• Mikie
    4.2k
    Why is a DNA-based definition too broad? For reasons already mentioned by other posters.

    Why is mathematical-ability-based definition too narrow? Clearly this is an interesting question as far as I'm concerned.
    Agent Smith

    Every living thing has DNA. So that’s too broad when asking about a bird or a tree. For these things we look for specific attributes.

    Humans have many attributes— they have atoms, DNA, cells. They have nervous systems. They have opposable thumbs. They’re bipedal. And so forth.

    Some of these traits they share with other animals, some they don’t. Some are unique to them. Language and mathematics (and music, arguably) and logic are such unique traits. I don’t think it’s controversial to make this claim.

    Given this is the case— yes, it’s narrow. But rightfully so— because you’re asking a narrow question: what is a human being? If we were asking “what is an animal?” then we could give human beings as an example. Or living thing. Or mammal. Or primate. But we’re not doing that— we’re asking specifically about one class of beings.

    In some ways, I still largely agree with Aristotle. We’re the zoon echon logon. The animal with logos. “Rational” and “reason” are often how this is translated— but speech is fine too. That’s what I go with anyway.
  • Banno
    19.2k
    I don’t like “essence” either.Xtrix

    That's pretty much the whole of my comment on your comment about language. It's neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for humanity.
  • Agent Smith
    8.1k


    Going against the establishment here, but I'd recommend a definition that's too broad rather than too narrow.
  • Mikie
    4.2k


    Then you’re not answering the question. “Mammal” is also broad. It’s also true. Is that a satisfying answer to the question “what makes a human being a human being?” I don’t think so.
  • Agent Smith
    8.1k
    Then you’re not answering the question. “Mammal” is also broad. It’s also true. Is that a satisfying answer to the question “what makes a human being a human being?” I don’t think so.Xtrix

    The problem as I see it is that no single trait humans have a potential for are manifested in all of us - absent/present and deficit/excess in re some of our qualities.
  • Agent Smith
    8.1k
    Welcome Robot Overlords.

    The Turing Test doesn't specify the definition of a human being. I believe even garden variety computers can mimic a small child with above-average language skills. Truth be told, my laptop with the appropriate software could mimic a deranged or a specially-abled person.
  • Mikie
    4.2k
    The problem as I see it is that no single trait humans have a potential for are manifested in all of usAgent Smith

    So what?

    Not all eagles fly. Should we throw out the term “eagle”?
  • Agent Smith
    8.1k
    So what?

    Not all eagles fly. Should we throw out the term “eagle”?
    Xtrix

    I dunno! That's not my department.
  • Athena
    2.3k
    What is the need for a definition of human in order to properly educate children?Jackson

    I don't think "definition" is the correct word for this discussion. I ask questions to get people to think about what they think. Or sometimes, I ask questions because I am really curious about what others think and experience intense pleasure when they cause me to think. I dearly want everyone to drop their concern for "technological correctness" and get into the spirit of enjoying this exchange of ideas. I totally hate the education for technology that we have had since 1958 because I hate the social, economic, and political ramifications of education for a technological society with unknown values. That is education that thinks of children as products for industry, rather than amazing creatures with great potential.

    Our liberty is 100% dependent on our education to be rational, cooperative, creative, and inventive human beings. Only when our democracy is defended in the classroom is it defended. Only when we are prepared everyone for independent thinking are we capable of doing the thinking that raises the human potential. That is human potential not the potential of technology, to destroy or save our planet. So what is our human potential and how do we prepare our young to manifest it? How do we liberate them and maintain a social order that lifts everyone up?
  • Athena
    2.3k
    The Turing Test doesn't specify the definition of a human being. I believe even garden variety computers can mimic a small child with above-average language skills. Truth be told, my laptop with the appropriate software could mimic a deranged or a specially-abled person.Agent Smith

    No, a computer is far from the human capacity for thinking. Sometimes spell check is helpful and sometimes it is very irritating. I find our reliance on computers terrifying! Spell check is better at spelling and correct form than I am but these rules are not equal to understanding concepts. The rules can prevent us from being aware of concepts. Such as the concept of "industry" is not "the industry". If spell check had control of the words I use, I would not be able to discuss concepts. Educating children to rely on this technology is education for following rules, and is not education for independent thinking.

    Hello, Naxi Germany, the mother of this education for technology, and all those charged with war crimes who were in complete dismay that they would be charged with a crime when they were just following orders. Because of the education they had, they were incapable of the independent thinking required to conceptualize doing anything but follow orders. And look at this thread. Nit-picking about the correct word and stupid arguments that go nowhere, but to me, look like stupid power games, not a desire to explore and understand.

    We once used the "Conceptual Method" for education, and teachers were told not to pay too much attention to technological correctness but focus on a child's understanding of a concept. I know this because I have the old books that told teachers what is important. A child could disagree with the teacher or not have the correct names or dates and be right if the child understood the "concept". Now we argue about technological correctness and the concept gets lost in this need to be "correct".

    Can you feel an awareness of a difference in feeling that is also a difference in behavior?
  • Athena
    2.3k
    Given this is the case— yes, it’s narrow. But rightfully so— because you’re asking a narrow question: what is a human being? If we were asking “what is an animal?” then we could give human beings as an example. Or living thing. Or mammal. Or primate. But we’re not doing that— we’re asking specifically about one class of beings.Xtrix

    :gasp: You did not mention the most important characteristics. What about imagination, ability to conceptualize, ability to make moral judgments, feeling passionate about justice and liberty, and taking care of our planet so future generations can have good lives. There is no bloody way our discussion about being human is narrow, no matter how narrow-minded some people are.
  • Athena
    2.3k
    We are just on a planet. Not much more to it.Jackson

    I think how we prepare our children for life is about much more than being on a planet. If we destroy this planet and take good care of it, matters a lot.

    Chardin said "God is asleep in rocks and minerals, waking in plants and animals, to know self in man."

    It is no longer the gods in charge but it is what we make it.
  • Jackson
    1.8k
    I think how we prepare our children for life is about much more than being on a planet. If we destroy this planet and take good care of it, matters a lot.

    Chardin said "God is asleep in rocks and minerals, waking in plants and animals, to know self in man."

    It is no longer the gods in charge but it is what we make it.
    Athena

    Ok.
  • Hanover
    9.1k
    Still seems not to help us decide what it is to be human in a way that suitsBanno

    If you're looking for a set of attributes, then, no, we don't have a definition we can resort to in all situations to determine if X goes in the bucket we mark "humans" and Y into some other bucket. But that's what we all knew would happen regardless of whether we were defining humans are any other thing.

    My approach was to ask instead what it was that made humans of ethical value. The answer is that they have been set aside as holy and therefore occupy a different metaphysical place in the world. It's why the interference with a person's ability to live out their full capability is a terrible loss, and why I insisted upon offering an education to those who will surely never be able to use it for any societal or economic purpose. That a holy being is being restrained is the sin, so to speak.

    To the question of how we distinguish the person from its seed or close variants, I don't really know, but I can say that once we have satisfied ourselves with a particular case where the thing is a person, I can define very clearly what respect that thing is to be afforded.

    So, what is a person? It's that sacred thing we treat differently than all else. That's my definition, wholly wanting in the respect that it doesn't offer a description of what it takes to be a person, but it does otherwise tell you what a person is.
  • Mikie
    4.2k
    There is no bloody way our discussion about being human is narrowAthena

    I didn’t once say the discussion is narrow. I said the question is narrow— which it is, in the sense of asking about one species.
  • Banno
    19.2k
    My approach was to ask instead what it was that made humans of ethical value. The answer is that they have been set aside as holy and therefore occupy a different metaphysical place in the world.Hanover

    Ok, I agree that humans have moral worth.

    But "they have been set aside as holy" does not provide an answer as to why they have moral worth. It simply repeats the sentiment.

    Unless you have more to add, by way of explanation as to what that "different metaphysical place" consists in, then nothing is added to the notion of having moral worth by ascribing that worth to being "sacred".

    Humans have moral worth in virtue of their being human. That worth does not derive from their relation to a god or gods, or to a background of spiritual discourse. It does not depend on any discourse. The moral worth of humans is not derived, but intrinsic.
  • Hanover
    9.1k
    The moral worth of humans is not derived, but intrinsicBanno

    Can a being without moral worth be human? If not, is that the essence of a human?
  • Banno
    19.2k
    TO get to moral worth as the essence of being human one would need to claim that something is human if and only if it has moral worth.

    But there are things that have moral worth that are not human.

    Hence having moral worth if not the essence of being human.
  • Tom Storm
    5.3k
    That worth does not derive from their relation to a god or gods, or to a background of spiritual discourse. It does not depend on any discourse. The moral worth of humans is not derived, but intrinsic.Banno

    So is this a presuppositon? What exactly does it rest upon? Asking for a friend... :wink:

    What does moral worth really mean? Is it the same as intrinsic value?
  • Banno
    19.2k
    What exactly does it rest upon?Tom Storm

    Nothing. Or rather, everything.

    It's not a conclusion, but a choice.

    That stuff I write about direction of fit, and naturalistic fallacies, and so on... it's not how things are that decides how things ought to be. We decide how things ought to be.

    "Moral worth" is not my favourite term. "Ethical standing" might be better.

    "Intrinsic value" might be thought to imply that values are found, but that's exactly wrong.
  • Tom Storm
    5.3k
    "Moral worth" is not my favourite term. "Ethical standing" might be better.

    "Intrinsic value" might be thought to imply that values are found, but that's exactly wrong.
    Banno

    Nice. I like 'ethical standing' more too. 'Moral worth' sounds like a Christian apologist.

    If we decide how things ought to be, is there a preferred philosophical approach to resolve a difference of views?
  • Banno
    19.2k
    is there a preferred philosophical approach to resolve a difference of views?Tom Storm

    Well, yes, conceptual analysis...

    But I would say that, wouldn't I?

    You must have noticed by now that philosophy is not of much help in deciding between the various systems of ethics. All it can do is set out the relationships between them.

    Unfortunately, the choice is down to us.

    But I say "us" advisedly. Far and away the commonest mistake hereabouts is to suppose that the choice is down to "me", and hence some form of relativism. But we are social, and ethics is a political act.

    Though it is not often made explicit, in the end the demise of the Liberal Party is down to their moral failure ("lack of ethical standing"); to not looking at the greater interest of out common wealth, apparent in climate denial, cronyism , pork barrelling, non-action on corruption, cruelty to refugees and the poor (robodebt), and so on.

    Ethical considerations have a way of rising to the top.
  • Tom Storm
    5.3k
    You must have noticed by now that philosophy is not of much help in deciding between the various systems of ethics. All it can do is set out the relationships between them.Banno

    Indeed.

    But we are social, and ethics is a political act.Banno

    Yes, and this much is also clear to me.

    Though it is not often made explicit, in the end the demise of the Liberal Party is down to their moral failure ("lack of ethical standing"); to not looking at the greater interest of out common wealth, apparent in climate denial, cronyism , pork barrelling, non-action on corruption, cruelty to refugees and the poor (robodebt), and so on.

    Ethical considerations have a way of rising to the top.
    Banno

    Which is a good thing - especially when 'the mob' is in agreement with my own values.

    Thanks
  • Joshs
    4k
    You must have noticed by now that philosophy is not of much help in deciding between the various systems of ethics. All it can do is set out the relationships between them.Banno

    I though a philosophy WAS a ‘system of ethics’.
  • Banno
    19.2k
    Which is a good thing - especially when 'the mob' is in agreement with my own values.Tom Storm

    But then you are a late-sipping left-leaning do-gooder from Melbourne.
  • Tom Storm
    5.3k
    I though a philosophy WAS a ‘system of ethics’.Joshs

    A tantalizing prospect.
  • Banno
    19.2k
    I though a philosophy WAS a ‘system of ethics’.Joshs

    How would that work?
  • Joshs
    4k
    How would that work?Banno

    Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida, Kant , Hegel, etc:

    Each of these implies an original approach to ethics.
  • Banno
    19.2k
    Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida, Kant , Hegel, etc:

    Each of these implies an original approach to ethics.
    Joshs

    So that's five different systems for a start...

    Which one is the ‘system of ethics’?
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