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Alex Hutchins

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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?


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  • Jun 26 2013: In response to:

    Alex Hutchins
    "2 hours ago: Theory of the mind is also interesting but do we control our minds and the mind's perception of what we see or do not see? And, is controlling perception an illusion in and of itself? And, if it is, how is that a description of what it means to be human?"

    I'd imagine that perception is controlled by stimuli, and physiology and no... it's not an illusion. It can also be controlled by self, for monks can raise their body temperatures by the power of thought and imaging alone. We can stimulate our Anterior Cingulate Cortex with meditation alone, reducing anxiety. The power of mind is of our own, and when this potential is realized and acted upon it can have amazing results.

    We feel something that is hot, well... it is hot in relation to what best suits our needs. Too hot, too cold, whatever... but we can measure the truth in this instance. This is no illusion.

    I wouldn't suggest that at any given moment we are actively 'controlling' our minds directly to allow the inclusion or exclusion of any particular perceivable form. Sure, there's a whole list of defense mechanisms, such as repression and such... but, we can combat such things with cognitive therapies.

    We could go as far to say that "it's all an illusion" for we all participate in:

    "my art hurdles over the clouds in dark purple
    red mixes yellow and blue in sharp circles
    paint splashes over your conscious like canvas
    molecules rule unseen by deep glances"

    We've evolved to perceive stimuli, sure... it's all an illusion, but it's the image 'we' paint. It is possible to change the brush stroke, but we hold two brushes, in both the left and right hands, not always mindful or in control of both. That's being human, we're co-creators, we can even create God from Gods from stars and the wind, which is the ultimate illusion that the ToM has allowed for us to create, under our own control. That's what it means to be human, apparently.
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      Jun 27 2013: Excellent response I would have to say... thank you...
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        Jun 27 2013: Why? :3
        Sorry, but seriously, give me some arguments, so we can get a proper discussion.

        Have a laugh: http://xkcd.com/1223/

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