TED Conversations

Alex Hutchins

This conversation is closed. Start a new conversation
or join one »

What does it mean to be human?

As a College professor, I start the first day of every class by asking my students this question. Needless to say, they do not know how to answer it, even though they have previously had psychology and philosophy courses prior to the Junior/Senior classes that I typically teach.

So, if students do not know how to answer this question right away, then my next question is, do the rest of us know how to answer this question right away or would it require some reflection?

Or, does anyone really care?

I am sure that it has different meaning for different people but would it also have different meanings for different cultures?

Does being human mean some different in Christianity than it does for Muslims or people of the Jewish faith or agnostics for that matter?

Do we need to prove that we exist in order to answer this question? And, while you are pondering this one, let me explain: I am talking about "I think therefore I am," but is this life "real" or is this life a metaphor for the life that we will all be experiencing after death? If this life therefore is not real, does it matter that we exist and furthermore, does being human have any meaning at all?

Are we human because we oftentimes do not practice what we preach?

Are we human because we can skillfully put down the thoughts and comments of others?

Are we human because we are arrogant or wealthy although I see the two as mutually exclusive myself?

Are we human because we have faith and hypocritically live out that faith in our daily lives?

Are we human because we are a racist and have found clever ways to hide why we feel that way?

Are we human because we have cheated on our spouses?

Are we human because we like to engage in wars all over the globe so that we can prove we are better than others, or stronger... while really wanting to impose our way of life on them?

Are we human because we cannot accept cultural diversity as the new norm?

What are your thoughts as to what it means to be human?

+10
Share:

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • Jun 25 2013: Humans are specially created spirit beings created in the image of God that have a soul and live in a body to enable us properly interact with this physical world. We are human when we are able to ask brilliant such as that which you asked. Human are beings capable of recognizing their existence and conscious of their being.
    • thumb
      Jun 26 2013: All true.
    • thumb
      Jun 26 2013: Come on... directly or indirectly inferiorizing other living beings cannot be the only way to define humans... thats so low... And why the difference between humans and non-humans should necessarily result into "inferiority" and "superiority"?
      • Comment deleted

        • thumb
          Jun 26 2013: Great conclusion LaMar! Exactly! How good a player is depends on the game and its rules! It is not valid to compare a dolphin with a dog or a human. They experience reality in a different way and just like us, they do the best they can within their natural limitations and obtain the richest and best experience of life. Each plays a different sport. Cotton cannot be weighted as it is done with led. Following your example, I point out sharks abilities to sense electro-magnetic signals or fields, something we can't even dream of! So that gives these beings the experience of a whole different dimension!
      • Comment deleted

      • Comment deleted

    • thumb
      Jun 26 2013: And, my friend, I think you are getting close.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.