Ancient Greece

During the Greek Golden Age, art and
philosophy expressed hellenic "weltanschauung", their unique
outlook on the world and way of life. Through the works of
artists, playwrights, and philosophers, one can see both sides
of the conflicted systems of the world, such as; good vs. evil,
order vs. chaos, stability vs. flux, relativism vs. absolutism
and balance and harmony. The Greeks were materialists.
They adopted the philosophical doctrine which says that
physical matter is the only reality in the universe; everything
else, including thought, feeling, mind and will can be
explained in terms of physical laws. Their materialism was
expressed in an excessive regard for worldly, beautiful
material things and concerns. They used their art to show the
glories of humanity and man. The sculptors of the Golden
Age aimed to create graceful, strong and perfectly formed
figures. Their art showed natural positions and thoughtful
expressions rather than abstract art forms. Their standards of
order and balance became standards for classical art in
western civilization. The Greeks were proud of their temples
and other architecture, made to honor the gods and beautify
the polis (city-state). Their famous architectural styles were
the heavy Doric columns and the slender scrolled Ionian
columns. The Parthenon, the Greek temple for the goddess
Athena, is a impeccable example of symmetry and
proportion. The sides of the Parthenon give an optical
illusion of perfect balance on all sides. Their desire for
balance in art and architecture represents the balance of the
world; order and moderation are expressed in the simplicity
of lines and shapes. The resulting overall structure works
together to achieve harmony. In ancient Greece, public
drama was more than entertainment. It was a form of public
education. It dealt with issues of importance to the people,
such as; the authority of the leaders, the power of the
people, questions of justice, morality, wars, peace, the duties
of the gods, family life and city living. Aeschylus wrote about
the furies and how they punished man for wrongdoings. This
shows that he believed that chaos would be punished
because order (and law) is the ideal state. Sophocles is best
known for his plays of Oedipus. Those plays dealt with
family and civic loyalty. The Greeks emphasized, particularly
in their plays, the importance of loyalty as a goal to strive for.
We learn a lot about Greek views through their philosophy,
which literally means the love of knowledge. The Greeks
educated through a series of questions and answers, in order
to better teach about life and the universe. The first
philosopher was Thales. He believed in absolutism and
eternal matter. He said that water was the original matter and
that without it, there would be no life. Parmenides stated that
stability and permanence were the underlying conditions of
the universe. He believed that change is only an illusion and
that one\'s senses can only grasp superficial realities of
change. Heroditus argued with Parmenides saying that
change was the basic condition of reality. He further claimed
that all permanence was false. Thus he saw things as
naturally being in flux rather than a stable state. Democritus
argued with both Parmenides and Heroditus. He insisted that
there is nothing spiritual and that only matter existed. He then
went on to say that everything is made of little invisible
particles, hooked up in different arrangements. He was an
atomist. The Greek philosophers went on to question the
nature of being and the meaning of life. Pythagoras was the
first metaphysicist, one who studies beyond physical
existence. He believed in a separation between spirit and
body, an opposition between good and evil and between
discord and harmony. In the 5th century, the Greeks learned
from Sophists, who believed that the views of society are
standards and the sole measurement of good, truth, justice
and beauty. Protagoras was a sophist. He said that, "man is
the measure of all things." He believed in a constant flux, and
that nothing is absolutely right or wrong, but subject to
change. His view is much like that held by Parmenides. The
philosophers then asked a question such as; what would
happen if things that were wrong were seen by society as
acceptable? What, for example, if society condoned
murder? Socrates was one who argued this point of view.
He stressed truth as absolute, not changeable depending of
the thinking of society as a given time. He believed in set
standards of ethics. He said that right and wrong can be
figured out on an absolute level. If one understands the
truths, he can live a good life, without evil. Plato agreed with
Socrates. He, too, said that morals, ethics, as well as matter,
were absolute. He stated two levels of existence; the
physical world of "shadows" and the real