Philosophy Paper. Need help getting started...

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Reply Fri 27 Nov, 2009 07:14 pm
Hello Everyone,

Hope you had wonderful Thanksgiving.

I have a Philosophy paper (point paper) due within few days, and thought I might ask for some ideas/suggestions because I am having trouble getting started. It's a one page point paper, the paper must talk about something along this line:

How do you define a human?, What makes up human?, "What do you value?

What can I possibly write about to answer those questions?

Any help is appreciated. :Glasses:
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 27 Nov, 2009 07:34 pm
@Kim Pasha,
Kim Pasha;106500 wrote:
Hello Everyone,

Hope you had wonderful Thanksgiving.

I have a Philosophy paper (point paper) due within few days, and thought I might ask for some ideas/suggestions because I am having trouble getting started. It's a one page point paper, the paper must talk about something along this line:

How do you define a human?, What makes up human?, "What do you value?

What can I possibly write about to answer those questions?

Any help is appreciated. :Glasses:


A human being is a biological category, and can be defined by human DNA, it seems to me. The category, person, is not biological, and maybe your teacher is confusing "human beings" with "persons". All human beings need not be persons. For example, small infants are not yet persons. "Person" is a legal and social category. And all persons need not be human beings. For example, Mr. Spock (of Star Treck) was not a human being (he was part Venusian). But he was certainly a person.
 
Theaetetus
 
Reply Fri 27 Nov, 2009 07:39 pm
@Kim Pasha,
Humans are rational agents which value things. Agency implies choice, and the choices that humans make are often based on what they value.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 27 Nov, 2009 07:48 pm
@Theaetetus,
Theaetetus;106507 wrote:
Humans are rational agents which value things. Agency implies choice, and the choices that humans make are often based on what they value.



Small infants are humans. But they are not rational agents. Severe mentally handicapped people are humans, but they are not rational agents.
 
Kim Pasha
 
Reply Fri 27 Nov, 2009 07:53 pm
@Theaetetus,
Theaetetus;106507 wrote:
Humans are rational agents which value things. Agency implies choice, and the choices that humans make are
often based on what they value.


True, but from your understanding - what do you value? how do you define human? what makes up human?

is it the soul that makes up the human? what do you think...?

kennethamy;106506 wrote:
A human being is a biological category, and can be defined by human DNA, it seems to me. The category, person, is not biological, and maybe your teacher is confusing "human beings" with "persons". All human beings need not be persons. For example, small infants are not yet persons. "Person" is a legal and social category. And all persons need not be human beings. For example, Mr. Spock (of Star Treck) was not a human being (he was part Venusian). But he was certainly a person.


I believe my teacher is looking for a philosophical response, what I mean by that is not having to do with science (DNA or what not). I totally understand what your saying though.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 27 Nov, 2009 08:05 pm
@Kim Pasha,
Kim Pasha;106512 wrote:
True, but from your understanding - what do you value? how do you define human? what makes up human?

is it the soul that makes up the human? what do you think...?



I believe my teacher is looking for a philosophical response, what I mean by that is not having to do with science (DNA or what not). I totally understand what your saying though.


A philosophical response would be to distinguish between human beings and persons. Why would the soul be a philosophical response, and DNA not be? Is it that there is no evidence for one, and loads of evidence for the other?
 
Kim Pasha
 
Reply Fri 27 Nov, 2009 08:15 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;106517 wrote:
A philosophical response would be to distinguish between human beings and persons. Why would the soul be a philosophical response, and DNA not be? Is it that there is no evidence for one, and loads of evidence for the other?


Your right. But the paper has to incorporate "what makes up human, and how we define human, and the things we value" - we have been told not to incorporate DNA or anything along that line to answer the question, what makes up a human.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 27 Nov, 2009 08:21 pm
@Kim Pasha,
Kim Pasha;106519 wrote:
Your right. But the paper has to incorporate "what makes up human, and how we define human, and the things we value" - we have been told not to incorporate DNA or anything along that line to answer the question, what makes up a human.



Hmm. Then you are stuck. And your teacher does not want the right answer. "Human" now just becomes a value term, as it sometime is when we praise someone by saying of him, "He is a real human being!". German speakers praise a person by calling him "a Mensch" in the same way. But they are not describing him. Everyone knows he is a mensch.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Sat 28 Nov, 2009 01:42 am
@Kim Pasha,
Humans are never finished defining what they are -- and this itself is another definition of humans. With humans there is an impossibility of closure. There's no telling what we will come up with next, technologically or philosophically or artistically.

Hope this is somehow helpful.
 
Theaetetus
 
Reply Sat 28 Nov, 2009 01:58 am
@Kim Pasha,
Kim Pasha;106512 wrote:
True, but from your understanding - what do you value? how do you define human? what makes up human?

is it the soul that makes up the human? what do you think...?


I value my life itself, friends, and intelligence. The latter is how I would define human. A human has two key things in some degree: consciousness, and intelligence (and the latter is becoming more rare). If a human lacks intelligence and consciousness, I would say that they are subhuman. I guess you could say that the third feature that makes up human would be courage.

As to the soul, it is most likely a total fabrication of humans and thus, does not seem to be something important that "makes up the human." While I am sure many people would argue for its case, that does not mean it is correct. Something that lacks evidence cannot be the answer.
 
VideCorSpoon
 
Reply Sat 28 Nov, 2009 02:24 am
@Kim Pasha,
Kim Pasha;106500 wrote:


How do you define a human?, What makes up human?, "What do you value?


What can I possibly write about to answer those questions?


How do you define a human being? Metaphysics, Book Zeta, specifically sections 7-8-9, Aristotle underlines fundamental thoughts on generation, in much the same spirit as Darwin, Lamarck, etc. It was a sort of science for Aristotle the way it was for those previously mentioned. However, the interesting bit comes from the fact that the issues on generation (7-9) stem from the discussion on substantial ontology(1-6,10). A fundamental question Aristotle asks at the beginning of book zeta is "what is being?" Essentially, what is this fundamental thing that is? Aristotle attributes it to substance, the "thing that underlies," or as he really put "being qua being." Within Aristotle's reasoning , substance was something without attributes, a blank substrate that had nothing.

One could argue then that to define human is not to define a specific race, genus, whatever have you since that does not essentially label what a human is (since race is an attribute that does not specifically address the thing that underlies- Aristotle). To define a human, there must be some intangible quality which is immune to additional predication, biological or what ever.

One answer could possibly be human nature. Biological studies can lend to the predication of further attributes/habits/etc. of humans, they could not (arguably) get at the essential bits of human nature. Human nature essentially attempts to find out what exactly it is to be human. So in that respect, this is a link to the second part of the question, which is "What makes up a human?" You could at this point try to isolate something intangible and something in itself. But that's the problem though, isn't it. Could it be the innate desire to socialize? But this could be a biological argument and susceptible to predication. What about a soul? Plato would say that (utilizing his conception of the tripartite of the soul), we are rational creatures that are able to perceive the forms. Only humans contain the essential elements that comprise the soul (at least according to Plato). However, the flaw is that one area of the soul may be over or underdeveloped compared to another. In that respect, we could have a disposition to good or bad and develop the variances inherent in human nature.

Maybe it could be those core ethical components that make up human nature. So that leads to your third question, "What do you value." From there it's all up to you since it seems like a subjective part of the overall response. Suffice to say that you have to this point isolated humanness to an intangible/ethical question. You could take it anywhere at this point I suppose.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Sat 28 Nov, 2009 04:03 pm
@Theaetetus,
"Soul" is still a good word. Many use it and are not referring to something immaterial. "Ego" and "id" are also myths/metaphors/mental models. What isn't?
 
Pyrrho
 
Reply Mon 28 Dec, 2009 06:04 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;106506 wrote:
A human being is a biological category, and can be defined by human DNA, it seems to me. The category, person, is not biological, and maybe your teacher is confusing "human beings" with "persons". All human beings need not be persons. For example, small infants are not yet persons. "Person" is a legal and social category. And all persons need not be human beings. For example, Mr. Spock (of Star Treck) was not a human being (he was part Venusian). But he was certainly a person.


You are mistaken. Mr. Spock was half human and half Vulcan. See:

Spock - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

And it was Star Trek, not "Star Treck". Really, I expect someone of your extensive knowledge to be more careful about such important philosophical matters!
 
Theaetetus
 
Reply Mon 28 Dec, 2009 11:36 pm
@Kim Pasha,
Spock was a character on a TV show! So what the hell are we doing trying to define classifications based on fictional characters?
 
Pyrrho
 
Reply Tue 29 Dec, 2009 12:35 am
@Theaetetus,
Theaetetus;115219 wrote:
Spock was a character on a TV show! So what the hell are we doing trying to define classifications based on fictional characters?


It is often useful in philosophy to use thought experiments, which are fictional situations and stories, to illustrate concepts. There is no reason to avoid using fictional situations and stories that are on TV to explain concepts. In this particular case, the point in mentioning Spock (who was introduced by someone else), is to convey the difference between humans and persons. If there were beings like Spock, then he would be an example of something that is not human, but is a person. My toenail clippings are human material, but they are not persons.

In societies with slavery, slaves are not regarded as persons; they are property. But that does not necessitate the belief that they are not humans.

As kennethamy aptly stated:

kennethamy;106506 wrote:
A human being is a biological category, and can be defined by human DNA ... "Person" is a legal and social category. And all persons need not be human beings. ...


For more, see:

Person - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
Emil
 
Reply Tue 29 Dec, 2009 09:13 am
@Pyrrho,
Pyrrho;115059 wrote:
You are mistaken. Mr. Spock was half human and half Vulcan. See:

Spock - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

And it was Star Trek, not "Star Treck". Really, I expect someone of your extensive knowledge to be more careful about such important philosophical matters!


Haha. I think that he is correct in saying that mr. Spock is not human. Don't we reserve the category human for people that are wholly human, not 50% human (whatever that means)?

---------- Post added 12-29-2009 at 04:17 PM ----------

kennethamy;106506 wrote:
A human being is a biological category, and can be defined by human DNA, it seems to me. The category, person, is not biological, and maybe your teacher is confusing "human beings" with "persons". All human beings need not be persons. For example, small infants are not yet persons. "Person" is a legal and social category. And all persons need not be human beings. For example, Mr. Spock (of Star Treck) was not a human being (he was part Venusian). But he was certainly a person.


Quoted here. .,.,.,
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 29 Dec, 2009 10:04 am
@Theaetetus,
Theaetetus;115219 wrote:
Spock was a character on a TV show! So what the hell are we doing trying to define classifications based on fictional characters?


Sorry. If Mr. Spock had been a living being, he would not have been a human being. Better? (That is called a counter-factual conditional, and some counter-factual conditional statements are true. As is the one about Mr. Spock).

"Ever in error, but never in doubt".
 
Pyrrho
 
Reply Tue 29 Dec, 2009 12:39 pm
@Emil,
Emil;115283 wrote:
Haha. I think that he is correct in saying that mr. Spock is not human. Don't we reserve the category human for people that are wholly human, not 50% human (whatever that means)?

---------- Post added 12-29-2009 at 04:17 PM ----------



Quoted here. .,.,.,


He was correct in saying that Spock was not wholly human, but he incorrectly identified Mr. Spock as being Venusian. He was Vulcan, not Venusian.

In other words, kennethamy's original main point was exactly correct, but his explanation of his example was wrong.

With that in mind, you might want to reread my original reply to kennethamy.
 
Emil
 
Reply Tue 29 Dec, 2009 04:25 pm
@Pyrrho,
Pyrrho;115332 wrote:
He was correct in saying that Spock was not wholly human, but he incorrectly identified Mr. Spock as being Venusian. He was Vulcan, not Venusian.

In other words, kennethamy's original main point was exactly correct, but his explanation of his example was wrong.

With that in mind, you might want to reread my original reply to kennethamy.


I did read your post, but I didn't notice the correction from Venusian to Vulcan.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 29 Dec, 2009 06:38 pm
@Pyrrho,
Pyrrho;115332 wrote:
He was correct in saying that Spock was not wholly human, but he incorrectly identified Mr. Spock as being Venusian. He was Vulcan, not Venusian.

In other words, kennethamy's original main point was exactly correct, but his explanation of his example was wrong.

With that in mind, you might want to reread my original reply to kennethamy.


Right. Spock was a Vulcan.

Vulcan (Star Trek) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
 

 
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