Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Topic: The Human Person

This topic is brought to you by Christina Bernardo:

Tapping Topic: Human Person

What does it mean to be a human person? I hope we can agree there is more to humanity than opposable thumbs, but can one simply identify a human by recognizing a few similar characteristics?
Plato calls a human a ‘featherless biped.’ Diogenes brings forth a plucked chicken, claiming here is Plato’s man.

Does a human person necessarily have the capacity for emotion? Does a person have to recognize this capacity for emotion in others? Does being human have nothing to do with feeling at all, or are we just relating to each other on a basis that we can relate to?
For instance, Hegel states that by owning property we are actualizing ourselves and having ourselves recognized by others; is being a human person simply reducible to owning private property?

Are human characteristics solely human traits? Is it a dangerous idea to put animals on the same level as human beings?

Once we are able to define what some characteristics of human person are, it would be neglectful for us not to relate our theorizing to the context of actuality. How does our agreed upon definition apply in our society today? Are all that possess these common grouping of human characteristics considered human beings? How do we root our theory of the human person in practical reality, and see if it really works in the world we live in? If we find the theory of characteristics of a human person does not apply to actuality, where does the problem lie and is it the problem something that can be fixed or something inherently ingrained in humanity? Are we potentially expecting more out of humanity that what is possible?

Food for Thought:
A human being is only breath and shadow.

No man really knows about other human beings. The best he can do is to suppose that they are like himself.
John Steinbeck

Well, at the heart of each culture is a very special way that is sees the world, a way that it thinks the human experience.
Chaim Potok

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
Albert Einstein


Solid topic.
I would ask, however, what about the capacity for rational thought and language as criteria for humanity? For centuries in philosophy this is how humanity has been defined in order to separate men (persons if you prefer) from beasties, specifically with Aristotle's binomial nomenclature for human beings as "animal rationale," or the animal that thinks as opposed to the rest of animals which don't. The question of rational thought leads quite naturally into the question of the logos, or more generally language, as the foundation of thought. This new question might be not so much, how is man separated from beast, but how is man separated from the advanced computational language using hardware that he has created to do his calculations?
Just another way to spin it.
Love and Peace,

1 comment:

Ruri said...

Quickly it seem dangerous for reasons we have discussed before to locate the humanity of a human being in emotion simply or in the rational/language simply. In fact neither of them can or ought to be understood simply.

No philosopher, no matter how Konigsbergian (to steal this insult from Nietzsche) has attained a realm of thought without emotion. In fact we (i) might argue that philosophy is an essentially emotional task--the great paper is turbulent, exciting, full of pathos of some sort (is awe different from emotion? ... another dangerous split for me).

Equally emotional states without reason or language or what have you seem quite impossible. They might be something like sensation, or unconsciousness. They would not be something like mystical prophesying or novel-writing which inhabit language more then philosophers do (again... opinion).

It seems we might treat both of these together as self-awareness. Reason as only that of a person, not a postulate. Emotion as that of a thinker not a beast.

Secondly, might the creation and maintenance of society be unavoidably tied in with the activity of self-awareness (put awkwardly on purpose)? Do politicians make a country? Are "poets the unacknowledged legislators of the world" (Shelley) or hermits?

Lastly, just literary reminiscences

The Sophocles quote reminds me of the breath of life plus the necessity of death. Human being as that which passes?

The Plato quote reminds me of his image of the soul in love in the Phaedrus.

"Thus far I have been speaking of the fourth and last kind of madness, which is imputed to him who, when he sees the beauty of earth, is transported with the recollection of the true beauty; he would like to fly away, but he cannot; he is like a bird fluttering and looking upward and careless of the world below; and he is therefore thought to be mad. And I have shown this of all inspirations to be the noblest and highest and the offspring of the highest to him who has or shares in it, and that he who loves the beautiful is called a lover because he partakes of it. For, as has been already said, every soul of man has in the way of nature beheld true being; this was the condition of her passing into the form of man. "

(Gorgeous, no?)

plus the greek understanding of man as the upright animal, that self-possessed, self-responsible creature.

sweet topic...
i like people.