Background: The Human, Humanity and What it Can Mean to Be Humane

… what is individual, what is singular, what’s genuinely lived as human is just a sort of glittering surface over top large formal systems, and thought now must rebuild those formal systems on which float from time to time the foam and image of our own existence.


(Foucault 1966 in Philosophy Overdose 2020)

Philosophy Overdose (ed.) (2020). The Disappearance of Man – Michel Foucault (1966). [Video]. (22-11-21)


Nussbaum, M. C. (2018). What Does It Mean to Be Human? Don’t Ask. (22-11-22)
→ Note: Limited number of readings possible; might be behind a paywall if you have exceeded the number of accessible articles.


Defebaugh, W. (2022). A Star Is Born. (22-11-22)


“We can induce the needed humility by observing the vast range of ways of living and thinking that have existed in the world, in the form of its history, its literature, its languages and its cultural traditions. In other words: by studying the humanities. Seeing the many other ways in which human beings have thought about themselves and interacted with one another and used language together and wielded power against one other and solved problems (and created them) helps us understand that our way is not the only way, that our natural feeling of how things should and must be is actually not natural at all, but made, by culture.” (Saunders (n.d.))

Saunders, G. (n.d.) The Problem with Being Human. (22-11-22) 


“Humanity is a quality that is distributed according to a hierarchical scale centred on a humanistic idea of Man as the measure of all things. This dominant idea is based on a simple assumption of superiority by a subject that is: masculine, white, Eurocentric, practicing compulsory heterosexuality and reproduction, able-bodied, urbanized, speaking a standard language. This subject is the Man of reason that feminists, anti-racists, black, indigenous postcolonial and ecological activists have been criticizing for decades.” (Braidotti 2020)

Braidotti, R. (2020). “We” Are In This Together, But We Are Not One and the Same. Bioethical Inquiry. 17(no issue), 465–469.



CCCB (ed.) (2022). Rosi Braidotti: “The concept of human has always been associated with relations of power”. [Video]. (22-11-21)



Faculty of Arts, Aarhus Universitet (ed.) (2018). Rosi Braidotti: What is the Human in the Humanities Today? [Video]. (22-11-21)



IASPRimers (ed.) (2021). UPSC Essay 2020: Life is a long journey between human being and being human. [Video]. (22-11-21)



Kiiza .S. Hussein (ed.) (2016). The Beauty of being Humane. [Video]. (22-11-21)
→ Note: This is an advertisement in poor quality, but mind the question in the end nevertheless.



Even though the perceived superiority of immaterial, rational thought prevails (see, e.g., the suppression of emotions described by Grace Lyons (1988) as “The Politics of Emotions” in Constructive Criticism, or the devaluation of a very diverse working class outside academia as explained by Draut (n.d.)), human beings are still known for their material existence: We have bodies, we are bodies. We give birth to new bodies and bury the dead ones. If we imagine a human being, we most likely think of a feeling human body with certain immaterial characteristics attached to it-loving, creative, destructive, inquisitive, etc. Try to leave this imagination now. Think of giving the human a new form, a different shape, a new non-body body, which exists outside the human body images we are aware of today. In your mind, create a non-body body in which you feel at home, at ease, safe, welcome, loved, nurtured and at the same time courageous enough to reach out to others with empathy and compassion.

Take some paper and draw what you imagine. How would this new non-body body look like? Which colors do you use? Do you choose a certain shape? Does it resemble any of the features we know as human? Is it big or small? Does it fit into your hand? Does the new form you came up with remind you of any other living organism you know? Can you imagine to grow into this new non-body body?

Put your drawings aside for a moment.
Feel and have a look at your own material body. Recognize its beginnings and endings. Touch your skin. This is you. Have a look at your picture again. This imagined non-body body is equally you. It is a picture of your own feelings and imaginations. And it can be a place of your humane capabilities, a space for practicing solidary relations towards others. As you are stepping out into a world that teaches us that hyper individualism and cold rationality will make us succeed, return to this non-body body imagination to feel resilient and caring enough to share some humane warmth with those you meet. Practice often. Feel how your physical body and your imagined body become one as you practice. Feel how you can connect with other bodies around you-human and non-human, different and same, older, younger. See how you can re-connect with others and yourself.



For changing your perspective and a view on which different shapes we can take on as we become flowers, watch “The Flowers Within” by Elie Fahed.