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Civilization

term, wealth, society, people, ideas, word and meaning

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CIVILIZATION. The words civi lization, education, and religion, with many others, are often used without any precise ideas being attached to them ; yet there are no words that require to be more thoroughly analysed.

The meaning of a ward is often formed by degrees. As soon as a particular fact presents itself to our notice which ap pears to have a specific relation to a known term, it becomes immediately in corporated with it; and hence the mean ing of many terms gradually extends, and finally embraces various facts and ideas which are considered to belong to it. On this account, there is more depth as well as accuracy in the usual and ordi nary meaning of complex terms than in any definitions which can be given of them, notwithstanding the definition may appear to be more strict and precise. In the majority of instances scientific de finitions are too narrow, and owing to this circumstance they are frequently less exact than the popular meaning of terms ; it is therefore in its popular and ordinary signification that we must seek for the various ideas that are included in the term civilization.

Now, the fundamental notion of civi lization is that of a progressive move ment, of a gradual development, and a tendency to amelioration. It always suggests the idea of a community, of a political body, of a nation, which is ad vancing methodically, and with distinct and clear views of the objects which it seeks to attain : progress, continual im provement, is therefore the fundamental idea contained in our notion of the term Civilization.

As to this progress and improvement involved in the term Civilization, to what do they apply ? The etymology of the word answers the question. From this we learn that it does not contemplate the actual number, power, or wealth of a people, but their civil condition, their social relations, and intercourse with each other. Such then is the first im pression which arises in our mind when we pronounce the word Civilization. It seems to represent to us at once the greatest activity and the best possible organization of society ; so as to be pro ductive of a continual increase, and a distribution of wealth and power among its members, whereby their absolute and relative condition is kept in a state of constant improvement.

But great as is the influence which a well organised civil society must have upon the happiness of the human race, the term Civilization seems to convey something still more extensive, more full and complete, and of a more elevated and dignified character, than the mere perfec tion of the social relations, as a matter of order and arrangement. In this other aspect of the word it embraces the deve lopment of the intellectual and moral faculties of man, of his feelings, his pro pensities, his natural capacities, and his tastes.

Education, which is the result of a well ordered social arrangement, and also its perfecter and conservator, an educa tion which shall give to every member of the community the best opportunities for developing the whole of his faculties, is the end which civilization, or a society in a state of continued progress, must always have in view.

The fundamental ideas then, contained in the word Civilization are—the con tinual advancement of the whole society in wealth and prosperity, and the im provement of man in his individual ca pacity.

When the oneproceeds without the other, it is immediately felt that there is something incomplete and wanting. The mere increase of national wealth, unaccompanied by a corresponding know ledge and intelligence on the part of the people, seems to be a state of things pre mature in existence, uncertain in dura tion, and insecure as to its stability. We are unacquainted with the causes of its origin, the principles to which it can be traced, and what hopes we may form of its continuance. We wish to persuade ourselves that this prosperity will not be limited to a few generations, or to a par ticular people or country, but that it will gradually spread, and finally become the inheritance of all the people of the earth. And yet what rational expectation can we entertain of such a state of things be coming universal? It is only by means of education, conducted upon right prin ciples, that we can ever hope to see true national prosperity attained, and rendered permanent. The development of the moral and intellectual faculties must go hand in hand with the cultivation of the industrious arts ; united, they form the great engine for giving true civilization to the world.

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