reply to post by Spider879
What is your definition of civilization, some would claimed it have to include writing, others states craft and complex bureaucracies art and a
'Civilisation' is a hard word to define. Etymologically, it means 'citification'. That's actually not a bad definition in a way, because it implies
some of the other attributes of civilisation. But those other attributes are probably more important than mere living in cities. To complicate
matters, not all civilisations tick all the boxes.
Let's look at the list you provide above. Bureaucracy implies literacy, for it cannot exist without written records. And bureaucracy is important,
because it implies not just a central authority but also one that functions according to established procedures. And when you have that, you have a
state whose continuity is not dependent on a particular ruler or dynasty—they come and go, but the state endures. Some of the attributes of a
civilised state are the rule of law (the more uniform and impersonal in application and interpretation the more civilised) and a practical state
monopoly on violence that allows people to go about their business without constantly having to fear attacks on themselves, their families and their
property. So my definition would include these things.
Civilised societies also apply bureaucratic management to the business of warfare. Civilised states have armies of trained men that fight and are
supplied in well-organised ways, as opposed to the guerrilla raids and roundhouse melées of barbarian warfare.
And yes, civilisation also implies the existence what you call a 'reflective class'. The culture should generate sufficient economic surplus to free a
large number of people from the burden of producing their own sustenance, allowing them the gift of leisure. People at leisure need diversions—thus
a civilised community is identifiable by its art, philosophy (or at least theology), sports and games, manners and etiquette, its medicine and above
all by its science. The more refined and advanced these are, the more economic surplus and leisure they imply—over time as well as at any given
instant of history. So the refinement of these things is one measure of how civilised a community is. Another measure is the number of people who have
the leisure to enjoy and participate in these diversions—the more broadly leisure is enjoyed, the more civilised the community.
Perhaps the most important definition of all is personal. The civilised man or woman views himself as a functioning unit in a vast, complex web of
interconnected institutions and processes that work in predictable ways. He can see the picture, see how it evolved, and look forward to its
continuance. He has a sense of history and a sense of civic geography. His life is not wholly exposed to the vicissitudes of nature and the whims of
tyrants. He can predict accurately what he will be doing in a year, five years or ten years from now, or at least has good reason to believe he can.
, to me, civilisation.
Whether or not the various cultures of prehistoric sub-Saharan Africa conform to my definition, and whether the definition itself is legitimate, are
matters I leave to your opinion. Obviously, I already have mine.
Allow me to add one thing more. Human civilisation evolved independently, as far as we know, in a mere handful of places—Mesopotamia, Egypt, the
Indus Valley, China, South America and probably Crete. From these centres it was diffused across the rest of the world, and through trade its fruits
could be enjoyed even by those who had yet to attain it. One need give no credit to the Greeks or Romans for being civilised; the business had already
been invented for them by others. But what one should give them credit for—enormous credit—is the degree of refinement to which they brought it,
in their different ways. Western civilisation consists largely in the elaboration and dissemination of their achievements.
We've come a long way from Moors' heads on coats of arms, haven't we?
edit on 21/2/13 by Astyanax because: of (im)personality.