When identifying and articulating ethics, one may conclude that the best way to express one’s values is through speech or literature, bluntly stating what they believe. However, this is simply untrue, for there are limitless theories, and a multitude of ways to express them. The Greeks, for example, exhibited their values in multiple ways. The Greeks were undoubtedly humanists, displaying their humanistic values through government, art and architecture, and philosophy. The Greeks displayed their humanistic values through government by they utilizing an effective system of self governing.
This system was a direct democracy, which is defined as “government by the people” or “rule of the majority. ” In the Athenian Democracy, the Assembly was the regular opportunity for citizens to propose, debate, and vote on laws regarding the governing of their city. Allowing citizens to speak their minds means that everyone has a say, there are many different viewpoints, and the supply of ideas is virtually limitless. Since the citizens can share their opinions and make their own decisions, they can govern themselves; therefore, no ruling higher power, like a monarch, is needed.
The Greeks displayed their humanistic values through art and architecture because they focused on Man. Sculpture specifically focused on both human potential and achievements, plus the human experience. Firstly, the Greeks often sculpted humans instead of animals or monsters, which is humanistic enough. When they did sculpt gods or goddesses, these deities were anthropomorphic, having human characteristics. Classical sculpture used nudity to depict the ideal human form; subjects were often young male athletes or soldiers, epitomizing human potential and achievement.
Hellenistic sculpture was more realistic and emotional, where the subjects were everyday people; this style focused on the struggles included in the human experience. These two styles unite to represent Greek humanism through art. Architecture was built on the scale of Man, in an effort to complement humans, rather than dwarf them. Additionally, the columns themselves symbolized Man, in the idea that each plays a part in supporting the structure. Even the style of the columns suggested humanism, with a masculine and feminine style; Doric columns were sturdy, characterized by simple, undecorated tops, and therefore the “masculine” style.
Ionic columns, in contrast, were thin and elegant, with decorated capitals, and therefore the “feminine” style. Sometimes, caryatids, or statues of girls, were used as columns, a humanistic practice in itself. The Greeks displayed their humanistic values through philosophy because they used logic and reason to find Truth, giving power to Man. The Pre-Socratics used rational thought to explain their world; if nature causes it, nature can cure it. They tried to explain natural occurrences without the use of religion.
The Sophists suspected that Absolute Truths and Ideals are relative to the individual; they are not set by a higher power, but we decide them ourselves with our own human ideas and experiences. This idea seems to put a lot of power in our hands. Socrates, the father of philosophy, used the Socratic Method to teach; he asked questions, allowing students to use their own prior knowledge to form answers, looking within to find truth. His student Plato’s story, “The Cave,” emphasizes that humans may independently take the intellectual journey to enlightenment, reach the Realm of Perfect Forms, and discover truth for themselves.
Both teacher and student insisted that Man himself had to reach truth, as it is not received from a higher authority. Therefore, the Greeks were undoubtedly humanists, displaying their humanistic values through government, art and architecture, and philosophy. They utilized a system of self governing, where no higher power was needed to lead. They focused on Man in art and architecture, portraying human potential and achievement, along with the human experience. They gave power to Man through philosophy by using logic and reason to find Truth, stressing that every human has the power to find it, unaccompanied by any higher power.