Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

Some Criteria for Humanizing

Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

Some Criteria for Humanizing

Article excerpt

"The growth of studies of our human potentials is giving us a new feeling about ourselves."

Introduction and Focuses

In the accumulating enormous range of information and deeper understanding of many other cultures than our own, we can see how a society's attitude toward a human being has changed. As the metamorphoses of our ways of knowing throughout our cultural history begin to take shape, we need a way to see through the maze of information, to find broad outlines and unifications. A good deal has already been written in this direction. It is hoped that the following considerations may move this trend forward in an area of great concern to all of us, wherever we may be living.

We can begin by exploring some differences between "human" and "nonhuman." Human has been contrasted with machine-like, mechanical, devoid of feelings. Human may also be contrasted with animalistic, a pejorative term when referring to a person. Or, human may be differentiated from some mythical superhuman being, with implications of inferiority. Thus, we say, "He is only human" if someone makes a mistake or loses control of his feelings, is involved in some misdemeanor, or acts irresponsibly. The growth of studies of our human potentials is giving us a new feeling about ourselves.

Articles are being written on "humanizing work" in the sense of giving the worker a feeling of dignity on his job, providing him a chance for using his imagination, getting away from dull mechanical routine.

"Humanizing" is different from "anthropomorphizing" when referring to a machine, or a computer, for instance. Those who work with computers know their present limitations, besides their great help. As John C. Eccles said, "... the computer does not recognize unexpected messages ..." (1)

Would cultivating an appreciation for artistic works influence a person toward behaving more "humanly"? Many believe so, or did believe so until they became disillusioned from events in World War II. It is well known that the Nazis spent evenings listening to Mozart and Beethoven and the very next morning committed horrible brutalities in the concentration camps a few miles away.

In his paper on "Communications and Information Theory" Dr. Dan McLachlan, Jr., gives us a clue to the relation of "human-ness" to the theory, when he writes:

Meaning, value, want and need are not to be discussed here because they have not been investigated to any extent such as has been done on information theory or communication in general. These words are rarely found in books of science, and it is unfortunate that they have not been because these are such human words [italics mine] and the future decency of our human race depends so much on our understanding of them. Such expressions as "moral values" or "cultural values" are difficult to handle. Such terms as "in want" or "in dire need" have a pretty diffuse line of distinction. (2)

While any terms we use -- no matter which -- involve some cultural assumptions and problems of ferreting them out, are there some ways of speaking about "humanizing" that do not get us into as much of a quagmire as some others? If at every moment of investigating, the person who is observing becomes an integral part of the observation, it is not possible to get away from some kind of values, or from the assumptions hidden in the very terms and categories that are used to talk about the research.

Some Criteria as Guides

The following considerations are suggested as guides in our context for investigating:

1. The kind of behavior we classify as uniquely human.

2. The holistic character of the premises, based on the principle of the organism-as-a-whole-in-an-environment.

3. The terminology used for investigating, and its applicability to the functioning of the human nervous system.

4. …

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