West 是一个概念。它不仅仅是从空间上来看。从太空看蓝白相间的地球能够分辨出非洲的形状， 依靠着大西洋，印度洋，红海，和地中海。大洋洲，美洲，甚至南极洲被周围的颜色更暗的水分割成蓝绿色的小块。但是没有类似的东西将亚洲与欧洲分离，从东到西。从100英里高空观看，West本身是看不见的。尽管宇航员们能够看到巨大的欧亚大陆蜿蜒环绕着北半球，乌拉尔山脉——东方和西方理论上的分界线——从太空看去，微弱的显现出来。当然，他们不如高大的喜马拉雅山脉，阿尔普山脉，甚至是高加索山脉，给人印象深刻。非地质学家武断的定义乌拉尔山脉应该是欧洲和亚洲的分界线 。甚至这个定义被用了几个世纪。起初，欧洲只是一个涉及到希腊中心的名字。逐渐的，希腊人将它的定义扩大为整个希腊大陆，然后大陆向北方延伸。后来，罗马征服者和士兵们将欧洲北部和西部划入了它现代的范围内。亚洲的范围随着时间开始变大。起初，亚洲只是现在土耳其内陆从爱琴海开始很小的一部分。逐渐的，随着希腊扩张者开始了解到东方，北方和南方更遥远的陆地，他们扩大了他们对于亚洲的理解，包括了顿河以北和红海以南的东部的一切。
The West is an idea. It is not visible from space. An astronaut viewing the blue-and-white terrestrial sphere can make out the forms of Africa,bounded by the Atlantic,the Indian Ocean,the Red Sea,and the Mediterranean. Australia,the Americas,and even Antarctica are distinct patches of blue-green in the darker waters that surround them. But nothing comparable separates Asia from Europe,East from West. Viewed from 100 miles up,the West itself is invisible. Although astronauts can see the great Eurasian landmass curving around the Northern Hemisphere,the Ural Mountains-the theoretical boundary between East and West-appear faint from space. Certainly they are less impressive than the towering Himalayas,the Alps,or even the Caucasus.People,not geology,determined that the Urals should be the arbitrary boundary between Europe and Asia.Even this determination took centuries. Originally,Europe was a name that referred only to central Greece. Gradually,Greeks extended it to include the whole Greek mainland and then the landmass to the north. Later,Roman explorers and soldiers carried Europe north and west to its modern boundaries. Asia too grew with time. Initially,Asia was only that small portion of what is today Turkey inland from the Aegean Sea. Gradually,as Greek explorers came to know of lands farther east,north,and south,they expanded their understanding of Asia to include everything east of the Don River to north and of the Red Sea to the south.
Western civilization is as much an idea as the West itself. Under the right conditions,astronauts can see the Great Wall of China snaking its way from the edge of the Himalayas to the Yellow Sea. No comparable physical legacy of the West if so massive that its details can be discerned from space. Nor are Western achievements rooted forever in one corner of the world. What we call Western civilization belongs to no particular place. Its location has changed since the origins of civilization,that is,the cultural and social traditions characteristic of the civitas,or city. "Western" cities appeared first outside the "West",in the Tigris and Euphrates river basins in present-day Iraq and Iran,a region that we today call the Middle East. These areas have never lost their urban traditions,but in time,other cities in North Africa,Greece,and Italy adapter and expanded this heritage.
Western technology for harnessing nature,Western forms of economic and political organization,Western styles of art and music are-for good or ill-dominant influences in world civilization. Japan is a leading power in the Western traditions of capitalist commerce and technology. China,the most populous country in the world,adheres to Marxist socialist principles-a European political tradition. Millions of people in Africa,Asia,and the Americas follow the religions of Islam and Christianity,both of which developed from Judaism in the cradle of Western civilization.