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One thing that stands out to me is that it sometimes seems as if everything that can be thought has been thought. The one difference between the times of the great philosophers and are times is technology. Great thinking today centers around technology and its impact on us, and our interaction with it.
If you are asking, "What is the difference between how people of the past and people of present think about things?" you are asking a very complicated cognitive question. According to James R. Flynn, author of Are We Getting Smarter? Rising IQ in the Twenty-First Century, the dominant difference is that in the past, people dominantly thought in concrete terms, not in abstract terms (exceptions were the few philosophers, poets, theologians, and mathematicians). Today, people think in abstract concepts more often than in past times. Flynn posits this is because what we do now requires abstract thought more than what we did in the past. In the past most people did things that were concrete in nature (farming, carpentry etc) while today, people do things that are more abstract in nature (video games, using computers etc).
If what you are asking is, "What is the difference between how people of the past and people of present think about themselves and life?" you are asking a very complicated sociological question. One great difference between thinking then and now is that then, the majority of people thought of themselves and of others as bound by moral strictures whereas people today don't think themselves bound in the same way.
As a small example, in the past, generally speaking, having the door of a home closed was enough to keep intruders out (generally speaking) while today even a bolted door won't keep them out since they feel no hesitation in breaking windows or anything else to gain their goals. The fear of going out of moral and legal bounds that kept a certain kind of order in Western society has dissipated and declined throughout present day society (think of mass school shootings and mass shopping mall shootings).
Generally, the immigrants from third-world countries to the US today come with an entirely different goal in mind than did the European immigrants who passed through Ellis Island. Now, people come with "What can this country do for me?" as their may question, whereas before, people came to America for opportunities to improve themselves. They came to work and not become dependent upon a "nanny" government. They came to learn English and to become Americans in the truest sense of the word. People in the past wanted to belong to a country and to contribute to that country. Nowadays, people just live where they can reap the best comforts.
I think we tend to have less faith in our leaders and authority figures than people generally did in the past. This is probably due to the effect of mass media and the way information is presented now.
Scientific advances and controversies have also made us somewhat more skeptical than we used to be. How many times have seen important beliefs or theories disproved by this or that study, only to be proved correct at some later date? Again, the effect of mass media in disseminating these ideas is probably at the heart of our changes in our thinking and perspective.
We also tend to put a lot more faith in science than people used to. We like to see a lot verifiable evidence to back up our claims and support the thoughts that we put our faith in.
I agree with the ideas expressed above. Society has changed and become more individualistic. Certain cultures of the early historic period did not even have a word for "self" or "I", such as the Hebrew culture/language.
It's hard to imagine living in a state of community like that now.
This depends a lot on how far we go into the past and where we are talking about. In general, in the Western world, we are much more individualistic than we were hundreds of years ago. We are much more concerned with our own individual rights rather than thinking of ourselves as part of a greater overall society.
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