The Value of a Civilization: Exploring the Relationship Between Development and Technique

Lucas Charbonnier

Hatched by Lucas Charbonnier

Apr 04, 2024

4 min read


The Value of a Civilization: Exploring the Relationship Between Development and Technique


Civilizations throughout history have been diverse and unique in their own ways. One aspect that sets certain civilizations apart is their level of technological development. But does the development of techniques truly signify progress in a civilization? This article aims to delve into the relationship between technique, progress, and power, as well as the relative nature of values in civilizations. Additionally, we will explore the concept of nature versus culture and whether they can be opposed in human beings.

I. Technique, Progress, and Power:

  • 1. Masters of Nature: One common belief is that the mastery of nature leads to improved human life. By efficiently controlling and utilizing nature, human material needs can be better satisfied. This ultimately enables a more comfortable and prosperous life for individuals and allows humanity to achieve great aspirations.
  • 2. Economic and Political Dominance: A developed technique signifies the power of a state as it imposes its rules upon others. It is tempting to rank civilizations based on their specific technological advancements. Each civilization is seen as a step in an evolutionary process that propels humanity towards increasingly technologically advanced societies.

II. The Relative Nature of Values:

  • 1. The Risk of Ethnocentrism: Civilizations have a tendency to look down upon those that differ from their own. Ethnocentrism occurs when we place our own ethnic group as the reference model. However, according to Levi Strauss, there is no universal model for the hierarchical values of civilizations. This may be because every civilization fears what is dissimilar to them.
  • 2. Other Possible Value Criteria: The Western civilization has dedicated itself to technological progress over the past few centuries, aiming to provide increasingly powerful mechanical means to mankind. However, it is a mistake to consider this as a universal criterion. The degree of adaptation to hostile geographical environments could also be a valid measure of a civilization's value.

III. Nature vs. Culture:

  • 1. Culture as Denaturation: Culture can be seen as a force that separates humans from their natural state. According to Rousseau, human essence consists of two primal sentiments: self-love and compassion. The ability to progress and regress is tied to the plasticity of human nature, allowing individuals to emerge from their natural state through accidental events that force them to unite.
  • 2. Culture Realizes Human Nature: Individuals are products of their interactions and learning. Natural qualities that humans possess in potential would not fully develop without the influence of culture. Therefore, culture plays a vital role in the realization and fulfillment of human nature. Education, distinct from mere training, is essential for the development of humanity.

IV. Overcoming the Nature vs. Culture Opposition:

  • 1. The Impossible Distinction: It is actually impossible to separate the innate and acquired aspects of human beings. When faced with hunger, humans do not merely eat but rather prepare meals and engage in communal dining. The boundaries between nature and culture blur, making it challenging to draw a clear distinction.
  • 2. The Non-Existence of Human Nature: The existence of a fixed human nature is debatable. According to Sartre, "existence precedes essence." Each individual defines their own nature through their actions and choices. Humans have few instincts compared to animals and plants, leaving them vulnerable. As Kant suggests, individuals must create their own plan of conduct.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Embrace Cultural Diversity: Recognize and appreciate the unique values and techniques of various civilizations. Avoid ethnocentrism and strive for a more inclusive worldview.
  • 2. Foster Holistic Education: Promote education that goes beyond training and emphasizes the development of critical thinking, empathy, and creativity. This will contribute to the fulfillment of human potential.
  • 3. Encourage Environmental Sustainability: Consider a civilization's ability to adapt and thrive in challenging geographical environments as a measure of its value. Prioritize sustainable practices to ensure the long-term well-being of both societies and the planet.


The value of a civilization cannot be solely determined by its technological development. It is essential to recognize the relative nature of values and avoid ethnocentrism. Furthermore, the opposition between nature and culture is not absolute, as culture plays a crucial role in realizing human potential. By embracing cultural diversity, promoting holistic education, and prioritizing environmental sustainability, we can foster a more inclusive and balanced approach to evaluating civilizations.

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