Riding the subway in New York City this past December I counted the number of people who were glued to their cell phone screens. I would say that 80% of the riders were on their phones for most of the ride. No cell phones, no internet-how important could the Greeks be?
The fact is that the three great waves of thinking that have influenced the view of the world in the Western world. The first wave is the contributions of the Greeks and the Romans. The second wave is Christianity. Christianity was the explanation of life for over a thousand years. Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going? How are we supposed to behave along the way? It really doesn't make any difference whether or not you agree with the views that Christianity provided. Christianity answered the important questions for most people. The third wave was the rise of science and technology that started around 1600 and became the dominant explanation for life almost to the exclusion of other ways of thinking.
The Greeks invented everything. We divide the fields of knowledge the way the Greeks did. The Greeks gave us the very vocabulary that we use: biology, psychology, physics, philosophy. etc.-all of these terms come from the Greeks. The Greeks were interested in all things human. There was no aspect of human behavior that they did not study or discuss.
The Greeks were responsible for the way we look upon the working of our minds. The Greeks are responsible for the two major theories of knowledge that have dominated for the last 2000 years in the West.
One theory of knowledge was that put forth by the Greek philosopher Plato. Knowledge to Plato was a form of memory or intuition. Plato believed that there was a non-material alternate universe to the one we live in every day. We call a chair a chair because somehow, we intuit or remember the idea of "chair" from this alternate realm. We get into trouble when we neglect the exploration of this alternate realm and instead accept the meaning, images and goals constantly presented to us by society.
The other theory of knowledge was put forth by Plato's student, the philosopher Aristotle. Aristotle said that we navigate the world with our five senses. We gather all kinds of information through our senses and then we come to conclusions. The model of gathering information and then coming to conclusions is the model of thinking that characterizes science and technology.
That's all. One theory says that we try to intuit general principals which always true and the other says that we reach valid conclusions by analyzing and synthesizing information from our senses. These two theories about how we know and how learn have obtained in Western thought for the last 2000 years. There really have been no other alternative theories presented.
The Greeks listed and defined our interest: all things human. They tried to explain how we know things. The Greeks also gave us some specific observations on the nature of society that still speak to us today. Some of these observations on the nature of society that will speak to us today. Some of these observations will be found in Part ll.