Civilization emerged in the Middle East over five thousand years ago, and a variety of civilizations have flourished on the earth ever since. However, they all have only been a prelude to the unique Western civilization, which has finally been able to release the true potential of human mind during the dramatic transformation of thinking that accompanied the Age of Renaissance and Scientific Revolution. The greatest achievements of the Western Civilization are individual liberty and untrammeled scientific inquiry, these also have been its hallmark characteristics already by the end of the eighteenth century.
The rise of science has perhaps been the single most defining characteristic of the Western civilization. An equally fundamental characteristic, however, is the development of due process in civil law, which was a consequence of respect to the individual and concern for human dignity. In fact, a cluster of remarkable and highly interrelated attributes have given the Western civilization its unique flavor. Although it has displayed several prominent dark and negative characteristics too, such as imperialism, war-mongering, environmental depredation, etc.
, on the whole the Western civilization has been a great liberating force for mankind.
Even given all its monumental shortcomings, the Western culture has consistently stood for freedom of mind and life in a way no other culture that ever existed on earth could. We shall briefly examine a host of characteristics that mark the Western civilization under two broad heads: Intellectual and Scientific freedom Individual and Political Freedom The economic freedom and material affluence that have perhaps become the most conspicuous and coveted characteristics of the Western world in our day all the world over did not emerge in a major way until the second half of the twentieth century.
It falls outside our purview, which deals with Western civilization up to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the late eighteenth century. A yet another fundamental dimension of the Western civilization may be characterized as artistic and cultural freedom, which was underway since the times of early Renaissance. We would not, however, be able to focus on this aspect of evolution of Western civilization.