Voice of joy and sunshine
26th May 2003
I'd link to the other place I posted this on but that would be advertising so...
What does it mean to be human?
On the surface this question is simple, a certain form of body, a genetic structure of a certain degree. But then people say 'I am human' does that mean that a person is their body? Yet we also deny people like us in body but different in action as having humanity, the murderer, the rapist, these people many would argue have destroyed their humanity. It seems more likely then that humanity is something beyond a body, something we are taught or learn at some point or another in our lives. The dictionary defines 'humanity' as:
1. The quality of being human; the peculiar nature of man, by which he is distinguished from other beings.
2. Mankind collectively; the human race.
3. The quality of being humane; the kind feelings, dispositions, and sympathies of man; especially, a disposition to relieve persons or animals in distress, and to treat all creatures with kindness and tenderness. ``The common offices of humanity and friendship.'' --Locke.
4. Mental cultivation; liberal education; instruction in classical and polite literature.
5. pl. (With definite article) The branches of polite or elegant learning; as language, rhetoric, poetry, and the ancient classics; belles-letters.
However none of these definition suffice. 1 comes across the problem that man is ultimately defined as human and human is defined as man; also it is difficult to differentiate humanity from any other animal baring from their fabulous use of technology. The second genetic argument we have already discussed, if humanity was genetic it could not be removed from people and the statement 'I am human' would be a rejection of the majority of individuality. Since people's bodies differ much less than their personalities it is only logical to conclude that a person is not their body but is something more. The third definition is rose-tinted nonsense, if it were the case there would be few on earth that are human, in which case 'human' becomes an elitist label for those few who can hold themselves aloft from imediate violence by economic, mental or physical opression of a larger body. From which view they cease to fullfil the criteria at all and being human becomes meaningless. Mental cultivation, literature, a certain style of education or learning - is then the primitive tribe not human; were we not once devoid of these things; were we then not human? Again, nonsense.
Why then do we say that some people are human and some are not? It is ultimately by their actions that people are judged, (though to be sure in the past some have been denied their humanity by basis of their skin we have already discussed the invalidity of an argument from genetics.) Actions in order to be judged as human must fall within a certain area, it is not acceptable in 'human' society to walk up to a person, shoot them, and then take all their money - Nor in 'human' society is it trully acceptable, although maybe more so than in the last case, to leave a child pleading for help to die of exposure and starvation. However it is acceptable to support a system that will do these things for us, there is a moral hypocrisy in that people deny responsibility for the consequencies of their actions when they don't have to look at them. What is this behavior based on; why is it acceptable to do A and not B? What people find acceptable depends upon what they have learnt, what has formed their personality. Actions are taken, acceptance defined by the character of man.
To be human then is to fall within a certain range of behavior and to have certain feeling about things, to think certain thoughts. This of course must force us all to ask some questions. Are we trully human? And do we wish to be human? Do you think you are human?
The definitions of humanity do not depend on one another...a cruel and inhumane individual is still genetically human. So it is entirely possible to be human by the second defintion and inhuman by the third. Therefore there is no single answer as to what humanity is - it depends on the context. I consider myself a human by all the definitions.
I can be barbaric.sometimes.no I never beat up someone bad....I used to lose temper quickly and fight.
We are highly advanced mammals, not humans.
"Human" is the name of our species, right? If im right, we are all human, period. If we are not humans, what are we? and what are humans then?
The only time humans seem to be defined as something other than human is when they're called subhuman, which is usually when someone wants to dehumanize an enemy and make it acceptable to destroy them in a variety of sharp, pointy ways. I can't see how anyone would define themselves as subhuman. And if you define yourself as superhuman, you need your ego checked.:)
I'd prefer super orangutans, but your way is fine.:)
I consider myself a sentient terran, i'd rather disociate myself from the rest.
I like the defintion that we are somewhere on the way between animal and human, where "human" is an ideal. Our ability to surpress our instincts raises us from other mammals but it is up to the individual how much this ability is used.