Wednesday, December 28, 2005

What is the West? The Age of Enlightenment and the Age of Revolutions

What is the West? The Age of Enlightenment and the Age of Revolutions



























Justin Maker
The West and the Modern World
Dr. Rahman
12.19.2005

Final Paper

What is the West? When we think of the “Western world” what do we think of? How do we define what the West is? To me the West is no longer a region of the world. It has evolved into an ideology, a way of thinking that influences the way people live. The West is characteristically defined in various aspects of life. Western concepts and philosophies have deep roots in science, religion, politics, sociology, philosophy, and number of other things that encompass our everyday lives as westerners.
Over time the West and western concepts and philosophies have developed to a point to where we are today. Over that time, it is interesting to look at what things the West has introduced to the world that have been progressive (for the benefit of humanity) and digressive (against the benefit of humanity) to get an adequate measure if western ideas and philosophies have been something that has benefited humanity overall. Progressively, the West has contributed great things to the world. To be more specific, western ideas surrounding humanity, the rights of man, and general democratic values seem to be the most important contributions to the world. Without early westerners from the Enlightenment period like John Locke, John Jacques Rousseau, and Adam Smith maybe here in America we wouldn’t emphasize education, or maybe we would not have a clear idea of what sovereignty was. Better yet, maybe we would not have a clear idea of what the essence of capitalism is all about. In my opinion the enlightenment period was probably the most progressive period in history with respect to the issues that existed during that time and the ideas and concepts that were introduced as a result.
As we all know, the bad comes with the good. Just as the West proved to be progressive in the Enlightenment period, their digressive nature can be critically examined in today’s day and age. I think that currently, in 2005 the big digressive divide in our world is not so much culture, as it is politics. Setting the West aside for the moment and focusing solely on America, we here in our own country are not “united.” When it comes down to sharing the same ideas and being able to be agreeable on major issues that effect us as people, we Americans have a difficult time dealing with. Move further and begin to discuss some of the political issues we have abroad with terrorism in the aftermath of 9/11, America does not seem to have made many “progressive” moves in order to combat this problem in any recent time.
Thus far, our western idea of spreading democracy throughout the world has not served us well in the eyes of many people. Along with the West’s spoiling idea of spreading democracy, the impact of war and technology has not been a western progressive either. This idea of spreading democracy encompasses weapons, war, and colonization that much of the rest of the world does not agree with. In the case with America being the western superpower, the idea of spreading democracy is something that is digressive in that it seems to be dividing the world as opposed to uniting it.
Quite often when we look what the West is from the outside looking in, we get a much different perspective of what we are a part of and what we represent to the rest of the world. Looking back to Chapter 22 in the text entitled Age of Revolutions there is a section called the American Declaration of Independence. In that document there is a passage that states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” (Gregory, 2006, 310) This single statement describes what the West stands for in total. The nature of freedom is the one single western ideal that has stood the test of time and has permeated itself into everything that we know as American citizens. This concept or ideal of equality stems from wanting liberation and the need for individualism, which is another western philosophy. To me, this statement embodies what the West is to become, the idea that people grow and have the desire to grow to become the best, or their idea of what the best is they can be.
This western idea of liberation and revolution is found in another document entitled Declaration of the Rights of Man the Citizen also found in Chapter 22. In this document we see the course of western thought parallel that to what is found in the American Declaration of Independence in that people are desperately seeking freedom, but more so seeking sort of a legal and political freedom and a voice in society. “Men are born and remain free and equal in rights” (Gregory, 2006, 316) is the first line of this declaration which sums up everything this document stands for. The people of France were looking for equality and fairness from within their government. They wanted the power to have a voice and make changes from within their society.
These two examples of how western philosophy transformed itself into a revolution are direct examples of how the West has progressively moved in a direction that was beneficial to the people as a whole. Both of these revolutions were predicated on the battles of oppression and the inevitable desires for freedom and independence for the people. Unfortunately, the result of seeking freedom and independence usually ends up in some form of war, which brings death to people, which ultimately can be rendered digressive action. As stated before, with any good comes some bad, and in both these cases the revolution or the war was for the greater good.
To reconstruct the idea of the West, I guess it would be safe to say that the West is a socio-political force in the world that is motivated by change for the greater good of the people. The concept of the West seems to be democratic in nature in that it was originally constructed by the people for the people. Without the existence of the concept of the West it is hard to see how change in society would ever have come about. Without the West would America still be ruled by England? Would we have ever known of revolutionizing ourselves to become independent individuals? Would we know of religious freedom? Perhaps we would not have.
The Age of Enlightenment and the Age of Revolutions were two pivotal periods in the history of the world and for western civilization. Without these two particular periods in history I do not think that we would be talking about the West in the context that we are. If I were to criticize anything about the West is what it has become to be today. The West today is too often thought of as greedy, self-indulgent, ignorant part of society. As a westerner myself I think that it is important to look at history to see where we have come from to figure out where we are going. Now that we have achieved our sense of freedom and independence where do we go from here? Do we continue to digress and force others to believe in the same system we believe? Or do we sit back and let the rest of the world dictate themselves?
Voltaire once wrote, “…let us not mutually hate and destroy each other in the midst of peace; but rather make use of the few moments of our existence to join in praising, in a thousand different languages, from one extremity of the world to the other, thy goodness, O all merciful creator, to whom we are indebted for that existence.” (Gregory, 2006, 281-82) The West should remember these words when dealing with the rest of the world. Make peace not war. No more digression, just progression. If the West and its ideals and values held strict to these words in think there would only be progression. Like I stated before the West is no longer just a region. It is a power, it’s a force that has influenced and dictated our life for centuries in the past and for centuries to come. The west is the modern world.








REFERENCES

Gregory, Candace. (2006). Documents of Western Civilization, Canada:
Thomson Wadsworth

Monday, December 19, 2005

FINAL ESSAY "The West: Progressive and Retrogressive Forces"

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Monday, December 05, 2005

28.5] A Great Beginning, Lenin

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28.4] Versailles Treaty: Part VIII Reparation

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28.3] The Fourteen Points, Woodrow Wilson

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28.2] Poems of Siegfried Sassoon

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28.1] Poems of Wilfred Owen

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27.3] The Antichrist, Frederich Nietzsche

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27.2] "A Dream is a Fulfillment of a Wish, Sigmund Freud

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27.1] Natural Selection, T.H. Huxley

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26.4] The Jewish Question and Zionism, Theodore Hertzel

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26.3] Militant Suffragists, Emile Pankhurst

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26.2] Protest Against State Regulation of Vice, Joseph Butler

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26.1] Speech on Labor Reform, Otto von Bismark

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25.4] Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

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25.3] Catholic Rights in Ireland, Daniel O' Connell

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25.2] Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels

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25.1] Proclamation to the People of Venezuela, Simon Bolivar

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24.4] Sorrows of Young Werther, Goethe

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24.3] Poems of William Wordsworth

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24.2] Principles of Utility, Jeremy Bentham

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24.1] An Essay on the Principle of Population, Thomas Malthus

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23.4] The Railroads: Newspaper Accounts of Openings and Accidents

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23.3] Living Conditions of the Working Class, Edwin Chadwick

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23.2] An oration on Child Labor, Michael Sadler

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23.1] Women in the Coal Mines

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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Fahrenheit 9/11 Comments

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Dr. Rahman, I figured I would create a topic since there seemed to be people who are ready to post.

Monday, November 28, 2005

TOPICS FOR FINAL ESSAY, DUE by Wednesday 11/30 midnight.

Please post ideas for your Final Essay. Others will comment.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

MUSEUM PAPERS

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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

GROUP PROJECT: TASK FORCE ON INDUSTRIALIZATION/FRANCE

Post the results of your findings here, by Monday November 18, 2005.