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Ancient Greek Philosophers’ Impact on Modern Thought


The contemporary level of the development of humanity greatly depends on the contributions made by the ancestors. When discussing Ancient Greece, a variety of discoveries and theories serve as a profound validation of the long-lasting legacy of the pioneers in philosophy. The modern generations owe the essentials of primary sciences, including physics, political sciences, epistemology, economy, mathematics, and many others, to Ancient Greeks.

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The principles of thinking and the methods of analyzing knowledge discussed and practically used by the philosophers of those times are still implemented in academic fields and provide solid ground for further development of thought. In this paper, several examples of Ancient Greek philosopher’s contributions to modernity will be presented including the achievement of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.

Socrates’ Impact on Modern Philosophy

The contemporary structure of thoughtful perceiving the world and explaining the processes taking place in it owes its theoretical background to a prominent philosopher of Ancient Greece, Socrates. He is known as one of the earliest Greek thinkers whose works are known today. There are no written works by this philosopher known today, but his thoughts and ideas were presented in accounts created by Plato (Rutherford 1). Despite the scarce availability of materials, the ideas he brought into the scope of philosophy remain relevant until today.

Socrates claimed that to understand something it is crucial to question it from different angles. Such a mindset of questioning all the arguments and trying to receive answers laid a basis for contemporary critical thinking (Rutherford 3-4).

This idea is articulated in the Socratic method that widely applies to different areas of science in contemporary academic circles. This method is described in the Socratic questioning framework and consists of six basic types of questions. They include such question types as clarification, assumption, perspective, reason/evidence, consequence, and meta-question (Rutherford 3-4). When attempting to find a response to a question from this list, a person might find the necessary answers to validate the knowledge.

From the modern perspective, these questions are vital in forming one’s critical thinking. As presented by Rutherford, contemporary philosophers strive to interpret the basics of the Socratic method to apply it to the current life (6). Questioning the proofs, evidence, and the logic of everything, one might obtain pure knowledge-based conclusions made upon receiving answers. Such an approach is the foundation for contemporary law, ethics, education, and politics. It gave the beginning of skepticism as a direction in epistemology. Therefore, the impact Socrates has on modern thought is difficult to overestimate. Not only his beliefs survived centuries but they were also transformed into new ideas that are relevant for a contemporary person.

Plato’s Contribution to Contemporary Thought

Another great thinker of Ancient Greece who made an impact on philosophy as science was Plato. Many works created by this philosopher have been saved until the modern days and remain influential in the area of scientific thought. The majority of ideas introduced by Plato became a solid basis for the development of ethics, physics, and politics. His most famous work under the title “The Republic” is devoted to the description of an ideal government which, in Plato’s opinion, could not be democratic (Gilje and Skirbekk 55). Although the specific views expressed by the thinker in this tractate are not applied in modern Western society, a lot of Plato’s ideas find their place in modern life.

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The theory of ideas and knowledge presented by Plato made a significant contribution to the evolution of epistemology. He claimed that people could not obtain true knowledge about one idea but perceive the world through a complex system of intertwined concepts and their meanings (Gilje and Skirbekk 53). Thus, all ideas could be understood only with the help of knowledge or critical thinking where the appearance of things as opposed to their true nature (Rutherford 2-3). A dualistic approach was the basis for the thinker’s theories and found its reflection in diverse approaches to the fields of knowledge Plato investigated.

With the help of the theory of ideas and knowledge, Plato managed to extend the scope of ethics, epistemology, and political science as modern humanity knows them now. The dualistic nature of ideas and knowledge formed the conceptual oppositions that are currently relevant. They include “problems of relativism and absolutism, right and might, egoism and altruism, individual and society, and reason and feelings” (Gilje and Skirbekk 38).

Returning to “The Republic” as the main work by Plato, the philosopher’s application of his theory to the earlier presented ethical-political was a counter-argument questioning the universal political order as a notion. Such a way of thinking and use of classic approaches to politics and ethics is relevant in contemporary discourse. Overall, the acute attention Plato paid to education and the significant role of philosophers as the leaders of any society he validated made the development of philosophy as an academic discipline possible throughout the centuries.

Aristotle’s Legacy in Modern Thought

Being Plato’s student, Aristotle inherited the basis of the philosophic ideas from his teacher and managed to develop them into his broad system of thought. It is considered that Aristotle is the most outstanding philosopher of Ancient Greece and his contribution to modern thought is very influential, which is observed in a variety of modern disciplines. The methods and principles introduced by this theorist are still used in scientific discourse, and their author is regarded as the “founder of Western philosophy” (Rutherford 7). Aristotle investigated a great variety of subjects and enriched the theoretical background for such disciplines as politics, social science, physics, and metaphysics.

There are many proofs of Aristotle’s impact on modern thinking including his views on methods of thought, education, and perceived knowledge. According to Rutherford, this ancient thinker is very influential in “current critical thinking models and practices” (7). He underlined the necessity of precise choice of words and constructions to deliver the exact meaning of an utterance. This essential idea is relevant in the scientific field until today.

Also, a broad implementation of the method of deduction that allows for deciding based on logical reasoning was introduced in the form of a syllogism. This method is based on the consideration that involves two premises and one conclusion, “where the conclusion follows with logical necessity from the premises” (Gilje and Skirbekk 77). Such an approach to logical reasoning stays relevant in the modern academic discourse and becomes a basis for the development of logic as a science.

Priority of education as the only possible way to purify knowledge was one of the essential ideas elaborated by Aristotle. In the philosopher’s opinion, every individual is given knowledge, but it takes hard work of learning that can lead to its practical use. Only a person who works at the limit of his or her capabilities could perform properly and reach independent thinking and harmonious life (Gilje and Skirbekk 81). The educational discourse of modernity utilizes the ideas introduced by Aristotle when they articulate the importance of studying. Broadening the concept of educational importance introduced by his teacher, Aristotle contributed to the current understanding of learning and studying.

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Summarizing the discussion, it is impossible to overrate the scope of influence the philosophers of Ancient Greece made on modern thought. They were the first to attempt the articulation of complexity of the manifestations of life, authority, knowledge, faith, and virtue that formed the foundation for multiple sciences developing today. The current level of advancement in mathematics, ethics, political sciences, epistemology, pedagogy, and theology is connected with the fundamental contributions made by Ancient Greek philosophers. The most prominent ones were Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.

Socrates’ method of questioning any argument to achieve an understanding of true knowledge is relevant in the modern academic and educational fields, as well as in ethics, politics, and theology. His follower, Plato, introduced the theory of ideas and knowledge that formed a dualistic approach to perceiving the world. Aristotle influenced the modernity by articulating the primary importance of education and proficiency in the life of any person and enriched the theoretical basis of the majority of sciences that are developing today. In general, these theorists’ legacy enabled philosophy to strive throughout centuries and provided a solid basis for the advancement of modern thought.

Works Cited

Gilje, Nils, and Gunnar Skirbekk. A History of Western Thought: From Ancient Greece to the Twentieth Century. Routledge, 2017.

Rutherford, Albert. Lessons from Critical Thinkers: Methods for Clear Thinking and Analysis in Everyday Situations from the Greatest Thinkers in History. Publish Drive, 2019.

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