Rational Thought and Technological Advancement


The notion of rational thought is a very strong reason technology has become so influential in the world today. The “opening” of the mind influenced all ways of life and society. Major ideas blossomed like politics, governing laws, literature, art, history, and new inventions. Scientific thinking was groundbreaking. Ideas of mathematics, astronomy, architecture, and anatomy engrossed the public. The revolution of rational thought dominated society and began a transition because people began using reason to explain human and natural events, rather than the gods. Many Philosophers with their rational thought put things in motion for people to begin to question what influenced their lives in the time of Enlightenment and the French Revolution. Rational thinking gave birth to new inventors to include Hero or Heron of Alexandria. It also made its impact on the way inventions would work throughout history into modern times. Three major contributors to the theory of rational thought were Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. With their search for more knowledge came newer teaching for others, which began a new revolution of education. People were questioning the major factors that ran their lives. The rights people were questioning were their choice of religion, their social standing, and their government and laws. Within these times new governments and laws were formed along with new theories of art and new technological advances. Scientific thinking was groundbreaking among Greek minds. Ideas of mathematics, astronomy, architecture, and anatomy engrossed the public. During times like the industrial revolution technology came into play through rational thought. People began to think of ways to better themselves and took on the theory to better their work. People began to question the meanings of life and began using their minds to expand the world. Even today, rational thought is used by all of us and continues to influence society.


The creation of rational thought began with the Age of Enlightenment. People believed that human reason could be used to combat ignorance, superstition, and tyranny and to build a better world. Their principal targets were
religion (embodied in France in the Catholic Church) and the domination of society by a hereditary aristocracy. (Brian, Paul) The citizens were open to new ideas and influenced by traders from around the world. Laws were invented and written down to express the will of their society. Although, monarchies still often ruled during the 1700s, but with less security than in earlier times. The English executed their king in 1642, France executed their king and queen (in 1793 and 1794 respectively) during the French Revolution, and other European monarchies soon fell. Royal instability suggested insecurity of the social order over which aristocracies had ruled. (McClure, Beverly) During the Age of Enlightenment politics and democracy exploded. The French Revolution began due to the fact that people were now thinking of themselves and not how they could serve others. The French Revolution, was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France that had a lasting impact on French history and more broadly throughout Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed within three years. French society underwent an epic transformation, as feudal, aristocratic and religious privileges evaporated under a sustained assault from radical left-wing political groups, masses on the streets, and peasants in the countryside. Old ideas about tradition and hierarchy regarding monarchs, aristocrats, and the Catholic Church were abruptly overthrown by new principles liberty, equality and fraternity. The royal houses across Europe were horrified and led a counter-crusade that by 1814 had restored the old monarchy, but many


major reforms became permanent. So too did antagonisms between the supporters and enemies of the Revolution, who fought it out politically over the next two centuries. People were also thinking of how they could make their individual lives better. New inventions to include the Millennium Clock, the spinning jenny, and steam powered products were realized during this time. Although steam powered products were not really realized until this time they were invented long before. Hero or Heron of Alexandria was an ancient Greek mathematician and engineer who was active in his native city of Alexandria, Roman Egypt. He is considered the greatest experimenter of
antiquity and his work is representative of the Hellenistic scientific tradition. Hero published a well-recognized description of a steam-powered device called an aeolipile (hence sometimes called a “Hero engine”). Among his most famous inventions was a wind wheel, constituting the earliest instance of wind harnessing on land. He is said to have been a follower of the Atomists. Some of his ideas were derived from the works of Ctesibius. Although, much of Hero’s original writings and designs have been lost, but some of his works were preserved in Arab manuscripts. The first steam powered invention fully used turned up in the 18th century. Since the beginning of the 18th century, many inventors and designers had been hard at work trying to get steam to function as an industrial power source. Many technical problems stood in the way, but one inventor, James Watts, took the bull by the horns and developed a condenser, a double-acting engine and governor to make the steam engine practical as a new energy source. After the Revolution, Politicians and citizens were able to debate issues and question justice. This form of independent thinking brought great pride and self-confidence to members of


society. On 10 June 1789, Abbé Sieyès moved that the Third Estate, now meeting as the Communes proceed with verification of its own powers and invite the other two estates to take part, but not to wait for them. They proceeded to do so two days later, completing the process on 17 June. Then they voted a measure far more radical, declaring themselves the National Assembly, an assembly not of the Estates but of “the People.” Philosophy and rational thinking continued to grow throughout the world in the next few centuries. Rational thought had become the most dominant ideology in Western Civilization. Philosophers aimed to examine human happiness, self-control, and equality. Also, there was a major focus on the study of science. Understanding the world from the human required many philosophers to devote immense research in science. In turn this influenced how the western world reasoned and used rational thought. This allowed for huge successes for further Philosophy, architecture, art, mathematics, anatomy, botany, literature, and creativity. A few Greek philosophers named Socrates, Plato,
and Aristotle were rational thinkers who influenced their worlds. These three contemporary “wise men” influenced Western Civilization and technology with their quest for knowledge and thought, and their writings that are still widely read today! Socrates believed that knowledge was the key to good life and that knowledge led to happy citizens with good moral conduct.(Kemerling, Garth) One of the best known sayings of Socrates is “I only know that I know nothing”. The conventional interpretation of this remark is that Socrates’ wisdom was limited to an awareness of his own ignorance. Socrates believed wrongdoing was a consequence of ignorance and those who did wrong knew


no better. The one thing Socrates consistently claimed to have knowledge of was “the art of love”, which he connected with the concept of “the love of wisdom”, i.e., philosophy. He never actually claimed to be wise, only to understand the path a lover of wisdom must take in pursuing it. It is debatable whether Socrates believed humans (as opposed to gods like Apollo) could actually become wise. On the one hand, he drew a clear line between human ignorance and ideal knowledge; on the other, Plato’s Symposium (Diotima’s Speech) and Republic (Allegory of the Cave) describe a method for ascending to wisdom. His beliefs and questions angered many of his peers so much, that they convicted him of corrupting society and sentenced him to death. Plato was Socrates’ student and “he displays in his works his absorption in the political events and intellectual movements of his time, but the questions he raises are so profound and the strategies he uses for tackling them so richly suggestive and provocative that educated readers of nearly every period have in some way been influenced by him, and in practically every age there have been philosophers who count themselves Platonists in some important respects”.(Kraut, Richard) He sought knowledge on creating a perfect society. Also, he opened a school for rational thought called the Academy. In this school, he stressed that knowledge was found through debate and the conflict created from them. There is great debate on how Plato died. There are many theories to include him dying in his sleep and dying at a wedding feast. The last of the three great Greek philosophers
was Aristotle. Aristotle was a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. He was a writer of logic, politics, and biology. He summarized most of the previous knowledge of philosophy into his own writings. Aristotle collected constitutions from many Greek states, researched them, and provided ideas for greater political thought. Questions arose from every


debate or conversation and rational thought exploded. Due to the rise of all the questions on life, and possible answers, rational thought surfaced. New centers for education began opening around the world. These centers spread new ideas including: writing and rhetoric, mathematics, innovations, arts, technologies, and medicines. Also, there was a major focus on the study of science. Understanding the world from the human required many philosophers to devote immense research in science. In turn this influenced how the western world reasoned and used rational thought. Rational Thinking began to grow. It made people begin to think of things in a whole new light, to include how their lives could be made easier with new inventions. Alexandria was the site of creative inventors and scientific researchers. Citizens there built a huge library called the “House of the Muses.” The library grew to include star observatories, lecture halls, and laboratories, and also held over half a million manuscripts. Rational thought allowed scientists and inventors a better understanding of the world around them. Mathematicians like Euclid and Archimedes studied geometry and higher mathematics (Encyclopedia Britannica). Archimedes also invented a screw pump that lifted water from the ground. (Noel, William) Others invented navigational instruments and mapmaking abilities for ships out at sea, built small steam engines, and even washing machines. Geographers tried to map the world, while astronomers questioned life outside the world. Alexandria was, unfortunately, destroyed by the Christians in the fourth century. (Chesser, Preston) Imagine what the world would be like if all the knowledge and


research had made it out of Alexandria. The information that did survive the destruction continues to help researchers to this day. Overall, rational thought is something most of us take for granted. It is from the rational thought influence that we are able to think for ourselves and make well thought out decisions. Rational thought gave the individual a new outlook on their daily lives and how they could step away from the old way of living under the heel of the church. It is from the Greek influence that we are able to think for ourselves and make rational decisions. Great minds have helped contribute to this great civilization we live in. The world has forever been changed by the ability to reason and question reality. Without the humble beginnings of rational thought our world may not be as advanced in technology as it is today. The Western world has forever been changed by the ability to reason and question reality. Many future civilizations used the thoughts of famous Greeks and today rational thought is more powerful than ever. The most valuable things in the world are just trinkets compared to the value of the mind. From the beginning of the age rational thought our modern civilizations have been based around how to make our lives easier with better decisions. We are accustomed to thinking of rationality as a feature of modern societies. Modernity has been accompanied by an unprecedented growth of science and the breakdown of many taboos. We are able, as our ancestors were not, to question everything, choose our leaders, and

build on reliable knowledge accumulated over the past few hundred years. This is why modernity appears to us as a value that must be preserved.

Brian, Paul 1998, “The Enlightment”, Washington University McClure, Beverly, “The Enlightenment, Age of Reason” Southwest Tennessee Community College Kemerling, Garth, “Socrates” (1997) Kraut, Richard, “Plato”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (summer 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), Britannica,
Encyclopedia, 2006, “The Elements”, Noel, William, “The Archimedes Palimpsest”, (2006), Chesser, Preston “The Burning of the Library of Alexandria”, (2002),

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