What is humanity?What is humanity (the quality)? Is it the practice of being nice to one another? Yes, it may be, if we want to put it simply. But in this post I need to get more complicated, so I will proceed.
Since many intellectuals incur too often the mistake of starting with the most complex approach, I will do the opposite. I won't discard the simplest - I daresay ingenuous - definition I gave at the beginning, but I will use it as a starting point.
Humanity can be very simple to explain, but difficult to practice. Why is it difficult in practice? Suffice it to say, you can use the adjective "human" to qualify an egoist as well as an altruistic behaviour: "it is human" to err and "it is human" to help people who are less fortunate than us.
Again, why difficult in practice? Because it's not true that we only have to listen to our heart - virtuous as we may be - and let it sort everything out by itself, to be human. You have to think over every single action thatyou perform and that has other people as objective. Being a good person requires constant concentration.
Closing the gap between theory and practice
What's the opposite of "humanity"? "Cruelty" and "egoism", I hear say, and with more than one reason. Maddoff was cruel and selfish, whereas a person committing to charity work is human.
The evolution prompt us to limit our actions to benefitting our own self or a group as narrow as our family. This is natural, this is human. We have to create the best conditions possible for our progeny to live and develop themselves in a healthy and comfortable environment. But as already Hegel had pointed out way before the theory of evolution became common sense, the altruism towards a son or a daughter has to be ascribed to a natural instict rather than to an authentic spiritual attitude.
An "ontology" of humanityAssuming that humanity implies deeds addressing living beings, we have to identify the categories of living beings that can prove our humanity the most. This is the best way to demonstrate the essence of the concept of humanity without resorting too much to theory, as I promised I wouldn't. Humanity is something inherently practical, but in identifying the categories of beings that the deeds expressing humanity should address, we can explain its concept as well. Moreover, since humanity is essentialy a practical value, precisely in that it presupposes acts and the objectives of these acts, the indication of the objects that are most liable to receive a human deed is enough to obtain an "ontology" of humanity as the best explanation of its concept (ὄντος = "of being"). This will result more clear after reading the following paragraph.
The four categories of humanityThere are four categories of people who can let us prove our humanity. They are "the 4 categories of humanity". These categories aren't necessarily supposed to serve any productive purpose in our society, and our respecting them and taking care of them are not (and ought not to be) based on any productive or instrumental criteria. Since the main operative principle of nature is the survival of the fittest at the expenses of the weakest and the least productive, exercising humanity is the most direct way to emancipate ourselves from nature.
The order is cronological.
1) The children. We must respect and protect the children, because they remind us of what we were.
2) The animals. We must respect and protect the animals, because they remind us of what we are.
3) The people with handicap and the poor. We must respect and protect the people with handicap and the poor, because they remind us of what we could have been or could be. They testify the presence of fate (the unforeseen) in human events.
4) The elderly. We must respect and protect the elderly, because they remind us of what we will be.
Conclusion: man's being manAs we can see, by behaving in a human manner, we can aknowledge our condition of human beings, we can grasp its essence in recovering it from the division operated by time, with each time dimension implying losses and new acquisitions - and this much better than any essay could do on our behalf. Ultimately, we can keep hold on our identity in the light of our constitutive limits and in the light of fate.
Without feeling and practicing humanity, there is no real knowledge of man's being man.
"Butterfly-girl transforms into a crysalis"