What makes us human?

Human = animal nature + human inventions

A lot of people say, human inventions such as status, systems of government, morality are all stupid. I agree that those are all inventions. But those stupid inventions is what gives us identity.

Just to refute the anarchist. We can not get rid of all human inventions, because to do so, we would become animals. It’s true that morality is the tool used to regulate our every day affairs. Without it, we’d be living like complete loners. Even in hunter gatherer societies, there are status.

We never get rid of inventions, we simply replace one set of invention with another set. In the end, all our beliefs are inventions. I say, so be it. Hurray to (stupid) materialistic beliefs, hurray to canniblism, hurray to everything.

As ‘animals’ we rely on our tool-making abilities just like the snake relies on its venom, a specialized organic function controlled by our large brain. The large brain gives us reflection, self-consciousness, the ability to gain knowledge at an incredible speed, all of which gives us incredible adaptability, social organization, and power to survive.

without our tools, we wouldn’t even be animals. Thats like saying, ‘what would the spider be without its web?’

It seems you are suggesting that a mass murderer is not a human but an animal.

Forget that, though. More worrying is your argument that it is our inventions (?) rather than, our innate rationality, or reason, that makes us human. Surely our social inventions are merely products of whatever it is that makes us human? Government is a product of our ability to reason, for example (in that argument).

Its not even our rationality that makes us human. Its just a name for a type of animal, whose principal mode of survival is by reason. Like saying that, “a fish is an animal that swims”. It doesn’t follow that “swimming” is what makes a fish a fish. A whale swims, but is not a fish. Similarly, Spock is very rational- more so than humans- and is also an animal, but Spock is not a human, he’s a vulcan.

Humans are animals that can create meaning, and money.

I was being charitable to the OP, hoping to turn it into something more acceptable!

I’m assuming you are familiar with the function argument. You’re half way there with what you say above - we are not humans by virtue of the fact we can swim, because other beings swim. We are not human by virtue of living a nutritional life of growth, because other beings like plants grow. We do, however, have reason. Other beings to not appear to be rational.

Hate to break it to you, but, appealing to the race of the Vulcan is not an acceptable maneuver! :stuck_out_tongue:

Okay, you are claiming that if you find a characteristic of some animal which no other animals possess, that serves as a definition of the animal. Along these lines, I could just as easily say, a Human is an upright-walking ape. Or, a human is an ape with exceptionally large naked tits. Good enough for our purposes I guess.

human inventions include the rational and the irrational.

irrational meaning … not attained by means of reason?

All we have are thoughts, and nothing more.

opposable thumbs and better tools


[quote=“Pinnacle of Reason”]
Human = animal nature + human inventions

We can not get rid of all human inventions, because to do so, we would become animals.

And by becoming animals we are losing…? I think that an overnight transformation into uncivilized animals would do us a lot of good. Modern humans, the average american in particular, are destroying the world with their technology, religion, propoganda, and most importantly their government.

American society/culture is shit. It’s capitalist roots, bigotry, selfishness, ignorance, and ego-centered mindset will surely be the death of the so called civilized world.

If humans are only humans and not animals by virtue of their inventions, are we humans when we are asleep, or only when we are awake?

The first day of our lives, when all we do is cry and breathe and gaze and suckle, are we not humans?

If I, through a traumatic head injury, am put into a coma from which I will never wake though my (other than brain) organs all continue to function, am I not human?

What about a child who is raised in a closet, where food is given to the child through a chute, who never encounters another human in their life. Is this creature human or animal?

i think the important part of this thread is not ‘what is the meaning of the term human’ but ‘what makes a human different from an animal’

id say our brain is slightly higher on an ambiguous sliding scale, giving us slightly better abilities in areas such as memory and our ability to compare patterns and find similarities in them when the actual things we have memories of are not so related. this means we are not fundamentally different from monkeys, just a little more refined.

the main thing that sets us apart from animals is the placement of our vocal chords. they are higher up than in monkeys, and our tongue can move around in such a way that we can make many different, controlled sounds and then assign meaning to each of those sounds. elephants are known to talk to eachother very much, lots of animals do, they just dont have very many different communication methods or ‘words’ and therefore not that many things to communicate.

possibly another thing that sets us apart is the ability to combine signals in order to create a new one. for example ‘fug’ means ‘poop’ and ‘up’ means ‘head’ and in addition, ‘fugup’ means ‘evangelical’. i dont know whether or not animals can do that, but they can communicate at least as many ideas as they have signals, for example an elephant flaps its ears in like 3 different ways and the herd responds to each of them in a specific way, but if it did two of them in a row, the herd probably would get confused.

what defines ‘rational’ and how are animals not rational? i think they just havent had the benefit of converying their experiences in the super-compressed form of language that we have. i mean an animal learns how to live life by watching their parents and trial and error. a human learns how to communicate like that, and then once thats established, roughly the entire knowledge of every empirical experience that ever was can be experienced by this one human by the time they are 20.

technically looks like a human but definetely will act like an animal until painstakingly taught if thats possible at all.

i think we are human (not animal) because we are are a higher order to all other animals, (though still subject to nature). this gives us our power and authority, thus placing us above petty title of an animal.

however, what interests me is the difference in morality between humans and ‘animals’. i think its pretty much assumed that we are not innately moral, but are born amoral. we then create society, and society creates morals. but are morals just practicalities initially? in which case, animals with any sort of hierarchy and co-opperation, where not killing each other is a practicality, are they not moral? are we as humans moral or just practical? if we are practical, that would assume there was little still to destinguish us. concidering as humans we are basicaly selfish i think i favour the practicality, as apposed to morality…

i do though think morality and emotion has a lot to do with destiguishing humans from animals, but do we not follow the same guidlines. except as humans we elaborate and insert emotion and creativity.

what do you guys think? …

I believe the only real difference between us and the other animals is we can reason. Other animals express emotion, anger, joy, jealousy, affection, etc. We use language but I don’t think the expression of emotion is any more real or involved than that of some species.

It’s even simpler than that. We have “why?” They don’t. It’s the question that defines the answer.

Morality is selfishness refined by maturity.

Most, not all, of us pass through that stage when we’re very young where we comprehend that giving can be very rewarding. We learn to share to get. Over time we mature and learn that security comes with community and community is all about compromise.

What is interesting is how some of the inate behaviors that helped us grow and survive as a species have to be controlled by lessons learned or wisdom.

An example would be promiscuity. At one time it was a very beneficial behavior to strengthen the species by widening the gene pool. Now with our longevity and more involved society it’s not a productive behavior.

Wisdom encourages us towards monogamy. The long term rewards exceed by far short term thrills. There’s a special comfort in knowing that the one who knows you best loves you most.

I see a new change for us as a species. It’s about family. Originally the family unit was small and it was important for it to be strong. Loyalty and faith were integral parts of parts of that strength.

Our sense of family is becoming large out of necessity. As we broaden our perspective of family we abandon the bonds that were so necessary for a small family unit. Loyalty to family and faith is becoming a liability in succeeding in the modern world.

It is an interesting phenomenon.

I would disagree that originally the family unit was small. Originally, early humans were a pack animal with a social system very similar to say, the wild dogs which roam the streets of Mexico City. Humans are naturally a pack animal, like the primates from which both monkeys and humans are descended.

It was only with the advents of agriculture and trade did the size of the “tribe” become larger, and eventually the ‘tribe’ became ‘society’—the point at which prehistoric times ended and history began.

There are roughly agreed upon hallmarks of civilization, including things such as refined agricultural techniques, specialisation of labour, economy/trade, art (non-neccessary labour), and social hierarchy/institutions.

As these developments occur and the size of the tribe increases, we find ourselves in a cluster of too many people for our instincts—we have only been “civilised” for at most 15,000-20,000 years, giving a lot of credit to early peoples—perhaps far more than they deserve. Our evolutionary predisposition to “tribal” or to be more biological, “pack” social structure is still innate. This is one of the driving forces behind family. It is also a key element that drove the development of “tribe”-like institution within society, such as religion, clubs, etc which make us feel like part of a tribe even within a sprawling society.

Religion especially defined the family as our tribe, and in the Middle Times this was often out of neccessity. In contemporary times, as the idea of family as the ‘tribe’ diminishes, especially in urban areas, you see more and more common groups of people considering their circles of friends to be a sort of secondary family—their tribe.

I hate to be the evolutionary psychologist, because it is a field I feel often leaves the realm of science a little more than I feel a science should, but its lessons are still very valuable.

In much of this I sense a trait which is shared by any animal in heat:


The assumption that we are “above” the rest of the primates simply because we have cleverly learned how to build things, make better tools, formulate advanced systems, and (most impressive of all, as it gave rise to all of this) communicate abstractly with each other, is specious at best.

We’ve just got a cool head start and have had some accidents that have helped us out immensely. At bottom we are still little more than domesticated primates with clever tools and clever words. Wild primates dispute over territory, for example, by flinging feces at each other and shouting a lot. Human beings dispute over territory by flinging bombs and other stuff (lots of words for which derive from excretory functions) at each other and shouting a lot. Animals mark territory with excretions on the ground. We mark territory by ink excretions on paper. I don’t see much difference there.

Surely an open mind and the advancement of all that we hold good and uplifting requires somewhat more humility than has been thus far displayed by our species?

I guess I should have been more definitive. Small in mind was tribal.

It is interesting that the sections of the world that are the sources for the most conflict involve nationalism and religion.

Change is never painless.

i have to argue the ‘innateness’ you talk about. i fail to see how this can be concidered innate. i believe social scructure is contained in society itself, not in the people born into it. it doesnt make sence. we create society, as animals, but then that society constructs the people born into it into society abiding citizens. if that makes sence.