What Gives a Civilization/Society Value?

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veloper:

Lil devils x:

veloper:

We're still here and our cultures were propagated by conquerors. Greco-roman culture, christianity, western dominance all spread by the sword and later by gunpowder. Reason alone is not enough, let alone history, to explain or justify true altruism. It either comes from within or nothing.

It was not through fighting that we still exist, it was through understanding. My tribe for example, has never been conquered, and we attribute that to reaching an understanding with those that came to do us harm rather than the taking of arms to destroy. We have been taught that it was the fighting that caused the fall of the civilizations before us, and that the only true path for the survival of mankind is to help one another. We view those periods that you see as long as very short in the whole of it all and unsustainable.

Your tribe? What place do you come from?
Anyway, civilizations have fallen because they LOST fights and it didn't really matter if they were the agressor or the defender (or didn't even put up a fight in the final stages).
The great conquerors atleast left us something: culture and a legacy. The lesser peoples ground under their heels left nothing. Forgotten. Not much in the way of understanding.
Not nice, but still there.

Hopi. I see nothing " great" about conquerors, nor do I see the celebration of murderers as beneficial to society. I attribute the greatness of "modern civilization" in that they have advancemnts in medicine, and have the capabilities of ending world hunger and dehydration. The downfall, however, is that they do not focus primarily on those things and instead seek to destroy. If they could stop fighting long enough they could accomplish truly great things.

From your viewpoint the murderer is the elevated person in society, I disagree. I do not view " conquering" as beneficial to the survival of mankind, and find that much knowledge has been lost due to these actions. They are not lesser people simply because they were murdered.

veloper:

The great conquerors atleast left us something: culture and a legacy. The lesser peoples ground under their heels left nothing. Forgotten. Not much in the way of understanding.

What, for instance, did the Mongols really leave in all that territory they conquered (apart from horse dung and corpses)? Alexander the Great may as well not have bothered with most of the territory he won, for all that the Macedonian/Greek civilisation left an impact in it. For all that Western Europe was overrun by Germanic tribes in the 5th century, modern Italian, French and Spanish culture owes more to Rome than Germans.

It is clear the civilisations of many conquered peoples have proved to be the equal of or greater than their conquerors'.

Civilization assigns itself a value. Simple as. Its entirely subjective.

Like an Apple is called an Apple because WE named it an Apple. Just like our own perceived value; We assigned it.

Its Human arrogance to think that we have an intrinsic value to the Universe or in it. That we're special.

But I think if there had be one Universal constant to which the value of living beings was measured then I would say the Will To Live. The Drive To Survive.

But of course; If every last living being battled it out until there remained only one living thing in the Universe, then what Value does that last living being hold? Only the value that living being has assigned itself. Entirely subjective.

So there you go; Subjective (read:imagined)

But If I had to give a more PG answer: The Value that Being places on the lives of other beings, Determines their own Value.

Lil devils x:

veloper:

Lil devils x:

It was not through fighting that we still exist, it was through understanding. My tribe for example, has never been conquered, and we attribute that to reaching an understanding with those that came to do us harm rather than the taking of arms to destroy. We have been taught that it was the fighting that caused the fall of the civilizations before us, and that the only true path for the survival of mankind is to help one another. We view those periods that you see as long as very short in the whole of it all and unsustainable.

Your tribe? What place do you come from?
Anyway, civilizations have fallen because they LOST fights and it didn't really matter if they were the agressor or the defender (or didn't even put up a fight in the final stages).
The great conquerors atleast left us something: culture and a legacy. The lesser peoples ground under their heels left nothing. Forgotten. Not much in the way of understanding.
Not nice, but still there.

Hopi. I see nothing " great" about conquerors, nor do I see the celebration of murderers as beneficial to society. I attribute the greatness of "modern civilization" in that they have advancemnts in medicine, and have the capabilities of ending world hunger and dehydration. The downfall, however, is that they do not focus primarily on those things and instead seek to destroy. If they could stop fighting long enough they could accomplish truly great things.

From your viewpoint the murderer is the elevated person in society, I disagree. I do not view " conquering" as beneficial to the survival of mankind, and find that much knowledge has been lost due to these actions. They are not lesser people simply because they were murdered.

Such sentiments are nice and well and possibly even worthy, but it doesn't change that it's all heart and not reason.
There's no question that the great empires did benefit from their conquests.
You cannot argue(reason) with the right of the strongest. That right can only be contested. A good thing that most people are not all self-interest + reason.

Agema:

veloper:

The great conquerors atleast left us something: culture and a legacy. The lesser peoples ground under their heels left nothing. Forgotten. Not much in the way of understanding.

What, for instance, did the Mongols really leave in all that territory they conquered (apart from horse dung and corpses)? Alexander the Great may as well not have bothered with most of the territory he won, for all that the Macedonian/Greek civilisation left an impact in it. For all that Western Europe was overrun by Germanic tribes in the 5th century, modern Italian, French and Spanish culture owes more to Rome than Germans.

It is clear the civilisations of many conquered peoples have proved to be the equal of or greater than their conquerors'.

The Mongols atleast had their chance. A conquerer doesn't necessarilly have to make great things. Though I wouldn't completely discount the influence that the Mongol emperors may have had in China.

The better question is: what great, influential civilization got where it was in it's glory days, just by staying put, never taking any lands by force?

personally i simplistically believe the only true measurement of a society or government is what we would now call "social mobility" and the only true historical measure of "a civilization" is how much they contribute to "the advancement of humanity as a whole" (which is why, as some of you may have incredulously read before, i don't personally rate "The Romans" all that much...).

so it's fair to say my assessment bias leans towards that which i would see as improvement over time.

veloper:

Lil devils x:

veloper:

Your tribe? What place do you come from?
Anyway, civilizations have fallen because they LOST fights and it didn't really matter if they were the agressor or the defender (or didn't even put up a fight in the final stages).
The great conquerors atleast left us something: culture and a legacy. The lesser peoples ground under their heels left nothing. Forgotten. Not much in the way of understanding.
Not nice, but still there.

Hopi. I see nothing " great" about conquerors, nor do I see the celebration of murderers as beneficial to society. I attribute the greatness of "modern civilization" in that they have advancemnts in medicine, and have the capabilities of ending world hunger and dehydration. The downfall, however, is that they do not focus primarily on those things and instead seek to destroy. If they could stop fighting long enough they could accomplish truly great things.

From your viewpoint the murderer is the elevated person in society, I disagree. I do not view " conquering" as beneficial to the survival of mankind, and find that much knowledge has been lost due to these actions. They are not lesser people simply because they were murdered.

Such sentiments are nice and well and possibly even worthy, but it doesn't change that it's all heart and not reason.
There's no question that the great empires did benefit from their conquests.
You cannot argue(reason) with the right of the strongest. That right can only be contested. A good thing that most people are not all self-interest + reason.

From my perspective you are both wrong in different ways. First off the ability to conquer and defeat other societies is not inherently a positive attribute to have. As Lil devils pointed out spending men and treasure on war is not a very productive avenue of investment in and of itself. I think most everyone would agree with me that investment of such resources would be much better spent on science and cultural works that would benefit everyone both in quality of life and long term sustainable of a civilization.

However there is one very important thing that must be considered. Without the will and capability to commit violence upon an opposing force all that civilization and culture means absolutely nothing. An excellent example of this is the conquest of the Abbasid Caliphate by the Mongols. At the time Baghdad (capitol of the Caliphate) was the world's center for knowledge and culture. Almost nowhere in the world could rival it. However it's grand libraries and splendid architecture meant nothing in the face of the superior might of the Mongol Army. They burned just the same as other buildings. It is said the Tigris ran black with the ink of the countless books thrown into it's waters.

However this story does have a silver lining. The Mongols did not quash the culture of the Caliphate. They did the opposite; they joined it. Luckily for the world this allowed for the culture of learning and science to survive in the now conquered Caliphate. Though Baghdad never truly recovered. This is in contrast to another conquest that is a textbook example; that of the native peoples of the Americas. Unlike the Mongols the European powers and later the United States had no intention of joining the Native's culture; they made an effort to destroy it. As you are aware they damn near succeeded. They were able to commit these atrocities due to their superior capability for violence....well that and smallpox.

TL;DR: Violence in and of itself is piss poor, but its necessary for survival.

veloper:
The Mongols atleast had their chance. A conquerer doesn't necessarilly have to make great things. Though I wouldn't completely discount the influence that the Mongol emperors may have had in China.

The better question is: what great, influential civilization got where it was in it's glory days, just by staying put, never taking any lands by force?

This is an odd chain of thought. History is written by the conquerors and history is culture so conquerors add to the cultural history of the world.

Japan pursued a purely isolationist policy for centuries and managed to fend off the mongol invaders. Even if it was due to mongols getting unlucky with the weather and not being good sailors. They still managed to create a culture that they are proud of and one that seems unique and interesting to the world.

veloper:

The better question is: what great, influential civilization got where it was in it's glory days, just by staying put, never taking any lands by force?

That's not, perhaps, a fair question: nearly all civilisations have taken land by force.

It would be more to my view to ask which civilisations became great and spread their influence by conquest. The Romans, for instance, are a great example that did. But I would suggest many did not. I don't really think that the main fruits of Ancient Greek culture were promoted by conquest, or that German civilisation was the product of conquest (for all that post-unification Germany did plenty of ultimately fruitless invading in the late 19th, early 20th century). The USA has added approximating zero lands in the last 100 years (although it has converted some colonies into integral territory) - yet we are very likely living through the peak of US civilisation.

Shock and Awe:
For me this is one of those questions that sounds really simple, but gets really hard when you actually think about it. I started thinking about it when I read this. Now sci-fi aside this is an interesting idea. What makes a civilization or society have worth? What about more worth then another? Is it their technology? Their morality? Their art? Their food? Their hairstyles?

The people. It's a simple answer but it's simply true. Society is people and you can't even begin to talk about the morality, technology or art of a culture without talking about the people that made those things great. Once you know that it's the inhabitants that make a society great, the works that arose from the society are actually pretty miniscule compared to the minds that they arose from. You can compare two civilizations, one who did very little to one who did quite a lot but from an objective viewpoint you must always accept that at their very core, people are the same and have the very same capacity for intelligence and greatness wherever you go.

Shock and Awe:

veloper:

Lil devils x:

Hopi. I see nothing " great" about conquerors, nor do I see the celebration of murderers as beneficial to society. I attribute the greatness of "modern civilization" in that they have advancemnts in medicine, and have the capabilities of ending world hunger and dehydration. The downfall, however, is that they do not focus primarily on those things and instead seek to destroy. If they could stop fighting long enough they could accomplish truly great things.

From your viewpoint the murderer is the elevated person in society, I disagree. I do not view " conquering" as beneficial to the survival of mankind, and find that much knowledge has been lost due to these actions. They are not lesser people simply because they were murdered.

Such sentiments are nice and well and possibly even worthy, but it doesn't change that it's all heart and not reason.
There's no question that the great empires did benefit from their conquests.
You cannot argue(reason) with the right of the strongest. That right can only be contested. A good thing that most people are not all self-interest + reason.

From my perspective you are both wrong in different ways. First off the ability to conquer and defeat other societies is not inherently a positive attribute to have. As Lil devils pointed out spending men and treasure on war is not a very productive avenue of investment in and of itself.

When your picking on someone your own size, war isn't very lucrative and potentially ruinious. When your crushing smaller, less advanced people with ease, it's all plunder and expansion.
For someone living in those days it would be incomprehensible to say that conquering barbarians is bad for Rome, or that having colonies is bad for the British Empire.

More Fun To Compute:

veloper:
The Mongols atleast had their chance. A conquerer doesn't necessarilly have to make great things. Though I wouldn't completely discount the influence that the Mongol emperors may have had in China.

The better question is: what great, influential civilization got where it was in it's glory days, just by staying put, never taking any lands by force?

This is an odd chain of thought. History is written by the conquerors and history is culture so conquerors add to the cultural history of the world.

Japan pursued a purely isolationist policy for centuries and managed to fend off the mongol invaders. Even if it was due to mongols getting unlucky with the weather and not being good sailors. They still managed to create a culture that they are proud of and one that seems unique and interesting to the world.

Japan itself is an empire with different people living within it's borders. Those samurai warriors weren't trained just for the fun of it.
First conquest, then unification and a pooling of resources and only then the right conditions for an advanced culture.

Agema:

veloper:

The better question is: what great, influential civilization got where it was in it's glory days, just by staying put, never taking any lands by force?

That's not, perhaps, a fair question: nearly all civilisations have taken land by force.

It would be more to my view to ask which civilisations became great and spread their influence by conquest. The Romans, for instance, are a great example that did. But I would suggest many did not. I don't really think that the main fruits of Ancient Greek culture were promoted by conquest, or that German civilisation was the product of conquest (for all that post-unification Germany did plenty of ultimately fruitless invading in the late 19th, early 20th century). The USA has added approximating zero lands in the last 100 years (although it has converted some colonies into integral territory) - yet we are very likely living through the peak of US civilisation.

Yes that's not entirely fair of me and the question could almost be retorical, but I had a smaller point to make there.

It seems to me here that the only way we can make nation building seem peaceful, is to ignore most of the nation's history and not look too far back.
The USA: no landgrab. The mexicans would have something to say about that, let alone the native americans.

veloper:
Japan itself is an empire with different people living within it's borders. Those samurai warriors weren't trained just for the fun of it.
First conquest, then unification and a pooling of resources and only then the right conditions for an advanced culture.

That's one way of looking at it I suppose.

After the establishment of the "empire" the failed Mongol invasion and probably other factors led to Japan prioritising military organisation and doctrine over civil doctrine, side lining the power of the emperor. This lead to a long and ruinous period of conflicts between warlords that, yes, did eventually lead to a firmer centralised control by the Tokugawa shogunate. But this strong shogunate itself did not in the end lead to a vibrant culture that was more advanced than other nations. In many ways it became stagnant then moribund.

War and military rule is a very inefficient way to create an advanced culture in my opinion but it's a great way to destroy one or hold one back.

More Fun To Compute:

veloper:
Japan itself is an empire with different people living within it's borders. Those samurai warriors weren't trained just for the fun of it.
First conquest, then unification and a pooling of resources and only then the right conditions for an advanced culture.

That's one way of looking at it I suppose.

After the establishment of the "empire" the failed Mongol invasion and probably other factors led to Japan prioritising military organisation and doctrine over civil doctrine, side lining the power of the emperor. This lead to a long and ruinous period of conflicts between warlords that, yes, did eventually lead to a firmer centralised control by the Tokugawa shogunate. But this strong shogunate itself did not in the end lead to a vibrant culture that was more advanced than other nations. In many ways it became stagnant then moribund.

War and military rule is a very inefficient way to create an advanced culture in my opinion but it's a great way to destroy one or hold one back.

It probably goes much further back than that and not just for Japan, but the whole world.
Suppose an alternative history with no forceful landgrab ever... would we even have anything bigger than city states then?

All this sidetracking is stearing me away from my main point though. There's not much rationalization to be found in history or anywhere else for being nice to outsiders, when it's against your own interests.
For true altruism we need to look at irrational motivations.

Hookers and blackjack.

veloper:
It probably goes much further back than that and not just for Japan, but the whole world.
Suppose an alternative history with no forceful landgrab ever... would we even have anything bigger than city states then?

All this sidetracking is stearing me away from my main point though. There's not much rationalization to be found in history or anywhere else for being nice to outsiders, when it's against your own interests.
For true altruism we need to look at irrational motivations.

People at the moment are saying that city states are the way forward as they are the best way to politically manage an advanced society.

I don't have any argument against saying that altruism is just a nice word to cover up some understandable selfish motivations and that trying to live out some ideal of altruism is just crazy or self deluding. But in terms of war and authoritarianism being a civilising force morally equivalent to peace and political compromise I have to disagree. One is clearly a better and more productive option.

veloper:

It seems to me here that the only way we can make nation building seem peaceful, is to ignore most of the nation's history and not look too far back.

Yes, that's true. Violence is often necessary for defence or expansion, or maybe just incidental. I'm just trying to express that I think conquering is often not what makes a civilisation great or influential.

The USA: no landgrab. The mexicans would have something to say about that, let alone the native americans.

My point was more that the USA's greatest cultural achievements, possibly, have not been during its period of conquest but after it. Even in areas where the USA is despised, it is frequently simultaneously admired: people want to watch its films, listen to its rock music, drink its Coca-Cola, and many want its model of democracy, low corruption and individual freedoms.

More Fun To Compute:

veloper:
It probably goes much further back than that and not just for Japan, but the whole world.
Suppose an alternative history with no forceful landgrab ever... would we even have anything bigger than city states then?

All this sidetracking is stearing me away from my main point though. There's not much rationalization to be found in history or anywhere else for being nice to outsiders, when it's against your own interests.
For true altruism we need to look at irrational motivations.

People at the moment are saying that city states are the way forward as they are the best way to politically manage an advanced society.

Not by anyone too prominent I hope. Multiplying the number of voices in the United Nations by the thousands, is going to make cooperation so much easier, not. A recipe for endless trade conflicts, pollution and war.

I don't have any argument against saying that altruism is just a nice word to cover up some understandable selfish motivations and that trying to live out some ideal of altruism is just crazy or self deluding. But in terms of war and authoritarianism being a civilising force morally equivalent to peace and political compromise I have to disagree. One is clearly a better and more productive option.

There's nothing intrinsically wrong with altruism, it just doesn't follow from reason. Instead of "why altruism" we could also ask why self-interest? Why even self-preservation? The urge for self-preservation explains why we still exist, but that doesn't mean it's right.
Ultimately you stumble upon values that come before anything else.

That reminds me of something else. This world may really be the best of all possible worlds: that endless string of events culminating in you and me being formed out of our parents.

veloper:
Not by anyone too prominent I hope. Multiplying the number of voices in the United Nations by the thousands, is going to make cooperation so much easier, not. A recipe for endless trade conflicts, pollution and war.

That reminds me of something else. This world may really be the best of all possible worlds: that endless string of events culminating in you and me being formed out of our parents.

Here is something about what I was thinking about. I believe that the idea is that at the UN there would be a representative from a coalition of city states.

http://thetweetinglawyer.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/reimagining-size-and-function-of-state.html

As for me being an end result of the best of all possible worlds then pull the other one. I'm with Olaf Stapledon and his book Star Maker when it comes to that suggestion. It's unlikely that we will survive long enough to see anything really advanced.

Agema:

veloper:

It seems to me here that the only way we can make nation building seem peaceful, is to ignore most of the nation's history and not look too far back.

Yes, that's true. Violence is often necessary for defence or expansion, or maybe just incidental. I'm just trying to express that I think conquering is often not what makes a civilisation great or influential.

The USA: no landgrab. The mexicans would have something to say about that, let alone the native americans.

My point was more that the USA's greatest cultural achievements, possibly, have not been during its period of conquest but after it. Even in areas where the USA is despised, it is frequently simultaneously admired: people want to watch its films, listen to its rock music, drink its Coca-Cola, and many want its model of democracy, low corruption and individual freedoms.

Can we really see these cultural expressions as being independent from the history of the united states?

More Fun To Compute:

veloper:
Not by anyone too prominent I hope. Multiplying the number of voices in the United Nations by the thousands, is going to make cooperation so much easier, not. A recipe for endless trade conflicts, pollution and war.

That reminds me of something else. This world may really be the best of all possible worlds: that endless string of events culminating in you and me being formed out of our parents.

Here is something about what I was thinking about. I believe that the idea is that at the UN there would be a representative from a coalition of city states.

http://thetweetinglawyer.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/reimagining-size-and-function-of-state.html

As for me being an end result of the best of all possible worlds then pull the other one. I'm with Olaf Stapledon and his book Star Maker when it comes to that suggestion. It's unlikely that we will survive long enough to see anything really advanced.

It works for me, but different strokes.
Alright, just because it culminates in me alone then. I don't regret being born.

Agema:

What, for instance, did the Mongols really leave in all that territory they conquered (apart from horse dung and corpses)?

IIRC they nipped in the bud the trend towards Westernized Democracy in Russia and did a number on their culture.

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