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The Human Form

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  • The Human Form

    The form of every individual with its potenitalities is dependend on ones own body.

    Human rationality is a universal potentiality to every human being. But my question would now be: Is it the only universal aspect of the human form?

    Let´s consider an example, one normally build human and one with six fingers on each hand. The latter has taught himself to use the keyboard with all twelve fingers. And now the important question: Is this potentiality of using twelve fingers included within the human form generally or only within the indiviudal. I see only two options: Either every possible mutations of the human body and therefor additional potentialities are all included within the human form. Would that mean that the form can change e.g. through evolution or does it already include the possible future paths human biology can take? If that would not be the case, it suggests that all of our physical abilities aren´t intrinsic to the human form, and therefor I´d reduce the form to human rationality for now (Can anything else as a universal human potentiality be established?).
    So to be clear, I´m not yet too well versed in the terminology with "substances" or "essence", so I probably made a mess of meanings which must be distinguished, but I hope that my problem comes across. I´m certain that this has been adressed already somewhere, so resources or links to read would be very much appreciated.

  • #2
    The way I understand it, having five fingers on each hand is part of human essence. Someone born with 6 fingers will still be human, and will still share in the essence, but will be a defective instance of it. Humans are supposed to be born with two legs, for example, and if someone is born with no legs, or only one leg, then that person has a defect; they share the essence, but with an imperfection. So there would be such potentialities in the human essence, but they are a result of defects.

    If there were a diferent species of beings which are like humans in every way except for the fact they get 6 fingers, they would be (as mentioned) a different species and having the inherent tendency towards 6 fingers (whether lr not this is actualized) would be in its essence. Of course, being rational animals they would be deserving of the same rights and dignity as humans, but they would be a different species.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Atno View Post
      The way I understand it, having five fingers on each hand is part of human essence. Someone born with 6 fingers will still be human, and will still share in the essence, but will be a defective instance of it. Humans are supposed to be born with two legs, for example, and if someone is born with no legs, or only one leg, then that person has a defect; they share the essence, but with an imperfection. So there would be such potentialities in the human essence, but they are a result of defects.

      If there were a diferent species of beings which are like humans in every way except for the fact they get 6 fingers, they would be (as mentioned) a different species and having the inherent tendency towards 6 fingers (whether lr not this is actualized) would be in its essence. Of course, being rational animals they would be deserving of the same rights and dignity as humans, but they would be a different species.
      What delineates a species from another. Say I gather a dozen six fingered people and have them breed with each other for a few generations. Would we call their six finger progeny a new species with a new essence or would we call it a defective grouping of homo sapiens?

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      • #4
        Atno
        Thank you for your reply. However the way I see it, essence would still be required to be limited in some form. E.g. I don´t see any way to argue for the "normal" skin colour, height, weight or muscle mass attributed to the human essence. I can see things like arms, legs and the ability to walk up straight being a part of it though.
        But in which way can the essence undergo change, especially through evolution? If we take the example RomanJoe mentioned, would humans be another species of sapiens, if we developed to generally have six fingers on each hand?

        And additional question: Is there anything besides the rationality which we can attribute to the human form itself?

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        • #5
          Let me think loud:

          The way I see it through what Atno gave as an example of human essence, it includes in its nature all potentialities the species normally has, as well as those which it gets through accidents, e.g. through genetical diseases. However it seems to me that this prevents human essence from being static, since standards can and do change through the history of evolution. It follows that what we currently call the "human essence" is merely a temporary picture of what counts as normal in humans and as far as we know, when it comes to minor changes on the genetic or small phenotypical level, can be already outdated. The concept of "imperfections" thus would fail, since it could be equalized with progress.

          This smells not only fishy, but it additionally baths in sulfur on a heater. I´m definitely missing something here and be it only a straight definition. The concept seems so broad that it fails to distinguish us from other animals. I will read Oderbergs "Real Essentialism" soon, I figure this will help, but I hope that we get a better definition earlier, maybe from someone already familiar with this book.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by RomanJoe View Post

            What delineates a species from another. Say I gather a dozen six fingered people and have them breed with each other for a few generations. Would we call their six finger progeny a new species with a new essence or would we call it a defective grouping of homo sapiens?
            No, we would not call those people members of a new species at the time. The only sure fire way to know if something is a member of a new species is to look look back at the population in hindsight and observe their population accumulate phenotypical changes alongside some sort of reproductive isolation. If these 6 fingered people all started a colony and only breed with one another, it's possible that over time a new species would develop, but if they did not, they wouldn't be a members of a different speces any more than people with extra molars are members of a new species.

            I think most biologists would baulk at trying to answe the question "what separates a species from another" because there is no clear answer that applies universally. Even the often repeated criterion that 2 animals which can give birth to a non-barren child is violated by many different examples.

            If the thoery of evolution is to be believed, with no additional hypotheses from religion, the first member of a new child species would be undistinguashable from his or her peers, who would be members of the parent species. The member of the new child species would have some small variation that would go unnoticed but would be enlarged through many generations. The first homo sapien, for example, would have been indistinguashable from the his homo erectus kin, and would only be called the father of a new species because his descendants continued to separate from the homo erectus population.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Kwlsk View Post
              Atno
              Thank you for your reply. However the way I see it, essence would still be required to be limited in some form. E.g. I don´t see any way to argue for the "normal" skin colour, height, weight or muscle mass attributed to the human essence. I can see things like arms, legs and the ability to walk up straight being a part of it though.
              But in which way can the essence undergo change, especially through evolution? If we take the example RomanJoe mentioned, would humans be another species of sapiens, if we developed to generally have six fingers on each hand?

              And additional question: Is there anything besides the rationality which we can attribute to the human form itself?
              If an essence can change I don't see what intellectual work the concept is doing. When I say that Socrates and I are both human, I am supposed to be assured that there is some set of essential traits we both share. But if essences can change, that isn't ever assured. Furthermore, a lot of the basic ideas behind Aristotelian-style virtue ethics become problematic. For example, is a man who beats his wife vicious or is his essence just different enough that what he's doing is natural? Any action that could be called vicious when I perform it, could be called virtuous when a human with a different essence performs it.

              If I recall correctly, Oderberg believes that essences can change, so maybe I'm missing something.

              I haven't read this book, but it's gotten good reviews, and is pertinent to what you are saying: https://www.amazon.com/Aristotle-Dar.../dp/1586171690

              If you're interested in evolution and philosophy from a non-Aristotelian point of view, I have really enjoyed this book (the parts I have read so far at least): https://www.amazon.com/DARWINS-DANGE.../dp/068482471X

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              • #8
                Brian
                Thank you for the links, though my problems aren´t with anything in evolution, but rather the understanding of the concept of "essence". The concept which I derived from what Atno wrote is seemingly basic human biology, and I think this is certainly false and probably also roots in a misunderstanding by me. Oderbergs "Real Essentialism" has thus risen to the top of my reading list and will be read next. I will visit this topic then again and will leave it for now.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Kwlsk View Post
                  Brian
                  Thank you for the links, though my problems aren´t with anything in evolution, but rather the understanding of the concept of "essence". The concept which I derived from what Atno wrote is seemingly basic human biology, and I think this is certainly false and probably also roots in a misunderstanding by me. Oderbergs "Real Essentialism" has thus risen to the top of my reading list and will be read next. I will visit this topic then again and will leave it for now.
                  I see the two as being closely linked. If species were eternal, I think the questions you have could be answered relatively simply. But given the close connection between an animal's essence and its body, and given the evidence that animal's bodies have evolved over time, I think the question becomes a lot tougher to answer.

                  I'dllbe curious if Oderberg provides a good answer to your question.

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