Civilized, Primitive, and the Perceptual Lens

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Humanities 101
October 16, 2009

Civilized, Primitive, and the Perceptual Lens

To say that any culture, region, or country is civilized or primitive is purely subjective to the person stating the opinion. Each individual, whether educated or uneducated, will have a different view on the definition of those two terms; a view that is influenced by the perceptual lens, or bias, that the individual has developed through various experiences over their lifetime. Nonetheless, how do subjectivity and the perceptual lens manipulate the terms of ‘civilized’ and ‘primitive’ in relation to the humanities? The answer is as unique as the individual giving it. Subjectivity often refers to the interpretation of an experience by an individual, in contrast with objectivity, which is a knowledge and fact-based belief system. The thoughts or opinions brought on by the experience are what help support the idea of a perceptual lens. Other influences of the perceptual lens can include, but are not limited to: religion, race, gender, environment and education. Because of the bias of an individual, there is a possibility of more than one sharing the same thoughts and opinions on an idea; however, it is difficult to say that two individuals share the same point of view on every aspect of life and society. At this current moment in time, the influence of late twentieth and early twenty-first century American pop culture effects the view many young Americans have on society, whereas the weight of mid twentieth century culture changes the bias of older Americans. It is because of these changes in culture that the terms of ‘civilized’ and ‘primitive’ cannot be given a tangible definition, but merely guidelines as to the form it is supposed to follow. Civilization is often a term so broad that it is easier to refer to a society as being “civilized.” To be defined as civilized, one must have: a form of urban life, involving the building of permanent settlements;...
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