The ancient Greeks left a wealth of knowledge through their surviving writings on a wide variety of themes, including science, logic, philosophy, literature, and the arts.
In addition, the city-state of Athens is considered the birthplace of intellectual freedom and democracy – lasting legacies that helped to mold the ideas that have influenced the development of Western Civilization.
But, in comparison, their discussions on economics were often few and almost always relatively unsystematic. A primary reason for this is due to the fact that for the ancient Greeks questions concerning “economics” were considered subservient to other themes considered far more crucial to human life and society.
For the Greek philosophers and social thinkers, the central themes were questions of “justice,” “virtue,” “the good,” and “the beautiful.” What today we call “economic” questions and problems were relegated to a narrow corner of evaluating how economic institutions and organization could be designed or modified to serve these “higher” ends or goals.
The Greek view of the society over the individual
An extension of this is an appreciation of the general view that the ancient Greeks had concerning the individual in society. Their conception was that the individual was dependent upon the society in which he was born for all that he could or did become as a person. That is, the community nurtured and molded the individual into a “civilized” human being.
The society took precedence, or priority, over the individual. The individual was born, lived, and died. The society and the State, however, they believed, lived on.
The more modern conception of man as free, autonomous agent who chooses his own ends, selects his own means to attain his desired ends, and in general lives for himself was an alien notion to the mind of the ancient Greeks.
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