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Carlos García Gual

The Greek source "The path of the Greeks (Polis, Logos, Paideia)" URL:

The Greek inheritance is still the basic support of a good part of our intellectual world, including what refers to political theory and also, obviously, to the higher literary and philosophical culture. The Greeks invented and put into practice the fundamental concepts of the democratic society, as well as all the literary and philosophical genres of the Western tradition. And modernity is defined in great deal by the renewal and contrast of these ancient proposals. Starting from these legacies, each period of time has made its own historical reinterpretations -actually, diverse reinterpretations- but the discussion of these ancient ideals and programs is a proof in itself that they are still of undisputed validity. In a way, we could assert that the critical view of the past is actually a Greek tradition and inheritance we have in our Western culture. The alétheia, the "truth", was for the Greek a harsh "discovery", a conquest to be made by reflexion and critic, over the messages of tradition and reality.

The cultural and scientific lexicon are a good reminder of this constant influence due to the numerous terms with Greek origin that are used. The use of terms with Hellenic origin is not only a testimony of this original inheritance, but also a matter of reflexion over the deviations of the meanings since the original and primitive values. Being a citizen nowadays is quite different from what that meant in classical Athens, where the polis integrated its citizens into a supportive framework and configured a social environment of liberty and autonomy. We should remember that Aristoteles defined the human being as a zoon politikón, stating that the city was essentially on top of the individual and shapes it as a communicative being, while Hellenistic philosophers already had another view within a more "globalized" framework. Ancient democracy appeared within a polis that would be impossible in the present. The old paideia -this Greek term means both, education and culture- is very different from the current one, maybe not in all aspects (a great importance was given to physical and musical training), but definitely in its orientation, more focused in general aspects than in the specific and scientific (as an example we can see the central role that civic theatre had in classic Athens). In opposition to the traditional explanations of the mythos, the Greek civilization advances using the lógos (reason, coherent wording, calculus, written texts, etc.), which is objective and "common" (as the philosopher Heraclitus said), the basis of dialogue (Borges said this was something invented by the Greek), and also of abstract reasoning (for the Greek, mathematics were the best example of science and mad their best achievements in the works of Euclides and Archimedes). The citizen of Athens, thanks to a popular and democratic paideía, full of noble ideals, could be pictured through the famous speech of Pericles, who in words of Thucydides said: "We love beauty at a good price and we firmly seek wisdom". Now we can ask ourselves how much of this civic program is still running in our current world.

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