TED Conversations

Alex Hutchins

This conversation is closed.

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?


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Jul 4 2013: To be human?
    What is anything without a definition?
    To define is to measure.
    To measure is to limit.
    To limit is to divide.
    To divide is to create conflict.
    That is what being human is.
    • thumb
      Jul 6 2013: That's some pretty good depressing reasons, Johnny. thumbs up. I'd like to do everything possible to change "To measure is to limit, to limit is to divide, and to divide is to create conflict".
    • Comment deleted

      • thumb
        Jul 6 2013: Wow, Chris,
        Obviously you are on the defensive, blinkers on and the conversation stops here.
    • Jul 7 2013: Johnny, don't you hate it when someone attacks your ideas without understanding what you were saying. I didn't know we had correctness police here. I believe I gat what you are saying, and the direction you are saying it, but what do I know, I too have had my opinions corrected.
      • thumb
        Jul 7 2013: Not at all, you can attack whatever you want, I said it that conflict is part of being human, as a matter of fact you cannot have humanity without conflict.
        When conflict ceases in the world altogether we will have to rename our species. lol
      • Comment deleted

      • Comment deleted

        • Jul 8 2013: All definitions that are currently being used are in flux. Static means non-changeing, and for that to happen the term must be used in curretn dialect.
      • Comment deleted

        • Jul 8 2013: When you say someone is inaccurate, you are implying that you and you alone are giving the correct answer, therefore you are correcting them. You did not say I disagree with you, if you are going to be so correct in your definitions please do so.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.