The Awakening of Western Legal Thought

The Awakening of Western Legal Thought

The Awakening of Western Legal Thought

The Awakening of Western Legal Thought

Excerpt

In an age when Europe has been shaken twice within less than a generation by the terrific shock of a world-war, when the very existence of the Western world as we have known it seems to be threatened, it may perhaps cause some surprise that we should proceed to examine our conceptions of law in their relation to the Greco-Roman sphere of civilization, and even discourse upon their beginnings. And yet this seems the very time to undertake such a task.

That which has made the greatness of Europe and its dominions, that which has endowed the thought of the West, and of the civilized world, with true nobility of sentiment, it owes in the last resort to the great and simple humanity -- humanity in the best sense of the word -- revealed to us by the uninhibited authors of the ancient world. In the whole realm of the intellect you will find nothing truly great that has not in some time and place, in its historical development, received illumination from the vast treasury of ideas which the ancients have bequeathed to us as an imperishable legacy. Not only has Roman Law -- however disguised by the codification of the laws in the civilized States -- continued to manifest its vitality over a period of two thousand years; not only has the tragedy and comedy of ancient Greece persisted as an effective influence, revealing itself in many forms, through ancient Rome, in the Renaissance, the classical French drama of the seventeenth century, and the literature of the present day; not only have the ideologies of the Orphics, the Pythagoreanism of the Platonists, and the mysticism of Philo Judaeus contributed to the creation of the spiritual world-power of Christianity; but the thoughts of men concerning State and society, rich and poor, proletariat, middle class, and aristocracy, even though they have often taken the colour of the changing times, have never in their essence evolved beyond what the ancients have told us so simply and profoundly, and what the Sophists, in particular, have contrived so frankly to emphasize. Nor must we forget that even the so-called exact sciences, such as mathematics, physics and astronomy, and the natural sciences, such . . .

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