What Does It Mean to be Human?

“At least there is hope for a tree:
    If it is cut down, it will sprout again,
    and its new shoots will not fail.
Its roots may grow old in the ground
    and its stump die in the soil,
yet at the scent of water it will bud
    and put forth shoots like a plant.
But a man dies and is laid low;
    he breathes his last and is no more.
As the water of a lake dries up
    or a riverbed becomes parched and dry,
so he lies down and does not rise;
    till the heavens are no more, people will not awake
    or be roused from their sleep.
“If only you would hide me in the grave
    and conceal me till your anger has passed!
If only you would set me a time
    and then remember me!
If someone dies, will they live again?
    All the days of my hard service
    I will wait for my renewal to come.
You will call and I will answer you;
    you will long for the creature your hands have made.
Surely then you will count my steps
    but not keep track of my sin.
My offenses will be sealed up in a bag;
    you will cover over my sin.

  • Job 14:7-17

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

  • 1 Corinthians 10:31

Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever.

  • Psalm 73:25-26

“Heidegger was a student of Husserl, and he followed Husserl’s method of phenomenology. This is a philosophical approach that looks at phenomena—how things appear—through examining our experience of them. For example, phenomenology would not look directly at the question ‘what is a human being?’ but would instead look at the question ‘what is it like to be human?’
“For Heidegger, this constitutes the fundamental question of philosophy. He was most interested in the philosophical subject of ontology (from the Greek word
ontos, meaning ‘being’), which looks at questions about being or existence. Examples of ontological questions might be: ‘what does it mean to say that something exists?’ and ‘what are the different kinds of things that exist?’ Heidegger wanted [to] use the question ‘what is it like to be human?’ as a way of answering deeper questions about existence in general.
“In his book,
Being and Time, Heidegger claims that when other philosophers have asked ontological questions, they have tended to use approaches that are too abstract and shallow. If we want to know what it means to say that something exists, we need to start looking at the question from the perspective of those beings for whom being is an issue. We can assume that although cats, dogs, and toadstools are beings, they do not wonder about their being: they do not fret over ontological questions; they do not ask ‘what does it mean to say that something exists?’ But there is, Heidegger points out, one being that does wonder about these things, and that is the human being. In saying that we are ourselves the entities to be analyzed, Heidegger is saying that if we want to explore questions of being, we have to start with ourselves, by looking at what it means for us to exist.
“It is to Heidegger that we owe the philosophical distinction between authentic and inauthentic existence. Most of the time we are wrapped up in various ongoing projects, and forget about death. But in seeing our life purely in terms of the projects in which we are engaged, we miss a more fundamental dimension of our existence, and to that extent, Heidegger says, we are existing inauthentically. When we become aware of death as the ultimate limit of our possibilities, we start to reach a deeper understanding of what it means to exist.”

  • Sam Atkinson (senior editor), The Philosophy Book, Big Ideas Simply Explained

Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) describes human existence as a series of projects that need completion in the limited time we have on earth, thus the title of his book, Being and Time.

I do not think that Heidegger expects us to have a morbid interest in death, but only through realizing that our time is limited do we have the motivation to reach the completion of those “projects.”  He goes on to suggest that when someone that does not place that “limited time” motivation into our thinking, we are existing inauthentically.

Of course, there is more to life than our projects, even when one project might be “family”, and another might be “service.”  Some of those types of projects are only completed by our passing or, in some cases, retirement.

To those who think that our pets are really people, I could point to God’s creation of Man placing humans as having been created with the image of God.  We are to have dominion over the other species.  But Heidegger points out the crucial factor.  Humankind has a consciousness.  We are aware.  Sure, I do not speak beagle, and I am sure that beagle is a totally different language to poodle.  But I am in the same camp with Heidegger and possibly Gary Larson of Far Side.  I think it was a Larson cartoon that had two panels: “What you say to the dog” and “What the dog hears.”  All the dog hears is “blah, blah, blah, good dog, blah, blah, blah” and of course the dog’s name.  Of course, the dog’s owner was complaining about how the dog was not being a “good dog.”  But maybe having this attitude is just my upbringing.  Farmers may love their animals, but they seem to have a more realistic view of them.

But due to our sense of consciousness, we not only know that we exist, but we are aware of the knowledge that we exist.

But when it comes to the “why do we exist,” the atheistic evolutionists do not have a good answer.  They have their answer, but in believing their answer, there is not question as to why depression and anxiety run rampant these days.  Some leading evolutionists state that our only purpose in life is to be the result of an accident that has no purpose, an accidental goo whose ancestor was pond scum.  Some use more flowery language, but you cannot find purpose in undirected accidents that happened to become what we call humans.

For the Christian, our purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, like the Scriptures above state.  Of course, the first Scripture is from Job.  He has heard his three friends berate him about his unconfessed sin, and Job grasps desperately to Heidegger’s definition of an authentic existence and Job finds that existence in God.

There is a wide gulf between an authentic existence and an authentic existence with purpose.

If you like these Tuesday morning essays about philosophy and other “heavy topics,” but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Tuesday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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