Nature, Humanity, and Inhumanity By Kate Soper

What is it all about?
The distinction between humanity and animality, what is naturally occurring and what is contrived, and the ‘self-occurring’ products and the “products of skill or artifice”
depends a lot on defining common terms and deals with matter of degree
The definition of culture and the extent to which it is exclusive to human societies
Humanity can/has been counterposed to the rest of nature but can also be seen as a part of nature
As embodied entities we clearly belong to the order of nature, therefore physiologically/biologically speaking humans fall under the animal kingdom
Productivity and creativity are exclusive to human beings, Soper argues this excludes instinct-driven survival objects (i.e. hives, dams, webs, nests etc.)
Animals have no rational deliberation in the making of instinct— to what extent can we know this to be true?
Animals do not instigate conventions (such as laws and
humans are cognitive, moral and aesthetic beings— to what extend to animals have these qualities if at all?
• The way in which we are aware, not the awareness itself— how can this be

Philosophers Mentioned

Descartes— Philosophical dualism (cartesian dualism)
believes language to be cardinal divider between the human world and animal world

Kant— Enlightenment— compromise
humans differ from other animals in believing to be ends in themselves (have a sense of entitlement and duties)
dealing with just and unjust meaning
animals are not morally culpable— guilty

Hegel— Idealism (contrast to Kantian beliefs)

Marx — idealist abnegation (rejection of idealist

* anti-realists (naturalists, or those with ‘green’ beliefs) see the issue of the nature-culture debate as relative and arbitrary; matters of our separateness are a matter of degree than difference of kind

* realists see humanity as belonging within the order of life (just as the animal kingdom)

Quotes to Consider

• The theories about how humanity should co-exist within the order of nature “are clearly
rooted in the idea of human distinctiveness.”
• “Nature may appear as an utterly separate, other and indifferent realm of being, but it
does so only to a consciousness that is not yet aware of its own conceptual role in
positing nature as other to itself.”
• “For [a] Culturalist-dualist position, what is definitional of being ‘human’ is the
possession not of certain biological properties defining of homo sapiens, but of certain
capacities and behaviours that are theorized as acquirable only in a human cultural and
social environment”
• “Anyone calling upon us to appreciate our affinities with other animals really deny that
they are calling upon us to perform an act of cognition of which other beings are
incapable… therefore [rendering] them different from us.”— Matter of degree?
• “The human sciences have been concerned with the extent to which the empirical
knowledge [measurable knowledge based on what our 5 senses can observe] we have
biology, the evolution of species and animal ethology can provide a basis for
understanding what is specific to human beings and their forms of life.”