Where the Ocean Meets the Sky

March 26, 2009

What defines a person versus other animals? Is it because we are the only ones capable of language, both physically and verbally, in addition to communication? Animals can communicate with each other, but this is just perceived by people. Is there not more to it that we just cannot understand, in terms of language of other animals?

Chimpanzees can use sign language when trained. We are not the only ones.

Is it our ability to make executive decisions? Does this just originate from the frontal lobe, or does it come from something more philosophical – something that cannot be explained through human intellect?

What about how we have built our own civilization after hundreds of years? What about the concept of time that we have created in our heads?

But the Babylonians and Egyptians had a sense of time even before there were clocks and watches. They even made predictions through the elliptical movements of the planets.

Or is it our unique genetic makeup? Well think of this: Chimpanzees share most of their genes with humans.

Is it that we reside on this planet – where the ocean meets the sky?

In the end, we are human beings that are just trying to get by – most of us living in our own bubble and sphere of thought.

“As we meet, I always keep in mind that we are the same in being human beings. If we emphasize those superficial differences, I am an Easterner and a former Tibetan from beyond the Himalayas, with a different environment and a different culture. However, if we both look deep down, I have a valid feeling of I, and with that feeling I want happiness and do not want suffering. Everyone, no matter where they come from, has this valid feeling of I on the same conventional level, and in this sense we are all the same.” (Kindness, Clarity, and Insight: The Fourteenth Dali Lama).

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8 Responses to “Where the Ocean Meets the Sky”

  1. lenny25 said

    wait…what doe the Babylonians and Egyptians have to do with animals? How does their having time support your argument…?

  2. Spirit said

    I’m sure the author has support for the ancients having a sense of time but that argument seems hardly persuasive when you consider the fact that without any indication of time (ie. no watches, no natural light/darkness) most people eventually turn to a 25-26 hour day – not a 24 hour day. So our concept of time today is probably nothing like the internal clocks of the ancients. Is there a difference between having a sense of time (the ancients) and actually doing something to control it (current society’s concept of time).

  3. Notelrac said

    I think there’s something wrong with your opening question, “What defines a person versus other animals.” A more sensible sounding dichotomy would be “humans vs other animals”. Or, you could phrase it as, “Can only humans be persons, or can it be extended to animals like the Great Apes, elephants, or dolphins?”

    And what about societal constructs like corporations or NGOs? The meet some of the legal definition of personhoodness.

  4. thebeerphilosopher said

    Humans share a great number of genes with bananas. Does that make them people, too?

    What makes us people? The fact that we define ourselves as such. Apart from that definition, there are upwards of a gazillion different ways we can form the question to include or exclude other animals or plants or metaphysical constructs into the definitional sphere of “personhood.”

  5. Spirit said

    another thought I just had. How do “persons” with autism fit into your analysis? People with severe autism may actually have less communication ability than chimps. Are they still persons? or are they animals?

  6. modernpiracy said

    The argument that apes are similar to humans is actually hindered by the quotation at the end. If I understand the Dali-Llama correct, which I don’t suppose I do, his argument is that PEOPLE are all the same. That is largely incongruent with the author’s main theme. Like the refrence to ancient civilizations, the evidence only compares human experiences.

    There seems to be a lot in a little entry; judging from the number of comments too, I think the author would be remiss not to offer an expanded entry on the subject.

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