In his “What Does It Mean to be Human

In his “What Does It Mean to be Human?”, Joel M. Charon sought to discuss how humans are different from other animals, and what key human characteristics make it so. Could it be our innate moral compass? Or could it be the fact that we are the only animals to engage war with our own kind? Ultimately, he boils it down to two fundamental qualities: human beings are social and cultural by nature.

As a social being, we survive on our dependence on the people the around us, and our ability to adapt and learn specific qualities than enable us to “fit in” our society. In a nutshell, we learn how to “live” by socializing with other people. On the other hand, as cultural beings, we individually interpret what we learn according to the environment we are raised in. As such, our “identity” is a product of both our surroundings and our biological makeup.

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Essentially, I agree with the author’s claims, but I feel that it may be a little insufficient. I don’t think the complexity of a human being can be fully encapsulated as just socio-cultural entities. Especially since the author himself failed to completely explain just how different the culture of an animal and the culture of a human being is. He proceeds to tell the reader what human culture is NOT, never clarifying what it actually IS, and just concedes by saying the said task is indeed difficult to clarify. This poses an issue for me because he fails to make his reader completely understand the distinction he’s trying to explain. As such, I cannot fully appreciate his claim, even if he does make a lot of good arguments.


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