What does it mean to be human? | INFJ Forum

What does it mean to be human?

Discussion in 'Relationships and Sociology' started by Night Owl, Dec 14, 2016.

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  1. Night Owl

    Night Owl This Bird Has Flown

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    A friend (INFP) and I were talking today. We were speaking on what it means to be human.

    I thought, what an important question. For depending on how we define what it means to be human, rests so many things: introspectively, socially, relationally, our attitudes, behaviours etc., which could lend themselves to be better or worse for our perspective on humanness. It's such an important question, and I think we should ever be open to refining and cultivating our sense of what it means to be human, as after all, we are human, and we live with humans.

    I won't bother sharing my own thoughts yet. I'd like to hear from other people. So...

    For you, what does it mean to be human?



    Feel free to make philosophical commentary on the whole notion of 'being human' or perceptions thereof, such as those definitions/outlooks on humanness inherited by our culture.
     
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    #1 Night Owl, Dec 14, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2016
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  2. Jet

    Jet The Token Extravert

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    For me simply being of the species Homo sapiens is the only requirement for being human.

    Yes we can separate ourselves from the rest of the animal kingdom based on our cognitive abilities and insistence on our own importance.

    We can further separate our species into people who are more or less human but that is dangerous. We are all capable of being the worst or best of humanity, no one is inherently more or less. That is what should truly frighten us about "monsters" like Mengele...they are just another human like you or me.
     
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  3. ruji

    ruji Aloof Nihilist

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    There is no objective meaning in anything. If you were to ask me my subjective opinion, I'd say it's not meaningful to me for being human to mean something. I'm not trying to project any nihilism here, I just don't see the point.
     
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  4. Flavus Aquila

    Flavus Aquila Finding My Place in the Sun
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    (Not a broad/complete reply):

    One feature of being human, which stands out to me, is that we're the only species we know of that has and communicates complex concepts. In terms of cognition, we're not just at the top on this planet, we're unique and aware of it.

    Being human involves (for me) trying to find the "no answer" to the question, "are we alone?" Either by finding commonality with the other creatures on the planet, or by trying to create artificial intelligence, or by searching for intelligent extraterrestrial life. Being unique is great, but not being unique is better imo.
     
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  5. Zen

    Zen Community Member

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    We have forgotten how to be human. Being human is about being altruistic, compassionate, loving and interconnected. That is our true nature. We have forgotten our deep values of honour, courage and fighting for what is right not only for ourselves but for everyone.

    We are living in a new age of me, myself and I. It is all about the individual. Some of you will say that thinking of ourselves is a part of being human but I tell you now it is a sickness. It is making us miserable, ill, anxious and depressed. We have forgotten how to be human.

     
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  6. invisible

    On Holiday

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    Wounds, excrement, violence, mortality, etc
     
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  7. Jet

    Jet The Token Extravert

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    Have you ever spent any significant time with a toddler?

    All of those characteristics must be taught. Our true human nature is the me, myself, and I (which then eventually evolves somewhat to include family units). But compassion and altruism...yeah not at all "truly" human.

    If anything it could be argued that what makes one human is our ability to defy our true natures.
     
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  8. Korg

    Korg Well-known member

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    No it isn't.

    We need to be taught those values. That's why cultivated character is admirable: we recognize the effort it takes to rise above base instincts.
     
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  9. Littlelissa

    Littlelissa Well-known member

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    I think @Zen has it. To be human is about connection. Not the cult of the individual, the reality of the paradigm that we are living in now. In truth I think we could call this a 'living hell'. It is really a 'hell of loneliness', because we are living in the times of extreme individualism. Individualism that really is meaningless because at the route, is not creativity, not connection. I think as humans we share a desire to be connected, that the pursuits we spend our in are meaningful. Not for example corporate enterprises that, getting up in the morning, we wonder really why we are engaging ourselves in these pursuits- other to pay the bills. this kind of existence is not enough. Why can we not have a culture and society where people are engaged in creative ways, at things that they are good at? Where people can enjoy their pursuits. I can't help thinking that this is actually possible if things were structured more towards ideals which put peoples happiness first, before profitability. In fact people are most 'profitable' really when they are engaged in and doing things they enjoy. Maybe though, not profitable to the 1 o/o.

    I can't help that things are being engineered in a way, however consciously or unconsciously to make us forget our essential and to be so occupied with survival that we remain separated from our essential selves. Why? It doesn't have to be such a struggle does it? Really.

    Have you ever watched a documentary about tribes and 'primitive cultures' and just yearned to be back in that place in time. Surely we lived some lives in these times, as they do say that energy cannot be extinguished but only recycled. At some times I have felt such existential angst that I have that the only way I have felt able to cope with the world, as it is today, as it is, is to be removed somehow into another space, perhaps a loony bin with a difference, a beautiful space, with French windows, billowing curtains, and regular meals delivered to me. Lol, which would just perhaps give me the respite to get my head around the crazy world, and my existential angst of having to live in it! Actually this is more how I felt before moving to Scotland. I think I've found some of this space and this peace here in nature. But the treadmill we are all sentenced to find ourselves on is a taxing thing indeed.
     
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    #9 Littlelissa, Dec 14, 2016
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  10. Zen

    Zen Community Member

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    You are amazing! Exactly right! I'd follow you if I was not following you already! Amazing!

    Happy holidays to you! You are a Bodhisattva.



    https://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&rct=...sattva&usg=AFQjCNHqzZ8aR9UklVI5XvwFtaXeNrFhdw
     
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  11. Tamasine

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    To be able to use our brain for more than just instinct. For good or bad, our brain has developed more than an other species, which allows us to learn, create, do or be more than any species before us. Most just use it to feel insecure and sad. Im pretty sure that was not the reason I was placed on earth.
     
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  12. hush

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  13. Marnie

    Marnie Regular Poster

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    Exactly.
    After the terrorist attacks here in Europe and in France mostly, I could here people say "these killers are not humans!!". I've been having several debates here about this question. Of course they are humans, it is useless to try to dehumanize them! People just try to think they can't be "like us", because it's hard and shocking for them to imagine that " true people" can be extremely bad.

    And as much as I agree with @Zen about the importance of compassion, altruism etc., these are definitely not the notions that define what is to be a human being.

    Very interesting topic btw. Of course, there are a lot of other things I could say... Just don't have the time to write a 40 pages answer... :)
     
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  14. Milktoast Bandit

    Milktoast Bandit Dominate with compassion...

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  15. Sandie33

    Sandie33 Love Often & Absolutely ♡
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    Spirit in the flesh...you are born and you will die...what matters is what you do between these two states.
     
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  16. Enkidu

    Enkidu Community Member

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    Wonderful points. One of the least emphasized steps of early childhood development is imitation and how crucial imitative learning is as behavioral reflexes disappear. Like Orangutans and their infants, childhood is very long because we have decades to learn to become 'human,' or to pass on our symbolic culture. I agree that nurturing may not be inherently human, but more maternal. I'd sooner argue that we're cooperative, but not very 'nice' or 'good' in a natural state.

    Maybe the human condition is our constant attempt at defining it?
     
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  17. OP
    Night Owl

    Night Owl This Bird Has Flown

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    Very interesting to hear diverse perspectives. I've really learnt a few things. I feel bad not clicking "like" on most of them, and I started to, but I changed my mind, I didn't want to give the impression I agreed 100% with the views of posts I liked. Not that "likes" always mean this, but they can give that impression; and in this context I personally want to avoid that. Since on a matter which for me is so vital, I cannot sit easy with giving the impression I agree 100% of what I clicked "like" on when I may only agree 50% or 90%. For the most part I partly or mostly agree with all the posts. This is where the old "rep" option came in handy! Sorry I sound pedantic, and who but an INFJ would give a spiel explaining why they didn't click "like" lol. I'm more interested in having an exchange involving various and conflicting views, and possibly stumbling upon a shared point of convergence, and would click the "love you" button if there was one lol. Anyway...

    Reading the above, it strikes me that there might be said to be five different models/views on humanity being, which at times may converge. Not that I've pigeonholed people into these models, based on what they wrote, but have abstracted the models based on the contributions. These aren't explained very well, but roughly, and one could present each model with different slants. The first three make objective qualitative assertions, either positive, negative, or neutral, on what it means to be human (in the sense of what it is to be human – x, y or z etc.). The fourth is a non-qualitative assertion, and the fifth a qualitative assertion but under a different pretext than the first three.

    1. An intrinsically good model: human beings are intrinsically good and altruistic beings, and any behaviours deviating from such ‘goodness’ are unnatural perversions of what it means to be human, possibly, at least in part, as a result of faulty social conditioning.

    2. A fundamentally flawed model: human beings are fundamentally flawed in that they are chained to their animalistic instincts which prioritise pleasure and self-preservation which left unchecked inclines humans towards what is deemed anti-social and unethical. Thus to rise above this natural baseness relies on human conditioning, especially during the formative years of human development.

    3. A tabula rasa / blank slate model: human beings are neither naturally good or evil (whatever or however one may consider those terms), but through choices made, the conditioning of their environment and nurturing, they may become good or evil, or outside qualitative statements on being, may principally do good or evil.

    4. A negative-existentialistic model or nihilistic model: human beings are human beings. There is nothing to being human other than being human, and this very being that constitutes humanness is neither intrinsically good, evil or neutral, since morality is a construct, and thus it is irrelevant to say humans are either intrinsically good, flawed or are blank slates made to be one or the other, because objectively the human being is simply a human being – all qualitative judgements are necessarily subjective conceptualisations slapped onto objective reality and are thus meaningless and irrelevant.

    5. A positive-existentialistic model: almost the same as the above, yet on the platform of the principle that all qualitative judgments are necessarily subjective conceptualisations, a particular model (such as one of the first three above) is taken with the conviction and belief that such a model one has adopted is simply a subjective conceptualisation which is suitable and appropriate to fill the vacuum of a nihilistic outlook, and not a model grounded in objective reality.

    I think I'll share my half-baked view when I have some more time.
     
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  18. Littlelissa

    Littlelissa Well-known member

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    I found this quite from Eric Fromm 'The Art of Loving' I think it expresses what I was just saying, it was written in 1956;
    "Modern man has transformed himself into a commodity; he experiences his life energy as an investment with which he should make the highest profit, considering his position and the situation on the personality market. He is alienated from himself, from his fellow men and from nature. His main aim is profitable exchange of skills, knowledge and of himself, his 'personality package' with others who are equally intent with a fair and profitable exchange. Life has no goal except the one to move, no principle except the one of fair exchange, no satisfaction except the one to consume".
     
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  19. OP
    Night Owl

    Night Owl This Bird Has Flown

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    Forgive me in advance for the length, but I’m leaving soon, so I may as well pull a long one, and make it count while I can. I put headings in to soften the blow.

    My view on what it means to be human would fall under the intrinsically good model. I do however disagree with many versions of this model which in their simplistic positivism, and selective idealism seem to conveniently fail to address the dark underbelly of human behaviour and motives. Any reasonable claim that human beings are intrinsically good has to, in some way or form, address the seeming paradox of such intrinsic goodness with dark and violent tendencies. Providing at least some explanation as to how and why human being’s intrinsic goodness has, at least in recorded and uncovered history, coexisted with certain dark elements, and can abide even in spite of such darkness like a gem covered in mud. Intrinsically good, but extrinsically askew.

    I don’t intend to set forth or defend such a claim, but to present how social conditioning can be considered as inadequate evidence of human flawedness, but as adequate evidence for human being's intrinsic goodness.

    How Social Conditioning Constitutes Part of What it Means to be Human

    One thing that strikes me as interesting is how the impetuousness and selfishness apparent in young children, which requires social conditioning in order to ‘make good’ such ‘bad’ behaviours and attitudes, is used solely as evidence—or even overconfidently as alleged proof—that human beings are intrinsically flawed. Flawed in the sense of being chained to their instincts, and inclined towards ruthless self-preservation and gratification, which encompasses the wild and natural human state which can only be overcome through conditioning. Social conditioning is thus seen as an artificial construct distinct from, and built on top of, an uncouth human nature which is relegated to darkness without it.

    Yet it is apparent that wholesome social conditioning is not so much a tool that helps an intrinsically bad/flawed human nature to be overcome; but is an integral part of what is means to be human, and is necessary for human development—understood as a cultivation of human nature, and not an usurping of it.

    This can be demonstrated by breaking down what it means to be human—meaning here in the sense of, in what being human consists.

    Q. What does it mean to be human?
    A. To belong to the species homo sapiens.

    Q. In what does belonging to the species homo sapiens consist?
    A. To be a mammal, bipedal, to have a certain pronounced cognitive ability, capacity for symbolic thinking, to be an especially social creature etc.

    Q. In what does being a social creature (in the context of being human) consist?
    A. Among many things, the need (understood as the essential role) to be socialised.

    Q. What does it mean to be socialised?
    A. Among many things, to be socially conditioned: i.e. to be instructed in how to be social, in how to communicate with others and cooperate, and bargain; to be taught certain behaviours, according to diverse social and ethical frameworks—philosophical and/or religious and/or cultural and/or economical and political.​

    In light of the above, social conditioning is shown to be a building block constituting a part of what it means to be human. What that involves and according to which method is another whole matter, but at least social conditioning can be viewed as essential to what it means to be human.

    It can be summarised: to be human is to be a social creature, and that requires social conditioning—implying learning/education in the general sense of the word. Hence a part of what it means to be human is to be socially conditioned. The fact therefore, that human beings require at least adequate social conditioning in order to become decent people, and to rise above ruthless self-preservation and gratification, is because such conditioning is essential to what it means to be human, and without it, or with inadequate conditioning, humanness is left in potential, and not actualised: in other words, humanness is left undeveloped.

    How Social Conditioning Can Lead to the Actualisation of One’s Humanity

    Hence if social conditioning is part of what it means to be human, those aspects of a person—those traits that are a product— of an absence of social conditioning, or of poor/inadequate/wrong socialisation is not reflective of what it means to be human, but is a reflection of a lack or negation of what is human, and is thus to the degree that it lacks: inhumane or non-human. In this sense, someone whose behaviour is drastically anti-social and involves ruthlessly killing and sexually assaulting others, is not a behaviour that stems from such a person’s humanness, but from their undeveloped humanness – i.e. the unactualisation of their intrinsic humanity, which remains largely in potential due to poor/inadequate/wrong socialisation (among many other factors which play a role). They remain a human being, yet their behaviour can be deemed inhuman.

    One Cannot Lose Their Humanity but It Can Remain Undeveloped

    Accordingly, the humanity of everyone belonging to the species homo sapiens is irrefutable and intrinsic. This is all that is required to be human, and no behaviours or lack in any other constituent of what it means to be human diminishes this possession of being human—of humanness. However, such intrinsic humanness can be in varying degrees undeveloped and thus left to such a degree extrinsically in potential, or it can be in varying degrees developed and so made to be measurably extrinsically actualised. In this respect a serial killer is as human as everyone else, and yet, elements of their behaviour and attitudes are inhuman, in that they are inhuman actualisations stemming from an undeveloped or non-actualised part of their intrinsic humanity.

    ‘Proper’ and ‘Improper’ Social Conditioning

    Such conditioning is ‘proper’ if and only if it is suitably human. That is, it develops the human person as a human person – i.e. as a mammal, bipedal, intellectual being, symbolic thinker, social creature, as a meaning orientated creature, etc. Social conditioning is ‘improper’ to the degree it either fails to fit what is human, or fails to cultivate, or warps, human traits, by negating the actualisation of human properties, or by conditioning them faultily by negating the human character, and the holistic and dynamic nature of such human properties. All ‘improper’ conditioning contributes to an undeveloped humanity.

    For example, conditioning a child to murder on impulse is ‘improper’ conditioning, because although it may lead to a kind of cultivation of cognition, survival skills, and a certain physical prowess, which are all human capacities, it negates the social dynamic of human traits which is existent because human beings are social creatures. Such conditioning would thus fail to cultivate sociability, and would warp other traits against such an integral part of being human. It would thus leave the humanness of such a child to some degree, undeveloped.

    Conclusion: How the Integral Role of Social Conditioning Can Be Used as Evidence for Human Being’s Intrinsic Goodness

    The essential role social conditioning plays in being human can thus be used as evidence (not proof—proof can never be had) of human being’s intrinsic goodness. The seeming unethical and wild nature of human beings which exists before social conditioning, or endures because of its absence, or a poor version of it, is not evidence that human beings are intrinsically flawed and can only rise above such a flawed nature by means of conditioning; but is simply indicative that such conditioning is integral to the development of that very nature. And if social conditioning is integral to the development of human nature, the flawed result of its absence or ‘improper’ form, in nowise reflects that human beings are intrinsically flawed—but instead, that human beings are intrinsically good, but that social conditioning (along with other factors) is necessary to actualise extrinsically what is intrinsic and in potential.

    For if (proper) social conditioning is a brick in the wall of what it means to be human, the hole of diminishment left by its absence is not reflective of what being human is, no more than a pile of rubble from a once standing wall, is reflective of what a wall really is.
     
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  20. Free

    Free probably just a "like" bot
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    The entirety of your latest post is why you'll be sorely missed. ❤
     
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