We explain what humanity is according to different meanings that developed throughout history and today.
What is humanity?
Contrary to what it seems, it is not easy to define what humanity is. This word is usually understood as very different meanings, as the dictionary shows:
- The set of all human beings that exist and our common existence as a species ( Homo sapiens ).
- The essence or nature of human beings , that is, the supposedly proper way we have to behave, for better and for worse.
- The feeling of compassion and sympathy with another person who is recognized as belonging to the same human species.
- A set of knowledge about human beings cultivated, organized and studied under the name of “humanities”, such as literature , art , etc., and differentiable from the social sciences .
As will be seen, it is a fairly abstract concept, which generally deals with various branches of philosophy , which aspire to build a more or less functional concept of what is, say, the human.
That which distinguishes us from other animal species and that we possess all the members of the species, without any distinction, and that some religions identify with the soul: that is, in principle, humanity. But what is it really?
Different philosophical doctrines throughout history raised their own answer to that question. For example, religious positions assimilated it to the spirit or soul , which is the true and immortal portion of each human being, that is, the thing that makes us human and that supposedly God insufflated us at the beginning with his divine breath, as he The Bible poses in Genesis.
This traditional and long-standing idea, however, did not prevent oppressive societies, sustained on the backs of slaves , because the fundamental question of what is human was shifted to who has a soul.
In this context, the Catholic Church, a social and political institution like any other at the time, decided that African slaves forcibly exported to America, for example, lacked a soul and could then be treated as animals. Something that today we would consider, paradoxically, inhuman.
On the other hand, the atheistic and materialistic slopes always opted for a secular vision of the human , aided in contemporaneity by science and especially by Darwinian theories on the evolution and origin of species.
Thus, a biologicist view on the human was proposed, which understands it as belonging to a particular genus and species. But in some cases, these speeches spawned monsters of the likes of Nazism, which sought to apply Darwin’s concepts to politics, in order to extinguish the peoples they considered “inferior” or “less fit.”
Finally, the question about what humanity is and where it resides seems to have no definitive solution. In fact, the technological future seems to offer new questions, rather than certainties, through artificial intelligence, robotization and the intervention of the human body with technology .
“What is humanity?”, In that sense, seems to be a question that, paradoxically, we ask ourselves only humans, the only creatures we know so far who reflect on their own existence.