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A critical appreciation of Russell's views on Western Civilization.


In this essay, various aspects of viewing the civilization are discussed in detail. The
question is what Western civilization is. Is Western civilization special or even unique in
world History? Does it contain recognizable noteworthy characteristics? Is Western culture
withering away? How it has changed over time? Civilization can be defined as an advanced
state of a society possessing historical and cultural unity. This essay deals with the
identification of specific societies, because of their distinctive achievements. Because of
these achievements, historians have regarded them as separate civilizations. Historical
perspective used in viewing a civilization is a significant unit of relatively recent origin.
Before this, a country was studied in viewing a civilization. Throughout middle Ages,
European historians viewed the civilization in religious perspective. They regarded the
Christian revelation as the most momentous event in history. They viewed all history as
either the prelude to or aftermath of that event. The early historians did not study deeply the
other cultures except the religious field. In early 16TheCentury, the national viewpoint arose. It
based largely on political philosophy of Machiavelli. He said that the proper object of
historical study was state. Historians became interested in other cultures during the Age
of Enlightenment. They developed a secular viewpoint in 18thecentury. The French
philosopher Voltaire used principles of rational criticism in viewing beyond the
provincialism of earlier historical thinking. However, his attempts of universal history
suffered from his own biases. In early 19theCentury, Romantic Movement arose and
philosophers and historians criticized on the 18theCentury idea that people were the same
everywhere at all times. The German philosophers Johann Von Herder and George
Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel emphasized that there were profound differences in the minds
and works of humans indifferent cultures. According to modern historians of
civilizations, it is impossible to write fully understandable history of any nation without
taking in consideration the types of culture to which it belongs. They state that many
distinctive characteristics are the base of life of a nation or state. The country consists of a
larger social entity, and this entity is cultural rather political. In modern times, the
existing civilizations have effects more and more on one another that no one civilization
is achieving a separate destiny anymore and all may be considered participants in a
common world civilization. Some historians see striking uniformities in the histories of
civilizations. The German philosopher Oswald Spengler described civilizations as living
organisms, each of which passed through identical stages at fixed periods. The British

historian Arnold Toynbee is not so rigid determinist as Spengler is and points out a
uniform pattern in the history of civilizations. According to Toynbee, a civilization may
prolong its life indefinitely by successful responses to the various internal and external
challenges. Many historians are skeptical of philosophies of history derived from an
alleged pattern of the past. They are reluctant to base predictions about the future on such
theories. Many historians studied the civilizations on personal biases. In ancient times,
Herodotus studied many cultures but found his own Western Greek culture superior to all
others. Western Civilization embraces North and South America and Europe excluding
Russia and the British Self-governing dominions. In this civilization, the
2.United States is leading the all other countries. All the characteristics that distinguish
the West from the East are most marked and developed in America. We are accustomed to take
progress for granted; to assume without hesitation that the changes, which have happened
during the last hundred years, were for the better, and that further changes for the better are
sure to follow indefinitely. The great wars have made a blow to this concept and men have begun
to look back the time before 1914 as a golden age. However, the countries like China
have made much progress without changing its culture. It is as the same as a hundred and fifty
years before. The civilization of China is based on the teachings of Confucius. Like the
Greeks and Romans, he did not think of human society as naturally progressive. He
believed that in old ages, rulers had been wise, and the people had been happy to a
degree, which the degenerate present could admire but hardly achieve. Confucius aimed
to creating as table society, maintaining a certain level of excellence, but he did not strive
after new successes. His personality has been stamped on Chinese Civilization from his
day to our own. The Confucian system survived, bringing with it art and literature and civilized ways
of life. It is only in our own day, through contact with the West and the westernized
Japanese that this system has begun to break.