>What is ‘Civilisation’? What is it to be ‘civilised’? Posted on May 18, 2010 by thebigqs 8 comments > In addition to the above questions, are we the only civilised ones? Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading... Related Philosophy Society
>Briefly – civilisation is a contract between ourselves and the others members of the society in which we are apart. I societal stucture brakes down then most would forfeit civillisation for self preservation (the two can go hand in hand in a civillised world, but self preservation might totally overide the desire to be civilised.
>If civilisation and the need self-preservation can conflict then to what end is the contract of civilisation made?
>As I said, usually civilisation and self preservation go hand in hand (i.e. in a civilised world people tend to live longer). And usually only if civilisation breaks down does self preservation override the desire to be civilised.However the two can conflict – for instance accidents can happen in a civilised society and people might 'choose' to save themselves rather than go into danger to help othes. In such cases I suggest that the contract of civilisation is made according to 'doing the right thing' and 'loving your neighbor' etc as opposed to 'preserving youself'. But yes, generally civilisation and self preservation have many of the same goals.There is thus a constant balance between self preservation (from fighting to get a decent job to fighting for your life) and being civilised.And Robins cracked it again. Agree with me or disagree? make a move fly boy.
>lol. Fly boy? No idea where that comes from.Anyway.. Yes of course I agree with you. The beginning of civilisation is much debated. Archaeologists commonly classify it according to four characteristics: writing, cities, organised religion and specialised occupations. Now clearly they appeared at different times so there was never one such contract (I know that's not what you're suggesting). Yet they all have one thing in common: they're about human activities that have been permitted by the decreasing difficulties of self-preservation i.e. advances in agriculture, storage and such forth. Civilisation in effect is what humanity pursues after achieving self-preservation and in the strive towards further improving quality of life. Hence as Robin says, when self-preservation becomes more difficult we return to the pursuit of it, and no longer have the time or efforts to pursue civilised activities. This is why I believe humanity is the most civilised species (because it has the brains to make self-preservation easier), and also why richer areas became and continue to become more civilised faster.There are a couple of problems here however. I would argue that those four characteristics are no longer what marks civilisation. The logic about it being what we pursue after securing self-preservation still applies. Yet some people spend their spare time on very 'un-civilised' activities. And these are not always simply the minorities either. Think for example about the mobs of Rome who cheered people being hacked to death in the gladitorial arena. This is where I think that what we judge civilisation by today is very unique in human history. In Roman times it was seen as perfectly acceptable to like such things, and even considered quite civilised occasionally. Yet Robin, in saying that "'doing the right thing' and 'loving your neighbor'" are the things that mark civilisation, was not wrong. I would argue that in the last 2 thousand years a sense of morality has been firmly intertwined within our viewpoints about what it is to be civilised. And this has evolved from those four characteristics listed earlier, particularly religion.
>hhmm, your last sentence Rob. Morality is central to civilisation, and religion particularly is responsible.hhmm.Aristotle, and the other Greek philosophers were practicing morality long before the Romans were watching the gladiators. Rome therefore cannot be claimed to have been the height of ancient civilisation based on it's moral code, there was obviously a lot more that made Rome stand out.Second, Religion as everybody knows has been involved in just as much bloodshed as the Romans ever were.The period of Enlightment in history is so called because soceity started to move away from the teachings of the church, part of which was repressive dogma.In essence i don't like you throwing morality into marriage with religion.
>"Aristotle, and the other Greek philosophers were practicing morality long before the Romans were watching the gladiators." Correct, most often referred to as "virtues". I did not dispute that. Think about it, how wide spread were their ideas? Why did they get so famous if they weren't new? Socrates often spoke about how annoyed he became when talking to the elite of society and finding out how little they thought, or indeed pursued the 'higher virtues'. Greek philosophy is an example of the other three characteristics shaping our ideas about civilisation. Athens was the great city of it's time; writing exploded onto the scene with Plato's generation (Socrates had argued against it, saying it would damage the memory), and due to the amount of time the Greek Philosophers had they became specialised philosophers, even founding the first Academies (models for our modern universities)."Rome therefore cannot be claimed to have been the height of ancient civilisation based on it's moral code". You misunderstood. Our modern sense of morality was in fact just beginning to take shape in Roman times with the mixture of Judeo-Christian ethics and those of the Ancient Greeks into Stoicism, which reached accross social classes, claiming slaves and Emperors (e.g. Marcus Aurelius) alike as believers. My point was that morality was not inter-woven within the Roman sense of civilisation as it is woven into our sense of civilisation today."Religion as everybody knows has been involved in just as much bloodshed as the Romans ever were." Correct. But religion still taught moral virtues nonetheless. Whether you like it or not your sense of morality is profoundly shaped by religious ethical teachings.The Enlightenment did not so much move away from religious ethics as build upon them. Indeed this is a matter of opinion anyway, for many enlightened thinkers consider themselves religious and vice versa.
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