How do you define human?

How do you define human?


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Posted Nov 27, 2009 - 8:26 PM:
Subject: How do you define human?
What makes up human? How do you define human? What do you value?

Is it the soul that makes up human?

Let's have a formal discussion. I want to know what your perspective is.

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Posted Nov 27, 2009 - 9:05 PM:

Well I guess someone must put out a first statement to be disproved.

I would at first say, "A human is a being capable of reasoning, introspection, and philosophy". This statement of course has it's issues. For instance I would say a person whom is in a coma is still human and yet unable to do these things. How might we fix this statement?

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Posted Nov 27, 2009 - 9:56 PM:

How to define human is a simple question but also difficult. Different field has different points: biology, society, philosophy....
In one word, I think human is a senior animal with unfathomable thought.

Edited by Landlady on Nov 27, 2009 - 11:28 PM. Reason: Capitalization
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Posted Nov 27, 2009 - 10:16 PM:

I'd say to be a human means to be part of homo sapiens sapiens. Its an 'historical essence' - not a dispositional one. It means to be part of a species; roughly: a group of organisms that can produce viable offspring.

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Posted Nov 27, 2009 - 10:41 PM:

Human, half animal half God!
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Posted Nov 28, 2009 - 6:40 PM:

Human is a type of an animal with specific mental set up.
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Posted Nov 28, 2009 - 10:43 PM:

KevinLP wrote:
What makes up human? How do you define human? What do you value?
Is it the soul that makes up human?
Let's have a formal discussion. I want to know what your perspective is.

It seems to have become somewhat hazardous to hang the title "human" on some particular trait, like 'tool using,' now that several other animals have been found to use objects as tools. Various animals have some degree of reasoning ability (granted, not a lot), and many animals share with humans the neurological apparatus of emotions and learning. That said, it is probably better to view humanness PARTLY as points along a continuum. So, a goose, a dog, a pig, and a person might all feel fear; we might all grieve the loss of something or someone we loved, and we all feel sexual arousal - not in the same way, but we all feel it. Presumably, human emotions and human cognition is more complex than it is in other animals. When we feel fear, grief or sexual arousal we have the capacity to think about it in many different ways, which presumably a goose does not. A male goose probably can not fantasize about the perfect female goose.

Human cognition, memory, and emotions are more complex - as a whole - than other animals.
Humans have more 'reflective' capacity - that is, they can think about themselves thinking about themselves to a degree that other animals can not. (Perhaps other animals can not think about themselves thinking about themselves at all -- I don't know, and I can't ask my dog or a pig whether they think about themselves reflectively.)

Humans have a great capacity to think about an extraordinary range of concrete and abstract topics in detail. This capacity does not seem to exist elsewhere in the animal kingdom. Humans have a similarly extraordinary capacity to communicate what they are thinking about to other members of the species using extraordinarily complex languages.

Humans have an apparently unique capacity to invent abstract systems and to interact with these systems over a long period of time. So it is we have culture - extraordinarily complex and rich culture. We have cultures that produce literature, music, religion, graphic and plastic arts, science, medicine, philosophy, law, and a host of other things. We either have souls that are the result of a cultural invention, or we are possibly unique creatures who have been endowed by a divine creator (who we did not invent) with immortality. Presumably other animals are not similarly endowed, but I do not know that for sure. Maybe my dog has a soul; if she does, I can not detect it. But then, I am not sure whether I have a soul either, and I can not detect mine, or its absence.

It looks like I am saying that 'humanness' is the result of a behavioral definition: We are human because we do things that we have defined as human. The proverbial visitor from outer space might say that what we do is rather like what other animals do, though it is carried to extremes in our species. Otherwise, we are all - dog, pig, goose, human - similar -– all being vastly inferior to the visitor from outer space.

I like this kind of definition because it fits with how I understand evolution: We, like all other creatures on earth, are the result of a very long process of evolution. Mutations which aided the survival of individual animals (or plants) often were passed on to offspring, and over a very long time and in a rather random fashion produced the worlds of yesterday and today and will produce the world of tomorrow. We are neither the 'apex of creation' nor the best of all possible evolutionary results. We just are what we are, like skunk cabbages just are what they are.

One of the things that distinguishes humans from dogs, geese, pigs, and skunk cabbages for that matter, is that we can think about, write about, and read about our place in the grand order of things. One of the great things about being human is that we can have some idea what it is that we do share with dogs, geese, pigs, and skunk cabbages.
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Posted Nov 29, 2009 - 1:00 AM:

In an old thread, I summarized a "human" as a "nerd monkey". We are the subgroup of primates that think technology, toys, and fanaticism toward made-up worlds as being of higher value than getting along sociologically with all the other animals. We walk funny and mess up our living areas, which tends to drive off everyone else. Other animals probably laugh at us behind our backs.

However, I recently toyed with a spiritual person and managed to tear down everything she thought was "human" into something that existed outside ourselves. Language is meaningless unless it is communicated and taught to others. A human is useless and couldn't survive independent of a *lot* of education, (both traditional and life lessons). There might be something else, no physical, purely abstract, that exists only because it is shared among individual members. That whatever is essentially "human" doesn't exist except as a set of shared concepts and doesn't really belong to us.
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Posted Nov 29, 2009 - 1:07 AM:

Ape + Language = Human.

swstephe wrote:
Language is meaningless unless it is communicated and taught to others. .

Language necessarily inheres these criteria. The idea of a 'meaningless language' is an oxymoron, wouldn't you say?

Edit: Of course one might object and say a child raised without language is still human. Then we could get into Chomsky's argument about innate grammar. In any case, I see language as that which gives us our human consciousness, without which we wouldn't have the concept of 'humanity' to begin with.

Edited by baden511 on Nov 29, 2009 - 1:20 AM

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Posted Nov 29, 2009 - 3:50 AM:

Oh, didn't you know?
Humanity is a virus. We breed and we spread like a virus, and we consume and destroy like one. We ensure our survival despite all the odds like one, and we adapt. Just think of the earth, a revolving speck in the oblivion of space, as an infected piece of dust.
We will continue to consume until there is no more. Like the fat kid who looks at the jar of chocolates and wonders why it's empty.
Humans need no definition. Where we're going there is no need for useless labels.
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