Must A Human Be An Ape?  The Ultimate Problem of Self-Classification

How humans came to descend from apes
The Oxford English Dictionaries define ‘human’ in three ways, which are listed in the following order: (1) whatever distinguishes people from God, animals and machines; (2) whenever people behave in a highly desirable fashion; (3) whoever is a member of the genus Homo. These are really quite different definitions. The first has the greatest conceptual clarity, but its clarity is limited to the realm of the conceptual. Making that definition work in practice is diabolical. The second is unclear in both theory and practice. However, it taps into the original meaning of ‘human’ – namely, the outcome of some normative project that requires extensive cultivation and training, one which today we identify with the ‘humanities’. The third is the most recent definition, since the very idea that humans resembled – let alone were descended from – apes in some deep sense dates only to the mid-eighteenth century European Enlightenment. That was when the Swedish taxonomist Carolus Linnaeus first named our species Homo sapiens.

from Ethical Technology

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