Monday, November 12, 2012

Understanding The Mechanics of Human Nature

In regards to defining who we are, for all the importance we place on immaterial feelings, it is ironic that what is thought to make us human is that what makes us the most mechanical.

Just as hearing a small baby laugh makes us instantly smile, seeing a poor elderly widow cry makes us correspondingly sad. These involuntary reactions are with little or no thought, and as they are the most immediate are often likened to be the truest of representations of what it is to be human.

But without personal control and intent, these automatic expressions only reflect biological wiring, an easily replicatable process where an observation signals a certain and predictable response. Gone is any uncertainty or randomness that is ascribed to the human condition.

Upon this description of being human, once inputs are known the proper outputs can be promptly produced. What it is then to be human, is to be a mere machine, albeit composed of living cells.

But such a meaning is less cold than it first appears, for the importance we place on defining ourselves as emotive creatures necessarily depends on our ability to understand those expressions, in ourselves and in others.

For most of our development, and perhaps even now, we can understand others' emotions more than we can understand their thoughts. By defining being human as our emotional capacities and responses, we are tacitly deciding that what is utmost important to humans, to our very essence, is our ability to understand each other.

And though having our capacity for emotion as a defining characteristic of humanity entails we are individually comparable to machines, because we are able to understand each other, we, together, are something much more.

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