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ouinon
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25 Nov 2008, 8:33 am

carturo222 wrote:
What I want to stress is through what language the categories of human and non-human are made distinguishable.

I was almost going to say that "creativity" is often/always associated with the human, but your example shows precisely that this is not the case.

What about religion? Is religion, religious belief, belief in higher beings, generally a sign of the "human", in most art and thought?

Nothing non-human is ever represented as having religion?
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Last edited by ouinon on 25 Nov 2008, 8:39 am, edited 1 time in total.

Sand
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25 Nov 2008, 8:38 am

ouinon wrote:
I was almost going to say that "creativity" is often/always associated with the human, but your example, carturo222, shows that this is not the case.

What about religion? Is religion, religious belief, belief in higher beings, generally a sign of the "human", in most art and thought?

Nothing non-human is ever represented as having religion?
.


You're presuming to know what a penguin, bat, honeybee, ant, dolphin, octopus, etc. knows, feels imagines. That's one hell of a tall order.



ouinon
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25 Nov 2008, 8:41 am

Sand wrote:
ouinon wrote:
Is religion, religious belief, belief in higher beings, generally a sign of the "human", in most art and thought? Nothing non-human, or almost, is ever represented as having religion?
You're presuming to know what a penguin, bat, honeybee, ant, dolphin, octopus, etc. knows, feels, imagines. That's one hell of a tall order.

Not at all, I am talking about how humans represent the human and non-human, not whether animals actually have some quality or not.
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ouinon
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25 Nov 2008, 9:38 am

ouinon wrote:
(Almost ) nothing non-human is ever represented as having religion?

If this distinction holds water at all, a reason for it could be that religion represents/expresses the greatest heights/depths of human subjective "life"/experience, and it is that which will tend to distinguish the representations of non-human from human in most of our art and thought.

The primary distinction between the human and the non-human in our art and thought is perhaps the degree/depth of subjective experience/"life" ascribed to each. :?:

PS. Just reminded of Brundle, in the film "The Fly", asking "Have you ever heard of insect politics? No, me neither. I don't think that they have politics". That hole where our own, most important/precious, subjective life/experience disappears is perhaps how we show the non-human.
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carturo222
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25 Nov 2008, 10:04 am

The Lord of the Rings, Watership Down, Babylon 5, and Futurama respectively show elves, rabbits, aliens and robots displaying religious feelings. It could be argued that these are relatively recent productions, born of a time where the definition of "human" has come to be both more inclusive and more blurred. However, the New Testament shows angels and demons expressing their devotion/fear toward God (and the Old Testament seems to imply that the whole of nature praises him). So it seems religiosity has never been construed as a uniquely human trait.

One thing I notice, though, is that religiosity is only ascribed to intelligent beings (or at least anthropomorphized entities).



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25 Nov 2008, 10:09 am

carturo222 wrote:
The Lord of the Rings, Watership Down, Babylon 5, and Futurama respectively show elves, rabbits, aliens and robots displaying religious feelings. It could be argued that these are relatively recent productions, born of a time where the definition of "human" has come to be both more inclusive and more blurred. However, the New Testament shows angels and demons expressing their devotion/fear toward God (and the Old Testament seems to imply that the whole of nature praises him). So it seems religiosity has never been construed as a uniquely human trait.

One thing I notice, though, is that religiosity is only ascribed to intelligent beings (or at least anthropomorphized entities).


I don't know if I qualify as an intelligent being up to your standards but from my childhood on up to now when I am quite old I always saw religion and the accouterments to religion as total fantastic nonsense and I never had the slightest inclination to pray to or worship anything. But perhaps I am not human.



carturo222
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25 Nov 2008, 10:11 am

On the contrary, your answer confirms my point: religion is neither necessary nor sufficient for humanness.



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25 Nov 2008, 10:12 am

ouinon wrote:
ouinon wrote:
(Almost ) nothing non-human is ever represented as having religion?

If this distinction holds water at all, a reason for it could be that religion represents/expresses the greatest heights/depths of human subjective "life"/experience, and it is that which will tend to distinguish the representations of non-human from human in most of our art and thought.

The primary distinction between the human and the non-human in our art and thought is perhaps the degree/depth of subjective experience/"life" ascribed to each. :?:

PS. Just reminded of Brundle, in the film "The Fly", asking "Have you ever heard of insect politics? No, me neither. I don't think that they have politics". That hole where our own, most important/precious, subjective life/experience disappears is perhaps how we show the non-human.
.


Considering what politics has done throughout history and is violently doing currently flies and cockroaches in comparison seem to be doing quite well.



ouinon
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25 Nov 2008, 10:19 am

carturo222 wrote:
The Lord of the Rings, Watership Down, Babylon 5, and Futurama respectively show elves, rabbits, aliens and robots displaying religious feelings.

In Watership Down the rabbits are not really non-human. Any more than the pigs, sheep, and horses are in "Animal Farm". We are intended to identify with them as if they were fully human in fact.

Where in "The Lord of the Rings" is there religious activity or belief described?

In most of the stories about robots displaying religious feelings the robots are precisely, as you say, being used to investigate what constitutes "being human", and signs of it in fictional A.I. beings are actually support for my idea that it is one of those things associated with being human, and not non-human.

In the case of aliens I get the impression that it is a tradition of space opera to present aliens as if they are just strangely/oddly dressed, coloured, shaped, "humans". A way of being "exotic" without in any way representing the non-human.

Quote:
It could be argued that these are relatively recent productions, born of a time where the definition of "human" has come to be both more inclusive and more blurred.

Yes.
Quote:
However, the New Testament shows angels and demons expressing their devotion/fear toward God.

But the bible is a religious artefact itself, and thus all beings in it will have religious roles of some sort.
.



Last edited by ouinon on 25 Nov 2008, 10:22 am, edited 1 time in total.

ouinon
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25 Nov 2008, 10:21 am

carturo222 wrote:
Religion is neither necessary nor sufficient for humanness.

This discussion is about the representation of the "human" as distinct from the "non-human", I think, :?: and therefore does not have anything to do with actual religiosity in humans, animals or aliens.

Religion is an effective symbol for human as opposed to non-human, because it most powerfully represents our subjective "life", which is why it is so often used to distinguish between the human and the non-human, when art or thought is genuinely dealing with the question, and not simply using animals or aliens as figurants for the human.
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25 Nov 2008, 10:32 am

There seem to be separate subcategories of non-humans in fiction: infrahuman (inanimate objects, insects, "vile" animals, mindless humanoids like zombies and werewolves, aggressive monsters like hydras and basilisks, uncivilized tribes), morally equivalent but not human (intelligent aliens, talking animals, humanoid races like dwarves and hobbits, Turing-proof machines), and superhuman (deities, "noble" animals, nature spirits, powerful monsters like titans and nymphs, advanced aliens, superheroes). In this classification dragons and robots are ambiguous depending on how much intelligence you attribute them.

And there is, I think, another category, the most confusing one: the character who is both more-than and less-than human: the aberration. Here you find Frankenstein, Dracula, and your average clone.

In thinking of this classification (and, incidentally, of that maddening human tendency to classify everything) I think that our criteria for "superiority/inferiority" uses a multiple measure that includes moral capacity, reasoning capacity, propensity to aggression, and physical prowess.

Do you notice other common denominators usable as criteria for delimiting the boundaries of humanness?



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25 Nov 2008, 10:36 am

ouinon wrote:
carturo222 wrote:
Religion is neither necessary nor sufficient for humanness.

This discussion is about the representation of the "human" as distinct from the "non-human", I think, :?: and therefore does not have anything to do with actual religiosity in humans, animals or aliens.

Religion is an effective symbol for human as opposed to non-human, because it most powerfully represents our subjective "life", which is why it is so often used to distinguish between the human and the non-human, when art or thought is genuinely dealing with the question, and not simply using animals or aliens as figurants for the human.
.


Then let me restate my point: religious feelings are neither necessary nor sufficient for the representation of humanness in a fictitious character.

Edit: Although this is a discussion about representation rather than of actual humanness, we must keep in mind that what we choose to represent in symbolic language depends on what we think the world is like.

P.D. I didn't read the books, but in the Lord of the Rings movies the elf seemed to utter prayers for the deceased.



Last edited by carturo222 on 25 Nov 2008, 10:42 am, edited 1 time in total.

ouinon
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25 Nov 2008, 10:41 am

carturo222 wrote:
Another category, the most confusing one: the character who is both more-than and less-than human: the aberration. Here you find Frankenstein, Dracula, and your average clone.

Both Frankenstein's monster and Dracula have religion of some kind. That is why they are so disturbing. They are human, because they have religion, ( representing the heights of human subjective experience ), and therefore we are not able to just right them off as non-human.

All of your other criteria are simply measures of inferiority/superiority, and as such less interesting, in fact buy into the more usual, falsely-objective, classification system.
.



ouinon
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25 Nov 2008, 10:43 am

carturo222 wrote:
Religious feelings are neither necessary nor sufficient for the representation of humanness in a fictitious character.

Their presence or absence will definitely suggest humanness or non-humanness respectively though. Whereas all the other criteria that you propose do not necessarily imply anything one way or the other.

Quote:
P.D. I didn't read the books, but in the Lord of the Rings movies the elf seemed to utter prayers for the deceased.

Not in the book. Tolkien was very careful to avoid any reference to religion.
.



Last edited by ouinon on 25 Nov 2008, 10:45 am, edited 1 time in total.

carturo222
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25 Nov 2008, 10:45 am

Understood. Can you think of some criterion for "essentially different from" that does not involve "better than/worse than"?

On second thought, perhaps we are reluctant to think of non-human entities as equivalent to us. The movement to grant human rights to great apes is controversial because of this point: do we have the right to declare other beings as not-us without consulting their feelings on the matter?