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        a normativity of ‘humanity’
gary e. davis
September 10, 2007

It’s so lovely that the etymological root of ‘humanity’ (Latin humanus) means either/both “human” or/and “humane”. The first/oldest English meaning (according to M-Webster’s Unabridged) is “the quality or state of being humane,” secondarily “the condition of being human,” and lastly “the totality of human beings.”

In short, then, the meaning of ‘humanity’ is: the humane being of us all.

This rich sense of the term (potentially at once ethical and natural) is surely intuited when one is called to think of one’s humanity (to act in light of appreciating one’s own humanity) or when one appeals to one’s humanity or from an avowal of our humanity.

The calling or appeal is more than a “moral“ appeal (supposing there’s good reason to distinguish “moral“ from “ethical," which is historically indisputable, but philosophically very questionable). Moral appeal is apparently a matter of our nature, from which moral sense of appeal to one’s humanity somehow derives. Whatever resolves the question of our “nature” (as if), it is to be (according to legacy) such that our humanity belongs to selfhood intrinsically, each and all, as “humane” belongs to ‘humanity’; therefore, the moral appeal gains validity.

Intuition or fidelity to implicit ethical naturalism is embodied in the legacy of the word’s kinship with ‘humane’ (M.English humayne <— M.French humain <— Latin humanus), which is to be, first, “marked by compassion, sympathy, or consideration” of others, which takes on a broadly humanistic sense (e.g., “humane studies”).

Etymology (which is the anthropology of meaning) speaks the legacy of facticity, with which philosophical analysis may disagree (or find unacceptably vague), but would be foolhardy to reject, since questions of legacy may inform questions of evolution, which may inform questions of intrinsicity—which is intrinsic to philosophic interest.

Some intuitional ethical naturalism of self-understanding may be suggested by the meaning of ‘humanity’, but of course it begs the question: Why would ‘humanity’ have this legacy? (One may have read, by the way, about valuation in neural Darwinism, relations of mirror neuron flourishing and empathy, etc.) If an intimacy of compassion and self-understanding is anchored in the evolution of meaning-making, how so? Obviously, how moral sense may derive from intrinsicness of our nature is a flourishing issue, in light of evolutionary cognitive neuroscience.

“humanistic union”?


    Be fair. © 2014, g. e. davis.