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What is it to be human?


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#1    Professor T

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 09:22 PM

We can all basically agree that we are human biological beings, but from there on in we can't agree on definitions of the human condition or basically what it is to be us.. One would assume that we should all agree on a definition relitively quickly, given that we are humans..

So, pretty simple really, in one paragraph or less, define what it is to be a human in the Philosophical, Psycological or Spiritual sense of the word. What aspects define what we are.. What's at the core of our being... What is it to be human?

Edited by Professor T, 23 February 2013 - 09:39 PM.


#2    Professor T

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 09:47 PM

I think that a definition of what it is to be human is to Imagine, Invent and Inspire.. These three aspects are things that imo seem to place humans apart from other known creatures in the animal kingdom, and from those three you can trace back most  non-ego driven agendas.


#3    Sean93

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 11:04 PM

The simple fact that we can even pose such a question distinguishes us from all other species on the planet. To be human is, I suppose, to be the successful result of billions of years of evolution and we'r really just lucky that genetics took this turn into giving us superior intellect over other animals.

Edited by Sean93, 23 February 2013 - 11:05 PM.

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#4    notoverrated

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 11:16 PM

To have a dream i think is important to be a human, to have ambition.

If your not after beauty, then why are you even drawing breath?

#5    Hasina

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 11:31 PM

To give meaning to meaningless things.

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#6    redhen

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 01:03 AM

The traditional view is that man is a rational being, one that can reason. I think that's pretty non-contentious, but as they say in philosophy, the devil is in the details. Right away this excludes infants, the senile and mentally challenged.

More generally, this definition would include archaic hominids and possibly chimpanzees, dolphins, crows, elephants and other species that exhibit rational cognition.

So perhaps a better criteria, one that other UM readers have posited (Mr Walker I believe) is that man is a symbolic animal. He deals in symbols, totally abstract thought, and second order thinking (thinking about thinking). That would eliminate non hominids from the list.

But again, this would exclude those biological humans incapable of such thought. Does that make them sub-human (untermenschen)? Slippery slope incoming ....


#7    Arpee

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 02:30 AM

The philosophical, Psychological, and Spiritual aspects of what it means to be human are all connected. The spiritual perspecptive affects the philosophical and psychological view.

Spiritually, to be human is to have another unique expression of consciousness. Birds are seeing from their eyes with their own views depending on their experiences, biology, and environment. Starfish are perceiving the world from their point of view, without eyes, ears, nose, or a mouth, but with just sensation of the body. There are many different expressions of consciousness and humans happen to be another unique one.


Philosophically, the human condition is that of suffering, more so than other creatures. The reason why is because humans have words (sounds which were taken to have meaning) and this can keep a person living in the past whereas an animal, would be thinking about the past less and more in pictures thinking of NOW for survival and potential future threats but without longing or repetition since they do not have words which keeps them locked in abstract thinking.

Psychologically, the human mind can question things, whereas an animal can only be led with curiousity. For animals, the questioning happens in the moment, but the human can randomly sit down and contemplate and abstract idea.

Or at least, this seems to be my observation.

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#8    Professor T

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 07:30 AM

Well that's weird?
so far 6 members have responded and all 6 responses have been different?

Perhaps I should have clarified that only Humans should be answering the question.. :whistle:

:P

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Edited by Professor T, 24 February 2013 - 07:36 AM.


#9    Frank Merton

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 08:19 AM

View PostSean93, on 23 February 2013 - 11:04 PM, said:

The simple fact that we can even pose such a question distinguishes us from all other species on the planet. To be human is, I suppose, to be the successful result of billions of years of evolution and we'r really just lucky that genetics took this turn into giving us superior intellect over other animals.
How does evolution go about enabling us to pose such questions?

I would like to leave it at that but I feel compelled to stipulate that I am not a creationist and I am not making a creationist point here


#10    Frank Merton

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 08:22 AM

View PostProfessor T, on 24 February 2013 - 07:30 AM, said:

Perhaps I should have clarified that only Humans should be answering the question.. :whistle:

My cats have a clear-cut view of what its like to be human.  You get up at the same time each day for the purpose of filling their water and food bowls.  You are also good for ear-scratching, but only when it is desired.


#11    Professor T

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 10:38 PM

View PostFrank Merton, on 24 February 2013 - 08:22 AM, said:

My cats have a clear-cut view of what its like to be human.  You get up at the same time each day for the purpose of filling their water and food bowls.  You are also good for ear-scratching, but only when it is desired.

Ahh, but I want to know what humans think being human is all about..
I might consider getting cat's perspective at some other time, but maybe not their Philosophical view.


#12    White Unicorn

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Posted 24 February 2013 - 11:34 PM

Consciousness and intelligence beyond the animal level. Man was first set apart from the other creatures because he spoke and had the ability to write and perceive abstract symbols... experiences and history could integrate into the future generations a knowledge learned without a personal experience. No other animal has that yet.  

In one old interpretation in the books of Enoch it had different nations of man symbolized by animals. Said Noah was born an Ox but became a Man. I found it interesting that not all humans become a man. I think it means Illumination. Men can acquire it but most humans don't.


#13    Rlyeh

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 12:09 AM

An organism that possesses the human genome.


#14    ouija ouija

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 01:03 AM

View PostArpee, on 24 February 2013 - 02:30 AM, said:

Philosophically, the human condition is that of suffering, more so than other creatures. The reason why is because humans have words (sounds which were taken to have meaning) and this can keep a person living in the past whereas an animal, would be thinking about the past less and more in pictures thinking of NOW for survival and potential future threats but without longing or repetition since they do not have words which keep them locked in abstract thinking.
I'd just like to make a comment on the parts of your post I've made BOLD. About four years ago, a pair of seagulls that I fed every day, decided to build a nest on my neighbours roof. They chose a spot that was between the chimney and the upward slope of the roof, a spot that would protect their offspring from the strongest heat of the sun and the winds from the north. When they had just completed the nest my neighbour decided she didn't want it there and got someone to climb up and pull it down. Needless to say, the birds were very distressed about this and attacked the man, and tried to prevent the destruction. They never tried to rebuild in the same spot, but each Spring when nest-building time comes around, they appear on the highest point of the roof and then make their way down to the site of the original nest. Then they make a lot of noise and flap their wings vigorously ..... they are definitely 'talking' to each other....... then they fly off. They do this several times a day for about a week/ten days. I believe they are reminding each other of what happened and are still distressed by the event. They knew they had found a perfect spot for their nest, but they remember that it is no longer safe.  

View PostWhite Unicorn, on 24 February 2013 - 11:34 PM, said:

Consciousness and intelligence beyond the animal level. Man was first set apart from the other creatures because he spoke and had the ability to write and perceive abstract symbols... experiences and history could integrate into the future generations a knowledge learned without a personal experience. No other animal has that yet.  

In one old interpretation in the books of Enoch it had different nations of man symbolized by animals. Said Noah was born an Ox but became a Man. I found it interesting that not all humans become a man. I think it means Illumination. Men can acquire it but most humans don't.

Regarding the part I've made BOLD: Many species of animals would not survive if they didn't have a way of communicating with each other, to enhance simply copying each other's actions. Birds and animals have a much more detailed vocabulary than most people realise! They're not just making a panicky sound to warn others to flee, etc.

What, in all the world, could I do to earn my living and still live as myself, as I knew myself to be? Temporary masks, I knew, had their place; everyone was wearing them, they were the human rage; but not masks cemented in place until the wearer could not breathe and was eventually suffocated.

#15    White Unicorn

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 01:13 AM

View Postouija ouija, on 25 February 2013 - 01:03 AM, said:


I'd just like to make a comment on the parts of your post I've made BOLD. About four years ago, a pair of seagulls that I fed every day, decided to build a nest on my neighbours roof. They chose a spot that was between the chimney and the upward slope of the roof, a spot that would protect their offspring from the strongest heat of the sun and the winds from the north. When they had just completed the nest my neighbour decided she didn't want it there and got someone to climb up and pull it down. Needless to say, the birds were very distressed about this and attacked the man, and tried to prevent the destruction. They never tried to rebuild in the same spot, but each Spring when nest-building time comes around, they appear on the highest point of the roof and then make their way down to the site of the original nest. Then they make a lot of noise and flap their wings vigorously ..... they are definitely 'talking' to each other....... then they fly off. They do this several times a day for about a week/ten days. I believe they are reminding each other of what happened and are still distressed by the event. They knew they had found a perfect spot for their nest, but they remember that it is no longer safe.  



Regarding the part I've made BOLD: Many species of animals would not survive if they didn't have a way of communicating with each other, to enhance simply copying each other's actions. Birds and animals have a much more detailed vocabulary than most people realise! They're not just making a panicky sound to warn others to flee, etc.
I said "Man was first set apart from the other creatures because he spoke and had the ability to write and perceive abstract symbols... experiences and history could integrate into the future generations a knowledge learned without a personal experience. No other animal has that yet."  


I agree animals communicate and have memories that's why I was careful to add the "yet" to the ability to read and write, abstract thought through symbols :)





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