Western culture

Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, based on the correlations of ideal human proportions with geometry described by the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius in Book III of his treatise De architectura
Plato, arguably the most influential figure in early Western philosophy, has influenced virtually all of subsequent Western and Middle Eastern philosophy and theology

Western culture, also known as Western civilization, European civilization, Occidental culture, or Western society, is an umbrella term which refers to the diverse heritages of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, belief systems, political systems, artifacts and technologies of the Western world. Western civilization, broadly defined, finds its roots in the foundations laid by Greco-Roman civilization, and the tenets of Western Christianity.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9] It has also been substantially influenced by societal influences from Germanic peoples.

Whilst Western culture is a broad concept, and does not relate to a region with fixed geographical confines, it often relates to the cultures of countries with historical ties to a European country or a number of European countries, or the variety of cultures within Europe itself. However, countries toward the east of Europe are often excluded from definitions of the Western world. The earliest concept of Europe as a cultural sphere (instead of simply a geographic term) appeared during the Carolingian Renaissance of the 9th century, and included most of the territories which practiced Western Christianity at the time. From a Western European perspective, "Europe" as a cultural term did not incorporate much of the territories where the Orthodox Church or Islam represented the dominant religion until the 19th century.[10]

While traditionally shunned as a mainspring of Western civilization in favour of early Aegean cultures, the Phoenician city-states stimulated and fostered Western civilization.[11] The expansion of Greek culture into the Hellenistic world of the eastern Mediterranean led to a synthesis between Greek and Near-Eastern cultures,[12] and major advances in literature, engineering, and science, and provided the culture for the expansion of early Christianity and the Greek New Testament.[13][14][15] This period overlapped with and was followed by Rome, which made key contributions in law, government, engineering and political organization.[16]

Western culture is characterized by a host of artistic, philosophic, literary and legal themes and traditions. Christianity, primarily the Catholic Church,[17][18][19] and later Protestantism[20][21][22][23] has played a prominent role in the shaping of Western civilization since at least the 4th century,[24][25][26][27][28] as did Judaism.[29][30][31][32] A cornerstone of Western thought, beginning in ancient Greece and continuing through the Middle Ages and Renaissance, is the idea of rationalism in various spheres of life developed by Hellenistic philosophy, scholasticism and humanism. Empiricism later gave rise to the scientific method, the scientific revolution, and the Age of Enlightenment.

Western culture continued to develop with the Christianization of European society during the Middle Ages, the reforms triggered by the medieval renaissances, the influence of the Islamic world via Al-Andalus and Sicily (including the transfer of technology from the East, and Latin translations of Arabic texts on science and philosophy by Greek and Hellenic-influenced Islamic philosophers),[33][34][35] and the Italian Renaissance as Greek scholars fleeing after the fall of Constantinople brought classical traditions and philosophy.[36] This major change for non-Western countries and their people saw a development in modernization in those countries.[37] Medieval Christianity is credited with creating the modern university,[38][39] the modern hospital system,[40] scientific economics,[41][42] and natural law (which would later influence the creation of international law).[43] Christianity played a role in ending practices common among European pagans at the time, such as human sacrifice and infanticide.[44] European culture developed with a complex range of philosophy, medieval scholasticism, mysticism and Christian and secular humanism.[45][page needed] Rational thinking developed through a long age of change and formation, with the experiments of the Enlightenment and breakthroughs in the sciences. Tendencies that have come to define modern Western societies include the concept of political pluralism, individualism, prominent subcultures or countercultures (such as New Age movements) and increasing cultural syncretism resulting from globalization and human migration.

  1. ^ Hanson, Victor Davis (18 December 2007). Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise to Western Power. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. p. "the term "Western" — refer to the culture of classical antiquity that arose in Greece and Rome; survived the collapse of the Roman Empire; spread to western and northern Europe; then during the great periods of exploration and colonization of the fifteenth through nineteenth centuries expanded to the Americas, Australia and areas of Asia and Africa; and now exercises global political, economic, cultural, and military power far greater than the size of its territory or population might otherwise suggest.". ISBN 978-0-307-42518-8.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  2. ^ Spielvogel, Jackson J. (2006). Western Civilization. Wadsworth. p. people in these early civilizations viewed themselves as subjects of states or empires, not as members of Western civilization. With the rise of Christianity during the Late Roman Empire, however, peoples in Europe began to identify themselves as part of a civilization different from others, such as that of Islam, leading to a concept of a Western civilization different from other civilizations. In the fifteenth century, Renaissance intellectuals began to identify this civilization not only with Christianity but also with the intellectual and political achievements of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Important to the development of the idea of a distinct Western civilization were encounters with other peoples. Between 700 and 1500, encounters with the world of Islam helped define the West. But after 1500, as European ships began to move into other parts of the world, encounters with peoples in Asia, Africa, and the Americas not only had an impact on the civilizations found there but also affected how people in the West defined themselves. At the same time, as they set up colonies, Europeans began to transplant a sense of Western identity to other areas of the world, especially North America and parts of Latin America, that have come to be considered part of Western civilization. ISBN 978-0-534-64602-8.
  3. ^ Sharon, Moshe (1 January 2004). Studies in Modern Religions, Religious Movements and the Båabåi-Bahåa'åi Faiths. BRILL. p. Side by side with Christianity, the classical Greco-Roman world forms the sound foundation of Western civilization. Greek philosophy is also the origin for the methods and contents of the philosophical thought and theological investigation in Islam and Judaism. ISBN 978-90-04-13904-6.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  4. ^ Pagden, Anthony (13 March 2008). Worlds at War: The 2,500 - Year Struggle Between East and West. OUP Oxford. p. Had the Persians overrun all of mainland Greece, had they then transformed the Greek city-states into satrapies of the Persian Empire, had Greek democracy been snuffed out, there would have been no Greek theater, no Greek science, no Plato, no Aristotle, no Sophocles, no Aeschylus. The incredible burst of creative energy that took place during the fifth and fourth centuries B.C.E. and that laid the foundation for all of later Western civilization would never have happened. [...] in the years between 490 and 479 B.C.E., the entire future of the Western world hung precariously in the balance. ISBN 978-0-19-923743-2.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  5. ^ Cartledge, Paul (10 October 2002). The Greeks: A Portrait of Self and Others. OUP Oxford. p. "Greekness was identified with freedom-spiritual and social as well as political-and slavery was equated with being barbarian, [...] 'democracy' was a Greek invention (celebrating its 2,500th anniversary in 1993/4) [...] an ancient culture, that of the Greeks — is both a foundation stone of our own (Western) civilization and at the same time in key respects a deeply alien phenomenon.". ISBN 978-0-19-157783-3.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  6. ^ Freeman, Charles (September 2000). The Greek Achievement: The Foundation of the Western World. Penguin Publishing Group. p. The Greeks provided the chromosomes of Western civilization. One does not have to idealize the Greeks to sustain that point. Greek ways of exploring the cosmos, defining the problems of knowledge (and what is meant by knowledge itself), creating the language in which such problems are explored, representing the physical world and human society in the arts, defining the nature of value, describing the past, still underlie the Western cultural tradition. ISBN 978-0-14-029323-4.
  7. ^ Richard, Carl J. (16 April 2010). Why We're All Romans: The Roman Contribution to the Western World. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. In 1,200 years the tiny village of Rome established a republic, conquered all of the Mediterranean basin and western Europe, lost its republic, and finally, surrendered its empire. In the process the Romans laid the foundation of Western civilization. [...] The pragmatic Romans brought Greek and Hebrew ideas down to earth, modified them, and transmitted them throughout western Europe. [...] Roman law remains the basis for the legal codes of most western European and Latin American countries — Even in English-speaking countries, where common law prevails, Roman law has exerted substantial influence. ISBN 978-0-7425-6780-1.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  8. ^ Grant, Michael (1991). The Founders of the Western World : A History of Greece and Rome. Internet Archive. New York : Scribner : Maxwell Macmillan International. ISBN 978-0-684-19303-8.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  9. ^ Perry, Marvin; Chase, Myrna; Jacob, James; Jacob, Margaret; Laue, Theodore H. Von (1 January 2012). Western Civilization: Since 1400. Cengage Learning. ISBN 978-1-111-83169-1.
  10. ^ Dr. Sanjay Kumar (2021). A Handbook of Political Geography. K.K. Publications. p. 127.
  11. ^ Scott, John C (2018). "The Phoenicians and the Formation of the Western World". Comparative Civilizations Review. Brigham Young University. 78 (78). ISSN 0733-4540.
  12. ^ Cite error: The named reference Green was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  13. ^ Russo, Lucio (2004). The Forgotten Revolution: How Science Was Born in 300 BC and Why It Had To Be Reborn. Berlin: Springer. ISBN 3-540-20396-6.
  14. ^ "Hellenistic Age". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved 8 September 2012.
  15. ^ Green, P (2008). Alexander The Great and the Hellenistic Age. Phoenix. p. xiii. ISBN 978-0-7538-2413-9.
  16. ^ Jonathan Daly (19 December 2013). The Rise of Western Power: A Comparative History of Western Civilization. A&C Black. pp. 7–9. ISBN 978-1-4411-1851-6.
  17. ^ Spielvogel, Jackson J. (2016). Western Civilization: A Brief History, Volume I: To 1715 (Cengage Learning ed.). Cengage Learning. p. 156. ISBN 978-1-305-63347-6.
  18. ^ Neill, Thomas Patrick (1957). Readings in the History of Western Civilization, Volume 2 (Newman Press ed.). p. 224.
  19. ^ O'Collins, Gerald; Farrugia, Maria (2003). Catholicism: The Story of Catholic Christianity. Oxford University Press. p. v (preface). ISBN 978-0-19-925995-3.
  20. ^ Karl Heussi, Kompendium der Kirchengeschichte, 11. Auflage (1956), Tübingen (Germany), pp. 317–319, 325–326
  21. ^ The Protestant Heritage Archived 23 February 2018 at the Wayback Machine, Britannica
  22. ^ McNeill, William H. (2010). History of Western Civilization: A Handbook (University of Chicago Press ed.). University of Chicago Press. p. 204. ISBN 978-0-226-56162-2.
  23. ^ Faltin, Lucia; Melanie J. Wright (2007). The Religious Roots of Contemporary European Identity (A&C Black ed.). A&C Black. p. 83. ISBN 978-0-8264-9482-5.
  24. ^ Roman Catholicism Archived 6 May 2015 at the Wayback Machine, "Roman Catholicism, Christian church that has been the decisive spiritual force in the history of Western civilization". Encyclopædia Britannica
  25. ^ Caltron J.H Hayas, Christianity and Western Civilization (1953), Stanford University Press, p. 2: That certain distinctive features of our Western civilization—the civilization of western Europe and of America—have been shaped chiefly by Judaeo–Christianity, Catholic and Protestant.
  26. ^ Jose Orlandis, 1993, "A Short History of the Catholic Church," 2nd edn. (Michael Adams, Trans.), Dublin:Four Courts Press, ISBN 1851821252, preface, see [1] Archived 2 January 2023 at the Wayback Machine, accessed 8 December 2014. p. (preface)
  27. ^ Thomas E. Woods and Antonio Canizares, 2012, "How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization," Reprint edn., Washington, D.C.: Regnery History, ISBN 1596983280, see accessed 8 December 2014. p. 1: "Western civilization owes far more to Catholic Church than most people—Catholic included—often realize. The Church in fact built Western civilization."
  28. ^ Marvin Perry (1 January 2012). Western Civilization: A Brief History, Volume I: To 1789. Cengage Learning. pp. 33–. ISBN 978-1-111-83720-4.
  29. ^ Noble, Thomas F. X. (1 January 2013). Western civilization : beyond boundaries (7th ed.). Boston, MA. p. 107. ISBN 978-1-133-60271-2. OCLC 858610469.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  30. ^ Marvin Perry; Myrna Chase; James Jacob; Margaret Jacob; Jonathan W Daly (2015). Western Civilization: Ideas, Politics, and Society, Volume I: To 1789. Cengage Learning. p. 105. ISBN 978-1-305-44548-2.
  31. ^ Hengel, Martin (2003). Judaism and Hellenism : studies in their encounter in Palestine during the early Hellenistic period. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers. ISBN 978-1-59244-186-0. OCLC 52605048.
  32. ^ Porter, Stanley E. (2013). Early Christianity in its Hellenistic context. Volume 2, Christian origins and Hellenistic Judaism : social and literary contexts for the New Testament. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 978-9004234765. OCLC 851653645.
  33. ^ Cite error: The named reference Haskins was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  34. ^ Cite error: The named reference Sarton was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  35. ^ Cite error: The named reference Burnett was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  36. ^ Geanakoplos, Deno John (1989). Constantinople and the West : essays on the late Byzantine (Palaeologan) and Italian Renaissances and the Byzantine and Roman churches. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-11880-0. OCLC 19353503.
  37. ^ "Western Civilization: Roots, History and Culture". TimeMaps. Retrieved 17 February 2022.
  38. ^ Rüegg, Walter: "Foreword. The University as a European Institution", in: A History of the University in Europe. Vol. 1: Universities in the Middle Ages, Cambridge University Press, 1992, ISBN 0-521-36105-2, pp. xix–xx
  39. ^ Verger 1999
  40. ^ Risse, Guenter B. (April 1999). Mending Bodies, Saving Souls: A History of Hospitals. Oxford University Press. p. 59. ISBN 978-0-19-505523-8.
  41. ^ Schumpeter, Joseph (1954). History of Economic Analysis. London: Allen & Unwin.
  42. ^ "Review of How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization by Thomas Woods, Jr". National Review Book Service. Archived from the original on 22 August 2006. Retrieved 16 September 2006.
  43. ^ Cf. Jeremy Waldron (2002), God, Locke, and Equality: Christian Foundations in Locke's Political Thought, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (UK), ISBN 978-0-521-89057-1, pp. 189, 208
  44. ^ Hastings, p. 309.
  45. ^ Sailen Debnath, 2010, "Secularism: Western and Indian," New Delhi, India:Atlantic Publishers & Distributors, ISBN 8126913665.[page needed]

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