Published on February 5, 2014
Professor: Jorge Martínez Lucena
Our human preconceptions A journalistic approach: http://mentalfloss.com/article/50787/29-answers-question-what-human-being (Arika Okrent, 2013) Different possible definitions collected from our Western tradition: 1. "The image of God." (Book of Genesis) 2. "A god in ruins." (Ralph Waldo Emerson, American writer)
Our human preconceptions 3. "The measure of all things." (Protagoras) 4. "An intelligence served by organs." (Ralph Waldo Emerson, American writer) 5. "A reasoning animal." (Seneca) 6. "But a reed, the most feeble thing in nature, but he is a thinking reed." (Pascal)
Our human preconceptions 7. "A tool-using animal." (Thomas Carlyle, Scottish philosopher) 8. "A tool-making animal." (Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father of the USA) 9. "An ingenious assembly of portable plumbing." (Christhoper Morley)
Our human preconceptions 10. "Nature's sole mistake." (W.S. Gilbert, English Dramatist) 11. "But breath and shadow, nothing more." (Sophocles) 12. "This quintessence of dust." (Shakespeare) 13. "A featherless biped." (Plato) 14. "The naked ape." (Desmond Morris, English zoologist)
Our human preconceptions 15. "An animal that makes dogmas." (G.K. Chesterton) 16. "A political animal." (Aristotle) 17. "Animal so lost in rapturous contemplation of what he thinks he is as to overlook what he indubitably ought to be." (Ambrose Bierce, American Journalist)
Our human preconceptions (…) 21. "The only animal for whom his own existence is a problem which he has to solve." (Erich Fromm) (…) 23. "The only animal whose desires increase as they are fed; the only animal that is never satisfied." (Henry George, American writer and politician)
Our human preconceptions (…) 26. "The only animal that can remain on friendly terms with the victims he intends to eat until he eats them." (Samuel Butler, English writer) 27. "The Animal that Blushes. He is the only one that does it or has occasion to." (Mark Twain) (Painting: Shame painting, Penny Siopis, 2005)
Exercise In light of what we have just discussed, try to identify the main features of humanhood
Human being as a contradiction Summary: Man seems to be a tension between several poles: • Animal/God • Dependence/Freedom • Feeling/Reason • Weakness/Power • Body/Soul • Individual/Social • Natural/Irreducible In this respect, human being seems to be something impossible for our reason but undeniable given our experience. Words seem not to be able to convey what a human being is.
Two positive features Nevertheless we can also deduce positive features from our preconceptual summary: - The human has an infinite desire which he cannot satisfy by himself (beauty, truth, moral ideal, etc.) - The human has awareness of himself (for example: we can study Anthropology)
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