What do historians mean by the term “axial age”?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The term "axial age" was coined by the German philosopher Karl Jaspers.  It is used to refer to the time period that lasted from 800 BC to 200 BC.  The axial age is said to be a time when important ideas sprang up (independently) in various places in the world.  These places included India, the West, and China.

The term "axial age" is most important to the history of religion and of philosophy.  During this time, the Buddhist religion arose, as did Zoroastrianism.  Confucius lived during this time in China and Socrates lived in Greece.  So this was a time when many important religious figures all lived.

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krishna-agrawala | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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Historians use the term axial age to a period in history from about 800 B.C. to 200 B.C. which has been characterized by development of progressive philosophical and religious thoughts in different parts of the world independently. While not all historians accept the concept of Axial age, those who do, hold that leading thinkers of the axial age had an axial or pivotal role in shaping philosophy and thinking around the world, and the humanity today also subsists on the philosophical and religious foundations laid in that period. The concept of axial age was first suggested by the German philosopher Karl Jasper.

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jaffna | eNotes Newbie

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Axial age which is is also known as axis age originated from the German word "Achsenzeit" and it was first formulated by Karl Jaspers, considered as the "paradigmatic personality". Jaspers found this term to distinguish other ages from the middle ages between 800 BC to 200 BC where laid the foundation of religious and philosophical culture. Most of the modern scholars and historians predict the other historical figures depending on this axial age

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mkcapen1 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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The axial age is a time in mankind’s history when man began to conceive and develop theologies of religion and philosophy.  It is defined as a period from 800 B.C. to 200 B.C.  During this period mankind developed intellectually.  While initial concepts may have been vague, this was an era of enlightenment. 

Karl Jaspers, developed the theory and the term for the period.  The primary areas affected by the changes were India, China, Greece, and the Middle East. Mankind had finally come into an identity of self and had begun to determine how self fit in to the world he existed in.


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