What is Western Civilization? 

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wordprof | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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This term, usually contrasted with Eastern civilization, refers to the part of the world that was directly influenced by the Greek and Roman civilizations of two thousand years ago.  By conquest, by trade, and by nomadic civilization expansion, the languages, ethical standards, system of values, religious beliefs, and similar cultural influences spread westward to the Arlantic Ocean.  At the same time or ealier, a civilization was developing east of the Himilayas, in what is now known as China, the Far East, etc.  Their art, their attitude toward Nature, their natural resources (and spices and silks), their history of national expansion, their philosophies, their attitude toward nature, eyc. All took them in different directions; in the era of Western exploration, the two civilizations met and exchanged ideas, technologies (paper, gun powder, mathematics, astronomy were some of the East’s contributions to the West).  Today, Western civilization usually means the historical setting of Europe from the Greeks and Romans,through the Dark and Middle Ages, through the Renaissance, through the period of Enlightenment.  By the time of the discovery of the American continent, and with it the creation of North and South American cultures, the term “Western Civilization” was strictly historical.  Alan Watts, in the 1950’s and 19060’s, introduced Eastern literature and art to the West, although, of course, by that time the world was a mixture of “civilizations.  Today, the financial term “global” clarifies that mixture.  


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