This thesis is an examination of what it is to be human. A common answer is that humanity is defined by our genetic makeup, our being homo sapiens, but we as humans are more than our biology; it is one piece of the puzzle, but far from the only one. From biology, many other aspects of humanity emerge. Where we go from our biological starting point is entirely up to us, which is another key feature in defining the humanity. As Sartre understood, we human beings have the ability to create our own identities. Our qualities are reflections of what we do, so our actions serve to define us. This is true with regard to both our physical and metaphysical characteristics. We can use our actions to shape ourselves, including our bodies. The technology to fully realize this capacity is still in its fledgling stage, but for as long as humans have existed we have augmented ourselves with various transcorporeal and extracorporeal aids. This is all a manifestation of our agency, which is distinguished by its second-order functioning. To use our agency is to act. Action transforms the world around us both physically and phenomenologically, and therefore plays a role in defining us because of the importance of our embodiment and of human experience. Much of what defines us as humans lies in the experience of the world as a human. What makes such things possible is the fact that we are persons. Qualities of this sort, while emerging from biology, are not reducible to it. Human beings are a product of circumstance, which means that it is possible for an individual or population could theoretically lose their humanity, the understanding of which will help to understand humanity as a whole. In short, I wish to present humanity as a contingent collection of interconnected qualities.


Rudisill, John




Other Philosophy


Humanity, Personhood, Cybernetics, Agency, Action, Phenomenology

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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