Can a civilization be highly evolved as far as culture, ethics, societal norms, laws, language, literature and arts, but not ever come to develop any sort of advanced technology besides main practical techniques for construction and agriculture?
They have a culture-religion that is fully integrated with nature, and they are naturally frugal as they are isolated from the other cultures in their world, and live in a continent that is able to provide all they need to prosper.
EDIT: Thanks all for all your amazing inputs. I sort of figured out by myself how to solve this issue I had with this civilization. I will explain it in the end.
First, the clarifications:
- They are not human. They are an intelligent species that evolved from warm-blooded reptiles.
- They have math (a senary numeric system), literacy (their language is based on clicks like Khoisan), highly developed agriculture, steam, the wheel, levers, pumps, cranes, concrete, highly developed civil engineering and architecture, highly developed metalworks, mining, etc. What I meant by advanced technology was basically war machines, electricity, airplanes, ships, computers, post first industrial revolution technologies.
- Their philosophical and ethical level is comparable to Ancient Athens/Ancient China but a little more advanced. So, they are basically very enlightened empiricists by nature observation BUT don't have a full empirical scientific method fully developed (and they can't have a western-like scientific method developed, or they will turn to imperialism, conquest and war. That was the main concern behind my question).
- They have another reptilian species of "companions" (they are "slaves" in the economic sense - work for food and shelter -, but are not slaves in the sense we Americans think of slaves, like some people with another skin color that we can rape, abuse, force to work to death, and beat at will, whenever our White European selves feel frustrated and/or down). That reptilian species has an intelligence comparable to a combination of crows, chimpanzees and dogs. So, they are not able to develop abstract thinking, but are able to learn and execute any sort of tasks the main species need then to do. They also have sets of opposable fingers and toes like the main species.
- The main species is integrated with nature through their culture/religion as they were essentially hunters gatherers before "the great cataclysm' (something like 70 million years BP). A little before that they had what they call "The 500,000 year march", when they left their original dying (due to basically extinction of resources caused by their own predatory actions) homeland and moved West and then South to this new continent where they been living for 70 million years, totally isolated from the rest of the world. During that "march", their culture of elders/scientists/priests ruling evolved, and they created their literary tradition of passing to the youngsters the knowledge of their whole history, and their nature worshipping religion. One of the main legends is that nature is a live and sentient organism that helps their species by providing and nourishing them.
- This is another point. They have a culture (like us humans), so instructions needed for survival are not necessarily coded in their DNA like the other animals. They still have some basic survival needs and skills encoded in their DNA (as we still have too, like, for example, fear of spiders, which is not cultural, as all cultures in the world fear spiders), but most of the skills and needs are passed from the elders to the youngsters as culture.
So, I basically figured out how to make them highly culturally advanced while keeping them without developing advanced technology and war machines what would have their culture necessarily changing to expansionism, imperialism, conquest and warmongering. I basically used two features from their lore, one geographic (their continent is rich in resources, as well as very isolated) and another cultural (their nature-worship religion). As result, like in Chinese Confucianism, to want to leave their parents/clan homeland is really frowned upon. Whoever leaves their original homeland becomes an outcast and a pariah. As they have all the resources they need, there is no need to trade for resources with other cultures. And as they worship nature, their local rivers, forests, mines, mountains, so forth, are very important to them, so they cannot be faraway from it, and must respect that nature, so not bring destruction or building anything that does not look able to fit into the natural environment. As Ming China, they can have a very advanced civilization, but without any need to contact the exterior world. And, unlike Ming China, they don't need to keep a strong military to protect their borders, because they are separated from the other cultures in their world by thousands of miles of open ocean.
Thanks again for all your ideas. And if you have any other ideas that you think would provide any improvement to this way I found to solve this issue I had, I will be really happy to hear them.