University of Virginia Library

Search this document 
Dictionary of the History of Ideas

Studies of Selected Pivotal Ideas
7 occurrences of Dictionary_of_the_History_of_Ideas
[Clear Hits]
  
  
expand section 
  
expand section 
  
  

expand sectionVI. 
expand sectionV. 
expand sectionVI. 
expand sectionI. 
expand sectionVI. 
expand sectionV. 
expand sectionIII. 
expand sectionIII. 
expand sectionVI. 
expand sectionVI. 
expand sectionV. 
expand sectionV. 
expand sectionIII. 
expand sectionVII. 
expand sectionVI. 
expand sectionVI. 
expand sectionIII. 
expand sectionIII. 
expand sectionII. 
expand sectionI. 
expand sectionI. 
expand sectionI. 
expand sectionV. 
expand sectionVII. 
expand sectionVI. 
expand sectionV. 
expand sectionIII. 
expand sectionIII. 
expand sectionIII. 
expand sectionII. 
expand sectionI. 
expand sectionI. 
expand sectionI. 
expand sectionVI. 
expand sectionVII. 
expand sectionIII. 
expand sectionVII. 
expand sectionVII. 
expand sectionVII. 
expand sectionV. 
expand sectionVI. 
expand sectionVI. 
expand sectionVI. 
expand sectionVI. 
expand sectionVI. 
expand sectionVII. 
expand sectionIII. 
expand sectionIV. 
expand sectionVI. 
expand sectionVI. 
expand sectionVI. 
expand sectionV. 
expand sectionV. 
expand sectionV. 
expand sectionIII. 
expand sectionIII. 
expand sectionVII. 
expand sectionIII. 
expand sectionI. 
expand sectionV. 
expand sectionV. 
expand sectionVII. 
expand sectionVI. 
expand sectionI. 
expand sectionI. 
expand sectionI. 
expand sectionI. 
expand sectionVI. 
expand sectionIII. 
expand sectionIV. 
expand sectionIII. 
expand sectionIV. 
collapse sectionIV. 
  
  
  
expand sectionIV. 
expand sectionVI. 
expand sectionVI. 
expand sectionVI. 
expand sectionV. 
expand sectionIII. 
expand sectionVI. 

7 occurrences of Dictionary_of_the_History_of_Ideas
[Clear Hits]

Semantic Origins. Both “culture” and “civilization”
derive their original meaning from Latin: from cultura
which referred to the cultivation of the soil, and from
civis which referred to the status of citizenship. In
Latin, however, both words also acquired secondary
meanings. Cicero, for example, used cultura in a trans-
ferred sense when he identified cultura animi (“culture
of the soul”) with philosophy or learning generally.
Civis denoted not only the fact of Roman citizenship,
but also its superiority over the primitive condition
of the foreigner or barbarian. In each case the acquired
as well as the literal meaning has lingered on into
modern times, although the words “culture” and “civi-
lization” themselves did not gain currency in European
thought until the second half of the eighteenth century.

The inherited meanings were, however, soon joined
by others. Indeed, even before the last decade of the
eighteenth century, the proliferation of meanings led
the German philosopher Johann Gottfried von Herder


614

to remark of “culture” that “nothing was more inde-
terminate than this word” (Works, Suphan ed., XIII,
4). Its extended usage in the subsequent period has not
enhanced its clarity. “Nothing in the world,” a
twentieth-century writer, A. Lawrence Lowell, com-
plains, “is more elusive.... An attempt to encompass
its meaning in words is like trying to seize the air in
the hand, when one finds that it is everywhere except
within one's grasp” (“Culture,” in At War With Aca-
demic Traditions in America,
Cambridge, Mass. [1934],
p. 115). Nonetheless, such attempts have been made.
A recent survey of the concept, by A. L. Kroeber and
Clyde Kluckhohn (Culture, 1952), brought no less than
164 definitions to light. Distinctions between “culture”
and “civilization” have also been rather abundant.

In some cases man's spiritual development has been
identified with culture, in others with civilization; the
same is true of man's control over nature and his
external social relations. Frequently man's moral de-
velopment and the improvement of his material condi-
tions or refinements of social manners have been
viewed as opposing, rather than reinforcing, tenden-
cies. Then again culture has been treated as a particular
component or stage of civilization, a sort of subculture
within a “superculture”; at other times culture has
been considered the more generic term while civili-
zation has been confined to the culture of cities. A
distinction commonly made is in terms of modes of
development, according to which civilization (defined
as “techniques”) is a continuous and cumulative proc-
ess, susceptible to generalizing methods and capable
of universal diffusion, whereas culture (defined as
“creativity”), occurring sporadically, is not susceptible
to these methods and not transferable.

On the other hand, a contemporary writer, Raymond
Williams, in his Culture and Society (1958, p. 16),
regards the concepts as sufficiently synonymous to
warrant the attribution of four jointly applicable
meanings: (1) a general state or habit of mind, having
close relations with the idea of human perfection; (2)
a general state of intellectual development in a society
as a whole; (3) the general body of the arts; and (4)
a whole way of life, material, intellectual, and spiritual.
The first three meanings have come to be associated
with what are called “humanistic” conceptions of cul-
ture, whereas the fourth meaning is usually associated
with “anthropological” approaches. Humanistic con-
ceptions are held to be selective, separating certain
segments of man's activities from others, and designat-
ing them as cultural; anthropological conceptions are
held to be nonselective, by applying “culture” to the
total fabric of man's life in a given society, to his entire
social heritage and whatever he may add to it. While
anthropologists eschew value judgments for fear of
succumbing to ethnocentrism, humanists maintain the
possibility, and indeed desirability, of evaluating di-
verse forms of human activity and human goals in the
light of universal values which, they insist, are objec-
tively ascertainable. Although there is agreement on
the need to distinguish the cultural from the biological
in human and social life, the fulcrum of opinion as to
what is crucial and problematic differs between these
two conceptions.