Our Greco-Roman Heritage.
Where does our civilization derive its greatness? We’ve maintained a commitment to nurture and sustain a liberal democracy for centuries and become a thriving prosperous people. What is the source of this achievement?
Our culture’s greatness is rooted in the Greco-Roman tradition. This is a tradition that has given us reason and science. There was much more to be done, but in this regard the Greeks made a giant leap. It was the rebirth of Ancient learning, the Renaissance, which provided the foundation of today’s science and technology. It was the rediscovery of Hellenic thought, from Aquinas to the Humanists, which revived and revitalized our civilization. The Greeks had marginalized superstition, escaped from dogmatism, and were never tempted by blind faith. They wanted reasons; they sought solid ground for their beliefs.
From the Greco-Roman period came respect for the rule of law, the idea of natural law, and, for its day, toleration of religious beliefs. These concepts in their infancy were far too narrow compared to today’s notions but we built and extended these concepts to arrive at the ideas of our founding fathers. From this base, we evolved the ideas of natural rights and individual liberty; with which Locke helped to seed the Anglo-American Enlightenment.
The totalitarian movements of the 20th century showed how dogmatism and arbitrary doctrinal systems, created in defiance of reality and with reason cast aside, results in mass horror. The Islamic culture shows how a religion that makes no room for reason is an abomination; and becomes a worldwide threat. Islam is a religion of dogmatic blind faith and self-renunciation in submission. It is a political ideology rooted in world conquest but takes solace in bizarre fantasies about the afterlife. In America, religion is a private personal matter. In general, people deal with each other as rationally as they can, talking about evidence and arguing about reality.
In summary, our core principles are reason, individualism, and liberty. They have their roots in Greco-Roman culture, revived during the Renaissance, and refined during the Enlightenment. Today, these ideas are under attack by critics on the left and the right. However, I believe most Americans are sensitive to our core principles even if they don’t accept their application as broadly as we once did - the attacks have had some effect. We need to reaffirm our principles and appreciate how we’ve become a great nation. In crisis we need to rally around the principles that made us great.
Our Roman Heritage
Cicero on Just War