what other writers and scholars have talked about as the contributions of Greek civilization to Western Civilization can be summed up as a contribution of critical consciousness. What the Greeks truly gave Western civilization was the ability to analyze, to think critically about the self and everything outside of the self. It is perhaps the case that all the greatest accomplishments of the Greeks were born out of this practiced ability to be critical. Democracy, rhetoric, even logic all come from a critical consciousness.
The Greeks, above everything else they did, gave Western civilization a model and the ways by which one could develop a critical consciousness. This contribution is larger than the more concrete, more talked about works of the Greeks. Because the Greek civilization shared the legacy of critical consciousness with the Western civilization, the latter has been able to think on its own. Because of critical consciousness, we have been able to give birth to equal rights, free speech, public education.
The Greeks did not espouse the same ideas regarding the three concepts but because we have critical minds of our own, because we have immersed ourselves in the legacy of the Greeks, we are able to decide on our own what would be best for our society. We are not reliant on the processes, philosophies, and hierarchies practiced by a previous civilization. Because the Greeks gave us critical consciousness, we are able to take what they had and make it into something much better, much more appropriate for our civilization, for the times we live in now.