Human beings are animals. We aren’t plants and we aren’t bacteria, we are animals. Among animals we are apes, specifically African apes. The other African apes – chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas – are closer cousins to us than they are to the Asian apes: orang-utans and gibbons.
So, one way to understand what makes us human is to ask: “What makes us different from the other apes, and from the rest of the animal kingdom?” What makes us special? For instance, unlike all the other apes, we walk on two legs and this frees our hands to do all kinds of things that other apes can’t do. And (perhaps the two are connected) we have much bigger brains than the other apes.
There’s another way to interpret the question “What makes us human?” which I won’t be dealing with, although it is important. What makes ushumane? What are the qualities that we admire and aspire to: qualities that make us human as opposed to brutish?
We have big brains. Other species are marked out by other qualities. Swifts and albatrosses are spectacularly good at flying, dogs and rhinoceroses at smelling, bats at hearing, moles, aardvarks and wombats at digging. Human beings are not good at any of those things. But we do have very big brains; we are good at thinking, remembering, calculating, imagining, speaking. Other species can communicate, but no other species has true language with open-ended grammar. No other species has literature, music, art, mathematics or science. No other species makes books, or complicated machines such as cars, computers and combine harvesters. No other species devotes substantial lengths of time to pursuits that don’t contribute directly to survival or reproduction.
__________________________________________________________Co czyni nas ludźmi?
Tłumaczenie: Małgorzata Koraszewska
Istoty ludzkie są zwierzętami. Nie jesteśmy roślinami i nie jesteśmy bakteriami, jesteśmy zwierzętami. Wśród zwierząt jesteśmy małpami człekokształtnymi, a konkretnie afrykańskimi małpami człekokształtnymi. Inne afrykańskie małpy człekokształtne – szympansy, bonobo i goryle – są bliższymi kuzynami nas niż azjatyckich małp człekokształtnych: orangutanów i gibbonów.