Western Culture Knowledge Center:
What is Western Culture?
Reason IndividualismHappinessRightsCapitalism


Content
Introduction
Brief History of Western Culture
Where Is Western Culture
Transcends Geography and Race
Race and Culture... No Connection
Western Culture Superior?


Western culture is a body of knowledge derived from reason.

This foundation of reason has made possible a vast accumulation of understanding related to reality or nature, including human nature.

This understanding is represented in several core ideals and values, which include individualism, happiness, rights, capitalism, science and technology.

W
estern culture can also be referred to as advanced culture; this is because its ideas and values promote the development and sustainment of advanced civilization.

Brief History
Western culture began in Ancient Greece. There and in the Roman civilization it developed until the start of the Middle Ages when it largely vanished from Europe. During the Middle Ages, Western culture resided, instead, in the Arab / Persian world to a modest degree.

Then the rediscovery of Western culture in Europe in the Late Middle Ages prompted the Renaissance. Western culture’s continuing development then led to the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, the American Revolution, the Industrial Revolution and to what is considered today as modern civilization.

Where Western Culture Is
Today, Western culture has at least some presence in nearly all nations of the world. It does not currently exist, however, anywhere in a perfect and complete form. Wherever Western culture exists, it is at least partially mixed—and often largely mixed—with non-Western culture.

Western culture currently dominates in many Western and Central European nations and several nations settled by Europeans and their descendants. Western culture also significantly exists in many Asian nations, such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore, and it is increasingly influential in India and China.

It has only a modest presence in most of the rest of Asia as well as Latin America and Eastern Europe. In much of both Africa and the Middle East, Western culture currently has little meaningful presence.

Western Culture Transcends Geography and Race
Since Western culture is based on objective reality and universal human nature, it is open to everyone, transcending both geography and race.[1]

In other words, Western culture is humanity’s culture. Contrary to conventional belief, one does not need to be Caucasian or of European descent to admire Western culture or, indeed, even help to build it. Any individual or society on earth can adopt it and thereby become Westernized.[2]

Indeed, millions of people each year with no ancestral ties to Europe recognize the universal appeal of Western culture. They do so by immigrating to and immersing themselves in nations where Western culture has meaningful presence. Or they personally embrace and promote Western culture in the nations where they live.

These adopters of Western culture understand that truth is truth, ideals are ideals and values are values—and it does not matter from where such things come or who originally discovered or identified them. In other words, adopters of Western culture know, on some level, that culture is an intellectual matter, not an issue of geography or race—or, for that matter, an issue of ethnicity, language, class, national origin or gender.

Race and Culture… No Connection

The fact that Europeans or Caucasians largely developed Western or advanced culture does not mean that they are innately superior or only they are capable of creating it.

One needs simply to know that North African, Near Eastern and Middle Eastern individuals developed the first civilizations or civilized cultures. And while these cultures flourished, Europeans or Caucasians had generally not yet developed beyond savagery.

Further, significant elements of Western culture came from other parts of the world, including the first civilizations and Asia. Also, individuals of all races, ethnicities and many national origins have contributed to the development of Western culture over the centuries and continue to do so today.

And if current trends continue, Western culture may be taken to new heights in Asia in this century or the coming centuries rather than in areas dominated by Caucasians or people of European ancestry.

It is also worth noting that the Aztec and Inca cultures of Central and South America, respectively, were in some ways nearly as advanced as European culture at the time, despite the fact that they were relatively young. Had the Aztec and Inca civilizations not been conquered and had more time to develop, it is conceivable that their cultures may have come to rival, even surpass, European culture.

All of this is to show that race has nothing (or at most virtually nothing) to do with a culture’s level of development. A certain race may appear to be more advanced at a given time, but, over the broad view of history, it is clear that no race is superior or innately more capable than others.

Individuals of any race could have conceivably created the first civilized cultures—and individuals of any race could have conceivably first developed Western or advanced culture. In other words, Western culture is in no way inherently Caucasian or European.

The level of a culture’s development is ultimately explained, not by race, but by the fundamental ideas of the culture—particularly by the degree to which reason is embraced as the guide to thought and action.[3]

Western Culture Superior?

Many people strongly disagree with the belief that a culture can be considered better than others. They do so because they view a culture’s level of development as a product of race. As a result, they view any claim of cultural superiority as a claim of racial superiority—and, accordingly, condemn the idea of cultural superiority as racist. However, as we have seen, a culture’s level of development is not a product of race.

People also object to the idea of cultural supremacy because they do not believe that culture can be judged objectively. This, too, is incorrect. The proper standard for objectively evaluating a culture is by the degree to which its core values are for or against human life.[4] A pro-human life culture recognizes the requirements of proper human survival, namely the values of reason, individualism, happiness, rights and capitalism.[5]

In other words, pro-human life culture is Western culture. And the extent to which a nation embraces Western culture is the extent to which it is free, prosperous, modern and peaceful—that is, supportive of human life. One need only look at life expectancies around the world to see that this is true.

Life expectancy in nations where Western culture dominates (abbreviated list)
Australia 81
United States 78
Japan 81
Israel 79
Italy 80


Life expectancy in nations where nonwestern culture dominates but Western culture still has modest presence (abbreviated list)

Philippines 70
Russia 67
Honduras 69
Pakistan 63
Senegal 59


Life expectancy in nations where nonwestern culture overwhelmingly dominates and Western culture has little or no presence (abbreviated list)

Liberia 40
Nigeria 47
Angola 39
Zimbabwe 40
Laos 55

Source: CIA World Factbook 2006


Objectively judging cultures is not only legitimate and possible; it is ultimately a life and death issue. And when cultures are judged, it is clear that Western culture, with its life-giving and life-sustaining magnificence, is the greatest culture—deserving universal admiration and praise.


Go to Reason



[1] George Reisman, “Education and the Racist Road to Barbarism,” Intellectual Activist, (April 30, 1990), reprinted as a pamphlet (Laguna Hills, CA: The Jefferson School of Philosophy, Economics and Psychology, 1992). The pamphlet is available online and free here.
[2] Ibid, p.5 in pamphlet
[3] Ibid, p.7 in pamphlet
[4] For information on the objectivity and secularity of moral values, see Ayn Rand’s The Virtue of Selfishness; “The Objectivist Ethics,” (New York, Signet, 1982).
[5] Edwin A. Locke, “The Greatness of Western Civilization,” (Capitalism Magazine, Sept, 30, 2004).



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