Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What is "humanity"

What do we mean by the term "humanity" ?
We seem to have a clear understanding when we consider animals and how they should be treated, humanely. On the other hand, it isn't so clear when we apply the label "humanity" to other human beings. It is a philosophical and ethical question that is too hot to handle.
Today's news story is about a woman who worked as a palliative nurse and therefore understood the value of life without pain. She made the decision to take her own life rather than suffer a slow and extremely painful death from bone cancer.
Who will be the first to condemn her?

No doubt everybody has a strong opinion on this subject.

I have no qualms with anybody who chooses to die with dignity. It's not a complex issue as many would have us believe. It is a question of choice by the individual.
In todays society, individuals are governed by so many laws and regulations that they make a mockery of the notion of freedom.
When we condemn people to a slow and painful death from a terminal disease; when we deny individuals the choice of a dignified death, whatever the reason, we are somehow turning our backs on what we value as "humanity". After all, we wouldn't treat a dog like that would we?

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Jeannie said...

I agree. I don't see the point of having some wretch writhe in pain for days on end with no real chance of healing (the rare spontaneous healing aside - and does that ever happen when it's down to the wire?) and worse - no freedom from the pain without losing all their wits. Is that life? I think in such cases, it might be more honouring to have the funeral service while they were still alive and able to take part then a select few invited to take part in seeing them off. I think, if God really wanted to keep them alive, He could do a miracle then as much as any other time. My God-mother had end-stage diabetes and when things got really bad, refused further medication (which meant she had only a few days left). She called everyone in to tell them good-bye and held court. I think it was really nice. She asked after people, reminisced, laughed. If she hadn't, I doubt I'd have gone to see her before it was too late and it would have been my loss. I don't see the difference between refusing meds and taking meds to end it. Especially if the world is over-populated and it costs so much to keep 24 hour care for people who don't want to be there any more.

Hammer said...

Some religions have a problem with messing with "god's will"

Others are afraid of losing control of the populace when people start making decisions for themselves regarding their own lives.

They all need to piss up a rope.

Anonymous said...

Nietzsche, "Gay Science"

Nietzsche "The Gay Science"

115 - The Four Errors. Man has been reared by his errors: firstly, he saw himself always imperfect; secondly, he attributed to himself imaginary qualities; thirdly, he felt himself in a false position in relation to the animals and nature; fourthly, he always devised new tables of values, and accepted them for a time as eternal and unconditioned, so that at one time this, and at another time that human impulse or state stood first, and was ennobled in consequence. When one has deducted the effect of these four errors, one has also deducted humanity, humaneness, and "human dignity."

Lexcen said...

Man is imperfect. That is a fact.
Imaginary qualities? too many to mention.
Relation to animals? that he is somehow superior to animals.
Values constructed can be values de-constructed.
What does humanity mean to Nietzsche?

Anonymous said...

Nietzsche, GoM

O this insane, sad beast man! What ideas it has, what unnaturalness, what paroxysms of nonsense, what bestiality of thought breaks from it as soon as it is prevented, if only a little, from being a beast in deed! . . . All this is excessively interesting, but there’s also a black, gloomy, unnerving sadness about it, so that man must forcefully hold himself back from gazing too long into these abysses. Here we have illness — no doubt about that—the most terrifying illness that has raged in human beings up to now:—and anyone who can still hear (but nowadays people no longer have the ear for that!—) how in this night of torment and insanity the cry of love has resounded, the cry of the most yearning delight, of redemption through love, turns away, seized by an invincible horror. . . In human beings there is so much that is terrible! . . . The world has already been a lunatic asylum for too long!

Anonymous said...


Those frightening fortifications with which the organization of the state protected itself against the old instincts for freedom—punishments belong above all to these fortifications—brought it about that all those instincts of the wild, free, roaming man turned themselves backwards, against man himself. Enmity, cruelty, joy in pursuit, in attack, in change, in destruction—all those turned themselves against the possessors of such instincts. That is the origin of “bad conscience.” The man who, because of a lack of external enemies and opposition, was forced into an oppressive narrowness and regularity of custom impatiently tore himself apart, persecuted himself, gnawed away at himself, grew upset, and did himself damage—this animal which scraped itself raw against the bars of its cage, which people want to “tame,” this impoverished creature, consumed with longing for the wild, which had to create out of its own self an adventure, a torture chamber, an uncertain and dangerous wilderness—this fool, this yearning and puzzled prisoner, became the inventor of “bad conscience.” But with him was introduced the greatest and weirdest illness, from which humanity up to the present time has not recovered, the suffering of man from man, from himself, a consequence of the forcible separation from his animal past, a leap and, so to speak, a fall into new situations and living conditions, a declaration of war against the old instincts, on which, up to that point, his power, joy, and ability to inspire fear had been based. Let us at once add that, on the other hand, the fact that there was on earth an animal soul turned against itself, taking sides against itself, meant there was something so new, profound, unheard of, enigmatic, contradictory, and full of the future, that with it the picture of the earth was fundamentally changed. In fact, it required divine spectators to appreciate the dramatic performance which then began and whose conclusion is by no means yet in sight—a spectacle too fine, too wonderful, too paradoxical, to be allowed to play itself out senselessly and unobserved on some ridiculous star or other! Since then man has been included among the most unexpected and most thrillingly lucky rolls of the dice in the game played by Heraclitus’ “great child,” whether he’s called Zeus or chance.* For himself he arouses a certain interest, a tension, a hope, almost a certainty, as if something is announcing itself with him, something is preparing itself, as if the human being were not the goal but only a way, an episode, a bridge, a great promise . . .

Anonymous said...