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The term Western thought is usually associated[by whom?] with the cultural tradition that traces its origins to Greek thought and the Abrahamic religions of Christianity and Judaism. (See also Western culture)
Cornerstones in this tradition include:
Western society may be thought of as following an evolution that began with the philosophers of ancient Athens such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. It continued through the Roman Empire and, with the addition of Christianity (which had its origins in the East), spread throughout Europe. During the colonial era, it became implanted in (for example) the Americas and Australasia.
In the early 3rd century the Emperor Constantine the Great established the city of Constantinople as the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. The Eastern Empire included lands east of the Adriatic Sea and bordering on the Eastern Mediterranean and parts of the Black Sea. These two divisions - the Eastern and Western Empires - were reflected in the administration of the Christian Church in Europe, with Rome and Constantinople debating and arguing over whether either city was the capital of Christianity (see Great Schism). As the eastern and western churches spread their influence, the line between "East" and "West" can be described as moving, but generally followed a cultural divide that was defined by the existence of the Byzantine empire and the fluctuating power and influence of the church in Rome. This cultural division was and is long lasting; it still existed during the Cold War as the approximate western boundary of those countries that were allied with the Soviet Union (with the exception of Poland, the German Democratic Republic, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Slovenia, Croatia and Albania).
There are ideals that some[who?] associate with the West, and there are many[quantify] who consider Western values to be universally superior. For example, the author Francis Fukuyama argues that Western values are destined to triumph over the entire world.
Some point out that advocates of Western values are selective in what they include as Western; for example, they usually include concepts of freedom, democracy, and human rights, but not totalitarianism, which was arguably created in the West. Therefore, by selecting what values are part of "Western values", one can tautologically show that they are superior, since any inferior values by definition are not Western. See also: No true Scotsman fallacy
A different attack on the concept of Western values comes from those who advocate Islamic values or Asian values. In this view, a coherent set of traits defines the West, but those traits are inferior and are usually associated with moral decline, greed, and decadence. Those who hold this view are concerned about the Westernization of the rest of the world. (The Islamic world of the Islamic Golden Age, with great cultural centers in Baghdad and Bokhara, exemplified the "Western" cornerstones of reason, rule of law, and monotheism.)
Since the countries in the "West" were generally those that explored and colonized outside of Europe and Siberia, the term Western became, to some people, associated with European colonialism. However, many other states have established colonial rules, so colonialism is not uniquely a Western phenomenon.
- Golden, James L. (2003). Rhetoric of Western Thought: From the Mediterranean World to the Global Setting. Kendall Hunt. p. 527 pages. ISBN 0-7872-9967-7.
- Schaeffer, Francis A. (2005). How Should We Then Live?: The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture. Good News Publishers. p. 288 pages. ISBN 1-58134-536-4.