The Intersection of Human Conduct and Technological Progress: Exploring Nature and Civilization

Lucas Charbonnier

Lucas Charbonnier

Dec 23, 20234 min read


The Intersection of Human Conduct and Technological Progress: Exploring Nature and Civilization


The relationship between human behavior and the natural world has long been a subject of contemplation. Similarly, the development of technology has significantly shaped the course of human civilizations. In this article, we will delve into the concepts of natural law, the value of civilizations, and the relative nature of societal progress. By examining these interconnected topics, we can gain insights into how nature influences human conduct and evaluate the true worth of technological advancements.

Part 1: The Modern Notions of Natural Law

1. John Locke and the Natural Right to Property:

John Locke, an influential political philosopher, argued that individuals have a natural right to property. According to him, this right is derived from the inherent qualities of human nature. Locke believed that the pursuit of property is essential for human flourishing and is an ethical safeguard against excess. By recognizing and embracing this natural order, individuals can find fulfillment and harmony within themselves.

Part 2: The Possibility of Social Contracts Based on Human Nature

1. Thomas Hobbes and the Social Contract:

Thomas Hobbes, another prominent philosopher, proposed the idea of a social contract based on human nature. He posited that individuals willingly surrender some of their freedoms to a governing authority in exchange for security and stability. This social contract is rooted in the understanding that humans are driven by self-interest and the fear of a chaotic state of nature. Hobbes believed that establishing a centralized power structure could mitigate conflicts and ensure a functioning society.

Part 3: Assessing the Value of a Civilization through Technological Advancement

1. Mastery of Nature and Improvement of Human Life:

One common perspective is that civilizations can be evaluated based on their technological development. The ability to effectively harness the forces of nature and improve human lives is seen as a hallmark of progress. Technological advancements enable a more comfortable and convenient way of life, allowing individuals to fulfill their material needs and pursue grand aspirations.

2. Economic and Political Dominance:

A civilization's possession of advanced technology often leads to economic and political dominance. A state with developed techniques can impose its rules and exert influence over other nations. Consequently, there is a temptation to rank civilizations based on their technological achievements. This perspective envisions each civilization as a stepping stone in an evolutionary process, propelling humanity towards increasingly technologically advanced forms of society.

Part 4: The Relative Nature of Civilizational Values

1. The Pitfalls of Ethnocentrism:

One must be cautious of ethnocentrism, which leads to the dismissal or belittlement of civilizations that differ from our own. Ethnocentrism occurs when we consider our own ethnic group as the standard for comparison. Anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss argued against the existence of a universal model for hierarchizing the values of civilizations. Disparities arise due to the fear each civilization harbors towards what is dissimilar to them.

2. Alternative Criteria for Evaluating Civilizations:

The Western civilization, in the past few centuries, has predominantly focused on technological advancement as a measure of progress. However, it is erroneous to establish this criterion as universal. Other potential criteria include a civilization's ability to adapt and thrive in hostile geographic environments. This broader perspective recognizes that civilizations can excel in different ways, not solely through technological achievements.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Embrace the natural order within: Reflect on the concept of living in harmony with nature and consider how it can guide ethical decision-making. By accepting and rediscovering the natural order within ourselves, we can strive towards a more balanced and fulfilling life.
  • 2. Foster cultural understanding: Combat ethnocentrism by actively seeking to understand and appreciate the values and perspectives of different civilizations. Engage in cross-cultural dialogues and challenge preconceived notions to cultivate a more inclusive worldview.
  • 3. Broaden the definition of progress: Expand our understanding of progress beyond technological advancements. Recognize that civilizations can excel in various domains, such as art, spirituality, resilience, and environmental stewardship. By embracing a multifaceted view of progress, we can appreciate the diverse contributions of different cultures.


The connection between human conduct and the natural world is intertwined with the progress of civilizations. Understanding the principles of natural law and social contracts rooted in human nature provides insights into ethical conduct and societal harmony. While technological advancements have undoubtedly shaped the course of human history, it is essential to recognize that evaluating civilizations solely based on technological progress can lead to a limited perspective. By embracing diverse criteria for evaluation and fostering cultural understanding, we can cultivate a more inclusive and holistic approach to assessing the values of civilizations.


  1. "La nature peut-elle être la norme des conduites humaines ?", (Glasp)
  2. "La valeur d'une civilisation se reconnaît-elle au développement de sa technique ?", (Glasp)

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