So You Think You're Human? : A Brief History of Humankind Paperback
You think you're human. But what does that mean? How can humanity be defined? Felipe Fernandez-Armesto takes us on an enlightening journey through the history of humankind to reveal the challenges to our most fundamental belief - that we are, and have always been, human.
Chimps and humans are objectively so alike that an anthropologist from Mars might classify them together; advances in artificial intelligence mean that humans no longer have exclusive access to reason, consciousness and imagination; developments in genetics threaten humanity with an uncertain future.
The harder we cling to the concept of humanity, the more slippery it becomes.
But if it breaks down altogether, what will this mean for human values, human rights, and the defence of human dignity?
So You Think You're Human? confronts these problems from a historical perspective, showing how our current understanding of what it means to be human has been shaken by new challenges from science and philosophy.
Fernandez-Armesto shows how our concept of humankind has changed over time, tracing its faltering expansion to its present limits and arguing that these limits are neither fixed or scientifically verifiable. Controversially, he proposes that we have further to go in developing our concept of humankind and that we need to rethink it as a matter of urgency.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 220 pages, numerous halftones
- Publisher: Oxford University Press
- Publication Date: 24/03/2005
- Category: Philosophy
- ISBN: 9780199691289
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Review by ablueidol
Well known sign of really clever people is that they make the understanding of complex issue easy without resorting to simplification. This book unpicks and exposes the arguments of trying to say we are not animals( and why we suddenly started to want that this distinction held). For example, if humans are tool-makers, builders, have a learned culture so are animals! Then it moves on to expose the theories of why humans try to define humanity by excluding other humans on physical criteria. Being, black, big headed but no basis in reality.He them moves to look at the various attempts at defining humanity by excluding humans according to social criteria. For, example, if they didn't have big ships, guns etc then not civilised so sub-human. (The Japanese beating the S**t out of the Russians in 1905 started to put the boot in that argument!)Equally trying to argue that as Homo Sapiens we must be the top dog fails in terms of hominids and other animals in general but does throw up the issue that if you include apes etc with the fold humanness then you logically may then start excluding children with severe handicaps or adults in a comaIn the final chapter he explores what is humanness if genetically altered or machine built. The danger of a re-born eugenics is discussed.His final conclusion is that we need look at humanness as a range of dynamically shifting factors that are historically contingent rather then fixed and he makes a plea for us to live up to our myths of being creative, self-aware, rational. moral etc