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The Question Of An Answer: What It Is To Be Human

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The body is socially constructed; and in this paper we explore the various and
ever-changing constructions of the body, and thus of the embodied self......The
one word, body, may therefore signify very different realities and perceptions
of reality.....(Synnot 1992, 43)

It has been said that in order to understand life and society, we as
people must first understand ourselves. Who are we as a people? Who are we as
individuals? Who are we as humans? These questions all present themselves when
discussing a topic such as this. I believe that it is indeed important to ask
questions such as these, and also as important to answer them. All of this
assuming of course, that there is one specific answer. My problem begins here,
in that I do not believe that there is one defined answer to these questions.
As you will see, many "great philosophic minds" have different views and beliefs
relating to these questions, and it is my job to sort through these different
beliefs and discover...... What it is to be human
It seems that for ages the human body has been studied and inspected.
However, literal "inspection" only takes us so far. As humans, we all know that
there are parts of our "being" that are intangible. Take thoughts, dreams, and
things of the like. We know they exist, yet they are unable to be inspected
scientifically (to any valuable degree at least). The distinction between
beliefs begins here. How one views this intangible side of life with respect to
the tangible, is the factor that defines one's beliefs.
There are several ways in which one may view the body. A dualist is one
who views the body and mind, or tangible and intangible, as two separate
intities existing together to form one being. The principle of "Cogito, ergo
sum," or in english, "I think, therefore I am." The "I" meaning the mind, and
"I am" meaning the body. (Synnott 1992, 92) The tangible side of the person
being bound of course, by the laws of biomechanics and gravity, and the
intangible being bound by nothing but the laws of reasoning.
".....the body, from its nature, is always divisible and the mind is completely
indivisible." (Descartes 1995, 70)
Like anything, dualism comes with its pro's and con's. Many people
choose to believe in the idea of dualism because of its truths. Obviously, we
can all see that indeed, the body is real and tangible, and that the mind on the
other hand is the intangible, although it too is real. Likewise, as evidence of
dualism we have undoubtedly felt the physical as well as the non-physical. The
physical being, exhaustion or heat. The non-physical perhaps being the "ah-ha"
experience, learning something or even dreaming.
Dualism however, does have its share of con's. Take for example, the
actual evidence of this belief. No one has ever been able to explain totally
how the mind and the body work together. How can a tangible reality coexist
with an intangible one? This one question is the draw of most criticism of the
belief, obviously because no one has been able to answer it. Along the same
line of thinking, how does one explain the physical location of the mind,
without giving it a physical nature? If I said that undoubtedly my mind is
located in my brain, I have made it part of the brain, and thus into a physical,
tangible intity. The same goes for wherever one would like the mind, or "soul."
Dualism itself can be broken up into four types. Object dualism, value
dualism, behavior dualism, and language dualism. (Kretchmar 1994, 37) Of the
four, object and value are by far the two most prominent. Its important to
understand that any dualist is an object dualist. The basis of object dualism
is that of dualism itself, the idea that the mind and the body are separate
intities. Value dualism however, is a bit different. A value dualist agrees
that the mind and the body are separated, yet they value the mind over the body.
A value dualist puts emphasis on the fact that the mind is superior to the body,
and in effect supervises it. "The body is distanced from the thinking person
because it is less capable." (Kretchmar 1994, 42)
The attraction of value dualism is huge. The fact is that people simply
cannot trust their senses (their body) all of the time. Kretchmar provides an
excellent example of this:

For example, playing center field, we see the batter take a mighty swing, hear a
loud crack of the ball against the bat, and see the ball start on a trajectory
that would take it over our head. We begin to run back to make the catch, but
we have been deceived. The ball actually struck the end of the bat, and it
turns out to be a short blooper that falls in front of us. (Kretchmar 1994, 42)

It is facts like this that attract people toward the idea of a separate mind
that is superior to a separate body. It seems that logic is indeed a better
choice. Would logic have allowed our body to make the mistake?
The truths in dualism have allowed it ...

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Keywords: question of humanity

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