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Why the Greeks?

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Philosophy Teacher's Assistant
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Dordt College

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Technology and society.
  3. Greece's rise above other civilizations.
  4. The receptive impulse.
  5. The creative impulse.
  6. Greek Philosophy - aligned with the Christian worldview.
  7. Conclusion.

I take the question which is the title of this paper in two ways. First, I take it to mean, ?what racial, historical, cultural, geographical and political factors gave rise to what is commonly considered the first flowering of philosophical thought;? Second, to mean, ?for what purpose did this flowering occur, in that time, among those people?? I presuppose at least two main things by asking these questions. I presuppose the nature of philosophy to be that which the Greeks originated, and, in order to answer the second question, I presuppose my own Christianity and its general analysis of history. What follows is an attempt to answer the first question by isolating the peculiar feature of the Greeks that set them apart from other potentially fruitful cultures, and an attempt to show that the only possible origin of this feature points inevitably to the teleological or eschatological reason for the birth of philosophy.

[...] I find the evidence for this particularly in their attitude to religion. Greek religion, points out Herman Dooyeveerd, seems to have been a mixture of two distinct mythological streams?an older, darker, earthier Mycenaean stream, and a younger, beauty-loving, Olympian stream. Individual Greeks evince an astonishing diversity in their theology: some take the gods as little more than impersonal anthropomorphisms of natural forces, some take them as glorified humans keenly interested in the tragic stream of human life and ready at all times to meddle at the request of their favorites. [...]


[...] Even the ideas which they gathered from the older civilizations around them were brought to new life in the Hellenic hands. One historian wrote, Greeks imported a large amount of information out of the Orient. This consisted in special facts of knowledge, particularly of the mathematical and astronomical kind, and consisted perhaps beside in certain mythological ideas. But with the recognition of this situation . one does not rob the Greeks in the least of their true originality . They were the first to transmute this knowledge into a wisdom sought on account of itself. [...]

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