On Being Human

What does it mean to be human? According to the Medieval Philosophers, it means having reason. While animals have some semblance of reason, it is not the same, in nature as humans. We call this the Chain of Being, and it looks kind of like this:

So what about humans, and particularly our reason, makes us the kind of beings that communicate, and want to communicate? Well, one way we can look at it is that stones don’t really do much. While interesting (and geologists would totally argue with me here), a stone’s existence does not tell us a story, at least not in the way that a human’s life does. Our reason helps us to understand our lives as they relate to time and space; thus, our lives are narratives. Our logic sees the patterns in our life and puts it together as a story. But our reason also sees that our life is not the same as other lives around us, an awareness that does not exist in flames or stones. So we communicate. Granted, that animals (most of them anyhow) have some basic form of communication, but we are able, at least in some way, to actually fully communicate our thoughts. We communicate them in the most substantial way possible: narrative.

A very interesting theory recently developing is the idea that narrative is The Form of Communication. Meaning, it holds within it every substantial form of argumentation and thing that we rhetorically respond to as humans: “tells us about the speaker, the situational context, and the matter under discussion” (237). Everything that one needs to know about what is going on in any particular situation, as well as the why, and reasoning all around the situation is told in a story. It is a basic understanding of how we exist in time and space, and it comes out in a narrative.

As humans, our reason, dictates that we understand the laws of time and space, and so order our lives in a kind of narrative. This is why we share our stories with others, and write them down for ourselves. We know that we can only understand our lives in the context of a narrative, and others can only understand us in context of a story.

Woods, William F.. College Composition and Communication 40.2 (1989): 236–238. Web http://www.jstor.org.libproxy.nau.edu/stable/358142

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