WS 2011/2011                  exam translation (advanced)        (Staatsexamen Frühjahr 2007)                text 9

The word “culture” seems to mean something high, profound, respectable - a thing before which we bow. It joins nature as a standard for the judgement of men and their deeds but has even greater dignity. It is almost never used pejoratively, as are “society”, “state”, “nation” or even “civilization”, terms for which culture is gradually substituted, or whose legitimacy is underwritten by culture. Culture is the unity of man’s brutish nature and all the arts and sciences*) he acquired in his movement from the state of nature to civil society. Culture restores the lost wholeness of first man on a higher level, where his faculties can be fully developed without contradiction between the desires of nature and the moral imperatives of his social life.
Culture” in the modern sense was first used by Immanuel Kant**), who was thinking of Rousseau when he employed it, particularly about what Rousseau said of the bourgeois. The bourgeois is selfish, but without the purity and simplicity of natural selfishness. He makes contracts hoping to get the better of those with whom he contracts. His faithfulness to others and his obedience to law are founded on expectation of gain: Honesty is the best policy”. Thus he corrupts morality, the essence of which is to exist for its own sake. The bourgeois satisfies neither extreme, nature or morality. The moral demand is merely an abstract ideal if it asks for what nature cannot give. Brutish selfishness would be preferable to sham morality.
    But what is the relation between Kant’s use of the word and ours? It seems there are two different current uses that, while distinct, are linked. First, culture is almost identical to people or nation, as in French culture, German culture, Iranian culture, etc. Second, culture refers to art, music, literature, educational television, certain kinds of movies - in short, everything that is uplifting and edifying, as opposed to

   The link is that culture is what makes possible, on a high level, the rich social life that constitutes a people, their customs, styles, tastes, festivals, rituals, gods - all that binds individuals into a group with roots, a community in which they think and will generally, with the people a moral unity, and the individual united within himself. A culture is a work of art, of which the fine arts are the sublime expression. In culture, on the other hand, the individuals are formed by the collectivity as are the members of the chorus of a Greek drama. A Charles de Gaulle, or, for that matter, an Alexander Solzhenitsyn saw the United States as a mere aggregate of individuals, a dumping ground for the refuse from other places, devoted to consuming; in short, no culture.

Quelle: Alan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind, London 1987, pp. 185, 187-188

For the complete text (of Alan Bloom's  chapter on "culture") click HERE

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*) Culture is the unity of man’s brutish nature and all the arts and sciences ...  

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