Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Thesis thoughts

Since I may reference it in future posts, I am replicating below the abstract for my senior thesis research project in history titled, Age of Wisdom: The Rise of Genius Ethicists in Greece, China, Israel, and India in the 6th and 5th Centuries B.C. Please humor me and tolerate my generalist tendencies.
As the classical period was dawning in Greece, the Zhou dynasty was decaying in China, the Babylonian conquest was looming in Israel, and the "great kingdoms" were reigning in India, there arose thinkers from these nearly isolated societies whose social commentary has profoundly influenced their respective cultures.* In the spirit of exploring the intellectual bedrock of these important civilizations, this project will study their great thinkers of the 6th and 5th centuries B.C. - Socrates and the Presocratics in Greece, Confucius and Lao Tzu in China, the Babylonian Captivity-era prophets of Israel, and the Buddha in India - and the societies from which they emerged. This project will seek to critically analyze commonalities between the compared thinkers' ideas in their historical and cultural context. The Greeks and Chinese will be closely compared because of their secular answers to man's dilemmas, while the Hebrews and Indians will be paired as examples of religious responses. What in each society allowed for the cultivation of genius? What characterizes a 'golden age' of thought? How do developing civilizations solve cultural problems? These are main areas of inquiry along which this project will proceed.

*The ancient historian Chester Starr once wrote, "Historians have often noted in amazement that the Buddha, Confucius, some of the major Hebrew prophets, and the first Greek philosophers all lived within a century of each other...these four outlooks are among the greatest forces which have molded subsequent civilization." See Chester Starr, A History of the Ancient World (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 143-144.

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