Culture has been particularly studied by anthropologists and sociologists. The methods used by the scientists in the study of culture and civilization are empirical. Philosophy, on the other hand, is speculative.

Speculative method has been used by philosophers of history and culture. PA. Sorokin has criticised the students of culture who incline to arrange the phenomenon of cultural growth in terms of only one set of factors with possible neglect of the rest J Culture displays a large complexity, multidimensional activity and polymorphous relations.

Therefore, it can not be explained by one functional factor. Pointing out this difficulty A. J. Toynbee has said, “The riddle of the relation between God’s law and human soul’s freedom is the last, the most difficult and the most crucial of all questions on our agenda.” However, in order to understand culture, it is necessary to be defining its meaning and components. Toynbee has made a successful attempt to show that one may observe some regularity in cultural processes.

Definition of culture


In common parlance the word ‘culture’ is understood to mean beautiful, refined or interesting but this interpretation does not constitute its adequate definition. Some of the more popular definitions of culture are as follows:

1. E. B. Tylor.

“Culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.”

2. Robert Redfield


“Culture is the organised body of conventional understanding in art and artefact, which persisting through tradition, characterizes human group.”

3. Joseph Piper

“Culture is the quintessence of all natural goods of the world, and of those gifts and qualities which, while belonging to man lie beyond the immediate sphere of his needs and wants.”

4. L. A. White


“Culture is a symbolic, continuous, cumulative and progressive process.”

5. R.M. Maclver and C.H. Page

“Culture includes all that man has acquired in the mental and intellectual sphere of his individual and social life.” In the words of Maclver and Page, “This is the realm of styles, of values, of emotional attachments, of intellectual adventures. Culture, then, is the antithesis of civilization. It is the expression of our nature, in our modes of living and thinking, in our everyday intercourse, in art, in literature, in recreation and enjoyment.”

6. D. A. Hobbs and S. J. Blank


“Culture refers to all those ways of thinking, feeling and behaving that are socially transmitted from one generation to the next.”

7. P. David

“The system of values and meanings shared by a group or society, including the embodiment of those values and meanings and the material objects.”

8. T. S. Elliott


“It is the product of a variety of more or less harmonious activities each pursued for its own sake, the artist must concentrate upon his canvas, the poet upon his typewriter, the civil servant upon the just settlement of particular problems as they present themselves upon his desk, each according to the situation in which he finds himself.”

9. Bogardus

“Culture is composed of integrated customs, traditions and current behaviour patterns of human group. Culture is the stock in trade of a group. It is an antecedent complex of value in which every individual is born. It is a medium within which individuals develop and mature”.

10. A. W. Green


“Culture is the socially transmitted system of idealized ways in knowledge and practice and belief along with the artifacts that knowledge and practice produce and maintain as they change in type.”

11. Alexander A. Goldenwiser

“Our attitudes, beliefs and ideas, our judgments and values, our institutions – political and legal, religious and economic; our ethical codes of etiquette, our books and machines, our science, philosophies and philosophers all of these and many other things and beings within themselves and in their multiform inter-relations.”

Malinowski has classified social heritage into two parts – material and non-material. Thus, according to Malinowsla, culture is a total system of life runs its course. In this way, both the social culture and physical culture are important factors of culture. Bidney, in explaining this definition of culture more extensively, has regarded culture as a result of social organizations like agrofacts, artifacts, and socifacts, and of language, religion, art and mentifacts.

In these definitions, culture has been defined as a material object. It is a sensate view of culture, but some other anthropologists have given different definitions. For example, Marret has regarded culture as communicable intelligence.

Besides the above definitions culture has been defined with a formal and aesthetic point of view also. According to Ruth Benedict, culture is not the content of social life, but it is an order and organization of social life. Benedict has, therefore, written not on the content of culture but about its patterns.

Most of the modern anthropologists adopt the functional mode of culture. Malinowski and Radcliffe Brown have given an instrumental and a humanist definition of culture. According to Malinowski, culture gives man a chance to satisfy his bio-psychic social heritage which perpetuates social life.

The functionalists have regarded the whole of culture as the unit of study. They take a logistic view of culture.

Some other anthropologists have regarded culture to be subjective. According to Linton, life of a people is one thing and what we study and write about is another thing. The first is a reality and the second is our understanding of that reality.

The first is culture and the second is culture construct. In this way, culture lies in actual human behaviour. Kluckhohn has described it as a way of thinking, feeling and action. According to Gillin, culture is not an activity but a pattern. The culture, referred to in anthropology, is found, not in the life of people, but in the anthropological study of their life.

It is clear from the above statement that although culture has been the most dominant concept in anthropology and an extensive literature has been created about it, yet there is no unanimity among anthropologists as to what culture is.

As a matter of fact attention will have to be paid to all the facts contained in the above definition in order to understand what culture is. In defining culture, one fact or other is found in all the views which have to be taken together because none of these views given above is enough to define culture.