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Thread: Value of a culture = Conditions that Persist?

  1. #1 Value of a culture = Conditions that Persist? 
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    I've been looking for an objective criteria to measure cultures against, and tentatively, I'd like to suggest this one: that the value of a culture can be measured by the conditions that persist among the populations that adhere to it, unless there's a compelling reason to believe that external forces are solely responsible (or maybe it's enough if they're primarily responsible.) If it's evident that no culture, no matter how adept, could possibly be succeeding under the conditions that persist among a given population, then I guess it's fair to say that the culture hasn't been given a proper test, so it can't be considered to be failing or succeeding, either one.

    It seems the last refuge of any failed culture is to blame external forces, however, which leads to no end of ambiguities.

    I am very comfortable with the idea, however, that no other criteria need be considered, just this one. I think the importance of good living conditions is the one value that nobody can reasonably disagree about. It's something we can all be certain the next generation will put a value on (unless they're so fat and rich that wealth has become meaningless to them). If we measure cultures against just that, and nothing else, it would be more difficult for nationalistic bias to cloud our judgment.

    I think this is far preferable over the alternative, which is to always judge foreign cultures to be good no matter what, or to just not attempt to make any measurements at all, or arrive at any conclusions at all, .... and just expect that everything is just going to fix itself without anybody ever taking any kind of action, or making any kind of criticisms. Or... better yet... we can just pretend the world's ethical systems aren't broken, and see if reality decides to bend to our collective will.


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  3. #2 Re: Value of a culture = Conditions that Persist? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    I'd like to suggest .... that the value of a culture can be measured by the conditions that persist among the populations that adhere to it....
    I am very comfortable with the idea, however, that no other criteria need be considered, just this one. I think the importance of good living conditions is the one value that nobody can reasonably disagree about.
    OK then. Define "good living conditions". Or better yet, define "good" and "living conditions".

    You may be on to something, but I suspect you have just added a different suite of subjective assessments.


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    Forum Cosmic Wizard i_feel_tiredsleepy's Avatar
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    It's difficult to objectively judge cultures because we've all been interpellated into various ideologies of our own culture.

    As to the criteria you bring up, how do you determine that it actually has anything to do with the culture (and the specific conditions of that culture) instead of historical conditions. If culture A is looted and abused by the more populous culture B, so that culture A is impoverished and has lower living standards, is this a fault of their culture?
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  5. #4 Re: Value of a culture = Conditions that Persist? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    I'd like to suggest .... that the value of a culture can be measured by the conditions that persist among the populations that adhere to it....
    I am very comfortable with the idea, however, that no other criteria need be considered, just this one. I think the importance of good living conditions is the one value that nobody can reasonably disagree about.
    OK then. Define "good living conditions". Or better yet, define "good" and "living conditions".

    You may be on to something, but I suspect you have just added a different suite of subjective assessments.
    My best suggestion for this would be to go with Maslow's Hierarchy of needs. I think it's reasonably unsubjective (as much as can be hoped, anyway), and pretty accurate.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%...archy_of_needs



    Quote Originally Posted by i_feel_tiredsleepy
    It's difficult to objectively judge cultures because we've all been interpellated into various ideologies of our own culture.

    As to the criteria you bring up, how do you determine that it actually has anything to do with the culture (and the specific conditions of that culture) instead of historical conditions. If culture A is looted and abused by the more populous culture B, so that culture A is impoverished and has lower living standards, is this a fault of their culture?
    That's a good point. I think the degree of patriotism and group identity you see in a lot of countries is directly related to their war history. The countries that have consistently won on the battlefield over the last few centuries seem to have the easiest time with things like internal governmental corruption. The ones that have been seriously humiliated seem to have more trouble.

    The emotional loss might even be bigger than the material. Vietnam was a major turning point for American patriotism, being the first war in which the country had ever failed to obtain a victory.
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  6. #5  
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    First, understand the term in the context of the question:

    CULTURE: a system for enhancing the chances of a breeding group to continue through time. This, and nothing else.

    If one was bright he should know that all Cultures evolve. So, of course, value judgements can be made. Which culture would you deem preferable, the one that adapts and survives or the one that doesn't?
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  7. #6 Re: Value of a culture = Conditions that Persist? 
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    My best suggestion for this would be to go with Maslow's Hierarchy of needs. I think it's reasonably unsubjective (as much as can be hoped, anyway), and pretty accurate.
    I'm familiar with Maslow, but for your purposes surely his levels are too generic. You need something specific so that it can be measured. It is the inability to measure that leaves your approach subjective.

    Edited for grammatical inconsistencies.
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    Forum Professor marcusclayman's Avatar
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    kojax: are you familiar with systems theory?

    I am not, but I believe it might come in handy for what you are trying to do.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Systems_theory
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_dynamics
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  9. #8 Re: Value of a culture = Conditions that Persist? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    My best suggestion for this would be to go with Maslow's Hierarchy of needs. I think it's reasonably unsubjective (as much as can be hoped, anyway), and pretty accurate.
    I'm familiar with Maslow, but for your purposes surely his levels are too generic. You need something specific so that it can be measured. It is the inability to measure that leaves your approach subjective.

    Edited for grammatical inconsistencies.
    The advantage of working with Maslow's theory is that the most important needs (those at the bottom of the pyramid) are also the least subjective. It doesn't matter what opportunities for self esteem a culture presents for its people if basic needs like nutrition or shelter are being ignored in order to accomplish it.

    Quote Originally Posted by milum
    First, understand the term in the context of the question:

    CULTURE: a system for enhancing the chances of a breeding group to continue through time. This, and nothing else.

    If one was bright he should know that all Cultures evolve. So, of course, value judgements can be made. Which culture would you deem preferable, the one that adapts and survives or the one that doesn't?
    I like to hope there's more to life than just breeding, but I like your suggestion that the culture which adapts the most rapidly is the superior one. It's like how, in a race, you can look at a car's position, or at its velocity, or at its acceleration. Acceleration is usually the best to look at because, in the long run, it determines the most.

    The culture with the best conditions today may not be the one with the best conditions tomorrow. The one that's improving itself the fastest probably will be.
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    kojax: I like to hope there's more to life than just breeding, but I like your suggestion that the culture which adapts the most rapidly is the superior one. It's like how, in a race, you can look at a car's position, or at its velocity, or at its acceleration. Acceleration is usually the best to look at because, in the long run, it determines the most.

    The culture with the best conditions today may not be the one with the best conditions tomorrow. The one that's improving itself the fastest probably will be.
    Yes, kojax, but beyond all other systematic malnipulations of the species-specific needs of other lifeforms, certain human Cultures have elvoved methods of changing their surrounding matrix into an entity more condusive to their continuance.

    It follows that large numbers of individuals with a common desire to continue their breeding group through time has a distinct advantage over smaller groups.
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  11. #10  
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    i know the subject calls for it, but be as weary of generalizations as possible

    it is too easy to just start making generalizations, if you have a reason to generalize, share what that reason is, so that others can decide for themselves if your reasoning is valid. It's called critical discussion, like critical thinking, you are giving your reader/listener something to validate information with, just as you would expect from someone who is trying to convince you of something that you don't know much about. Even if you understand something to be common knowledge, it helps to shed light sometimes on why you consider it common knowledge, that way others who don't consider it common knowledge aren't disueded from participating in the discussion or reading your thesis.

    The reson I'm so adimant about this is because culture and sociology is not hard science, it is not so easily, and may not be possibly, objectifiable. And since it is about us, there is a great deal of bias. You seeking to objectify it, while I support you, should be taken seriously as what it is: the still unfinished work of thousands of years of human development
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  12. #11  
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    To be fair you'll have to find out what that particular culture's goals are. So we ignore what we think it needs, for what it actually wants. For examples: If it wants to maximize pleasure at the expense of others, or if it wants most of all to replace other cultures; fair enough, we rate its success on its own terms. Begin by frankly asking people what they want.

    If only it could be so easy. Individuals and cultures may not be in a position to admit - to others - just what they want. Moreover getting what they want may require they themselves don't know what they want. Professional mediators and story writers understand that's why the world is full of plots.
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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  13. #12  
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    Quote Originally Posted by milum
    kojax: I like to hope there's more to life than just breeding, but I like your suggestion that the culture which adapts the most rapidly is the superior one. It's like how, in a race, you can look at a car's position, or at its velocity, or at its acceleration. Acceleration is usually the best to look at because, in the long run, it determines the most.

    The culture with the best conditions today may not be the one with the best conditions tomorrow. The one that's improving itself the fastest probably will be.
    Yes, kojax, but beyond all other systematic malnipulations of the species-specific needs of other lifeforms, certain human Cultures have elvoved methods of changing their surrounding matrix into an entity more condusive to their continuance.

    It follows that large numbers of individuals with a common desire to continue their breeding group through time has a distinct advantage over smaller groups.
    I think the operative word is "common". Those nations with strong nationalistic identities seem to enjoy a tremendous advantage over those which primarily identify themselves by their individual groups, tribes, or villages, or people who have no sense of identity at all. People who primarily identify with their religious or ethnic identity seem to be the most destructive. (Nationalism doesn't create Nazis. Ethnocentrism does.)

    That's part of why I really dislike ethnic identities in general. It may be an unjustified perspective, I see a trend of always having to go the "self pity" route, or the "kill somebody else" route with those groups. Aside from anectodal observations, I don't have any hard facts for that perception.


    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    i know the subject calls for it, but be as weary of generalizations as possible

    it is too easy to just start making generalizations, if you have a reason to generalize, share what that reason is, so that others can decide for themselves if your reasoning is valid. It's called critical discussion, like critical thinking, you are giving your reader/listener something to validate information with, just as you would expect from someone who is trying to convince you of something that you don't know much about. Even if you understand something to be common knowledge, it helps to shed light sometimes on why you consider it common knowledge, that way others who don't consider it common knowledge aren't disueded from participating in the discussion or reading your thesis.

    The reson I'm so adimant about this is because culture and sociology is not hard science, it is not so easily, and may not be possibly, objectifiable. And since it is about us, there is a great deal of bias. You seeking to objectify it, while I support you, should be taken seriously as what it is: the still unfinished work of thousands of years of human development
    I think you're right. I'm just not sure know how to do it. Economic statistics are the hardest facts we have, so I try to use economic arguments as my starting point, but as Pong aptly pointed out: a culture may not value those things that an economist measures.

    I think focusing in on hard facts is a good thing to do in the late stages of a theory's development rather than the early stages. If you encase yourself in too tight of a box too early on, then you'll never entertain the range of possibilities necessary to stumble onto something new. On the other hand, if your prejudices move in to fill the vacuum, you'll end up in just as tight a box.
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  14. #13  
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    Well economic social class is not a measure of what people value, it is a measure of what people have that is valued.

    In economic terms, everything is worth exactly what someone will pay for it.

    So if someone values something that you don't value, it doesn't make it any less valuable. What makes it less valuable is whether or not in the market it can be sold for less than what you have for sale.
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  15. #14  
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    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    Well economic social class is not a measure of what people value, it is a measure of what people have that is valued.
    Or even more importantly.... it's a measure of what the common masses don't have.

    Even having enough food to eat can mean you're a big shot in some cultures. I imagine that might be why some of the poorest cultures on Earth are also the biggest baby factories. Having 5 or 6 kids shows that you must have access to more food than most people, or they'd be very skinny. It's not much of a show of wealth in the USA, or most industrialized countries where food is plentiful, but in some places I'm sure it seems like quite an accomplishment.

    In economic terms, everything is worth exactly what someone will pay for it.
    .
    It's unfortunate that we, as a society, believe that line of thinking. Sometimes I think air will never begin to seem valuable to us until it's sufficiently scarce that we have to buy it in a store.
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  16. #15  
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    It is not sad at all, you are implying a great deal that I didn't say, and that is not necessarily true.

    We as a culture don't think this way. If we did, then bartering would be more commonplace I believe.

    Also, it would not be sad if we did think this way. It is natural not to want to protect things that don't need to be protected. Or at least to protect things as much as they need to be protected. Like if you have less water than someone else, you will naturally protect it more; assuming you are both of equal temperament, ability and circumstances.

    Air at the bottom of a coal mine, or underwater is worth a great deal. Compressed air used in industry, construction and inflation is worthwhile as well.

    Breath is worth a great deal, if you don't think so stop breathing. Then think about, if you had to, how much you would spend to breath again. If it's given away for free, it doesn't loose its worth, we loose our need to purchase it. We might FORGET it's worth, but that doesn't make it any less worthwhile.
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  17. #16  
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    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman

    Also, it would not be sad if we did think this way. It is natural not to want to protect things that don't need to be protected. Or at least to protect things as much as they need to be protected. Like if you have less water than someone else, you will naturally protect it more; assuming you are both of equal temperament, ability and circumstances.
    So, the amount that we're willing to pay for something is dependent both on its value, and the degree to which it needs protection. Maybe that's why war is so profitable. You're charging people for something that, absent a war, they might be getting for free.



    Air at the bottom of a coal mine, or underwater is worth a great deal. Compressed air used in industry, construction and inflation is worthwhile as well.

    Breath is worth a great deal, if you don't think so stop breathing. Then think about, if you had to, how much you would spend to breath again. If it's given away for free, it doesn't loose its worth, we loose our need to purchase it. We might FORGET it's worth, but that doesn't make it any less worthwhile.
    I think I understand now. It's what you would be willing to pay if you had to, not necessarily what you are paying now. We can't really measure that in absolute values, though. It seems more accurate to describe it in terms of the percentage of a person's means that they would be willing to give. If we describe it in absolute values, then we will inevitably arrive at the conclusion that human beings who don't have money aren't worth anything. The air they breath clearly isn't worth very much, because they wouldn't be willing (or able) to pay a lot for it.

    Maybe it just depends on what aspect of "worth" we are looking at. Could we relate this back to culture, since some cultures are able to pay more for the air they breathe than others? Here I'm more trying to examine our perception than the reality. The conclusion itself is clearly absurd, but it's logical given our assumptions. So,... something must be wrong with those assumptions.
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  18. #17  
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    "If we describe it in absolute values, then we will inevitably arrive at the conclusion that human beings who don't have money aren't worth anything."

    No, because what you have is not a measure of what someone would pay for you. People purchase things and services. If you have no services to offer, then yes, to an economy you are not worth anything. But just because you have no things doesn't mean you have nothing to offer in the market.

    Look at the entertainment industry, they aren't giving us things, but we are giving them a great deal of things for what they give us.
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  19. #18  
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    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    "If we describe it in absolute values, then we will inevitably arrive at the conclusion that human beings who don't have money aren't worth anything."

    No, because what you have is not a measure of what someone would pay for you. People purchase things and services. If you have no services to offer, then yes, to an economy you are not worth anything. But just because you have no things doesn't mean you have nothing to offer in the market.

    Look at the entertainment industry, they aren't giving us things, but we are giving them a great deal of things for what they give us.
    If that's the case, then having a valuable service to offer and having money are basically the same thing. It's like making a distinction between owning a gold watch worth 500 dollars, and just plain having 500 dollars. If my employer paid me in gold, or services, the IRS would still tax me for the value.

    So, economic value is based on how much people with either money, or job skills, are willing to pay?

    What would you say about a situation like where a number of people are terminally ill, but doses of the cure are in scarce supply? The amount of money any individual is willing to pay for that cure would be exactly equal to their net worth. If cures were more plentiful than disease victims, then normal market rules would apply and people would be paying only a reasonable price to get one. Is the cure more valuable because of its scarcity?

    This leads to the conclusion that limiting the number of antidotes so that their price goes up is economically sound behavior. Suppose there are 500 victims. If 600 cures are made, the price per unit will be much lower than if there are only 400 cures made. If the price goes up by 51%, then those 400 will sell for more total money than the 600 would have. But.... does that mean the economy is better off? Is increasing the value of the 400 cures better than having 600 cures? (Remember that 100 people will die of disease in order for this to happen.)
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  20. #19  
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    no it doesn't mean the economy is better off

    there really is no such thing as a better or a worse economy
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  21. #20  
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    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    no it doesn't mean the economy is better off
    Yeah. But it's kind of funny that our current models seem to make it look like it would be.


    there really is no such thing as a better or a worse economy
    What?!?!?!?!?!!?!?!?

    The I guess we have all the more reason not to recognize "economic refugee" as a class of refugee. There's nothing for them to be a refugee from, if all economies are equally good.
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