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What Defines Humanity?

hu-man-i-ty (noun): the qualities or characteristics considered as a whole to be characteristic of human beings


As I was trying to figure out what I would want to write about on a blog, I kept coming back to the idea of “just about being human”.  But then I was stuck trying to figure out what that means exactly.

Every time I attempted to define humanity, I came up short.  I scrapped this idea and that, until I finally hit on something that suits me: Questions, Contemplation, Wonder.  In short, the question was its own answer.  We are distinctive in the animal kingdom because we ask questions and we wonder about our place in the universe.

  • Why are we here?

  • What is the purpose of life?

  • Are we alone in the universe?

  • Is death the end?

  • What does it mean to be human?.

But mine is only one possible answer.  It’s the one answer that works for me, and even at that, it may not be the answer that I stick with for the rest of my life.


Here is what some other people said:

Top Answers:

  • Complex Communication

  • Reasoning Powers

  • 3 people’s first response was Opposable Thumbs


Individual Answers:

Lynn: humans can grow their own food, they produce (put objects together in order to create something new) and manufacture

Donna: we have the ability to express ourselves – complex verbal and written communication

John:  I would say probably one of the big things, even some animals can do this on a lower level, is to be able to reason at a higher level.  And even with animals, I don’t know whether it’s so much that they’re able to reason, or if it’s a learned habit, a learned response.

Terri: Animals can learn, but they act on whatever the instinct is, or the learned behavior.  But with people, they can make a rational choice to do or not do, and know the difference between right and wrong.

Tom: An evolved level of consciousness; with a consciousness comes the knowledge of death (which is the downside of that).

Rebecca: Advanced thought.  We have the ability to document, we have histories.  People are integrated (in contact, trade, communication) with people from all over the world.

Logan: People can be cruel or remorseless when they need to be.  People with our advanced thoughts can find more complex ways to screw over the weaker ones.


What do you think?


Skip on over:

Being Human


A few items of interest:

Elephant Self-Awareness Mirrors Humans

10 Finds That Define Human Evolution

Are Emotions What Define Human Beings?


2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Boots,

    I like just about everything here so far, of course I lean towards consciousness……we look beyond ourselves spiritually, scientifically and at that basic / moral operations stage. The philosophy component to all of this requires imagination and I am a dreamer.- constantly wondering where boundaries can be expanded or swept aside.

    Each of us are small scale universes……forever expanding in various directions in various ways: destructive, wonderful, mystical and haphazardly are a few examples.


    July 18, 2013
  2. Katha #

    I think the question “what defines humanity?” is much more complicated than we might guess!
    I would agree to the fact that humans have a very logic and detailed communication, and that we can solve problems more easily than animals for example, but what about disabled people who cannot communicate?
    According to these suggestions they aren´t a part of the humanity, but that´s definitely not true!
    From my point of view there doesn´t exist a 100% right answer to this question.
    Animals have emotions as well and also a history. Only because it didn´t get recorded you cannot say they don´t have any.
    You should ask in general “what defines living things?”.

    Hope you can agree to my comment or refute it. I´m very interested in other opinions on this.
    Sorry for my English I´m from Germany.

    February 4, 2015

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