THE SPECIALNESS OF MAN


An analytic study of papers in the human sciences reveals that a central issue confronting investigators is that of maintaining a separation between ourselves and other living organisms. The struggle to maintain a separation between matters concerning humanity and investigations of the "natural" world has had a long history and is by no means resolved (Dewey, 1929). No small part of our resistance to an integration of the human and biological sciences lies in the implied change in our perceived status among organisms, a shift in sources of moral authority, and changes in our ways of living that would inevitably result from systematic investigation into the human situation as biologically situated.

The Copernican Revolution

The Darwinian Revolution

The Freudian Revolution

The revolution being brought about in the biological sciences by the Darwinian account, together with biological systems perspectives, has not yet been accepted by the human sciences. This perspective suggests that the human species evolved out of a primate matrix and that we are therefore one particualr case of evolutionary event. An analysis of what we are must, accordingly, assume that continuities hold between ourselves and other living organisms. Accepting this principle means using information about other phylogenetic levels to understand from whence came our unique human "capabilities" and upon what they are based.

The principle also suggests that our perspectives and models of human conduct ought to accord with those uitilised in the biological sciences. At present they don't, due in no small part to a reductionism which does not allow them to take seriously human morphology, developmental history, the context of living, and the relations between ourselves and our context. Many investigations in fact begin with an attempt to establish criteria of demarcating ourselves from other living organisms, calling on language, mind, tool-use, an upright posture, within- species killings, etc. and formulate accounts based on such characteristics which are often inconsistent with what we do know about our functioning on other levels of analysis.

It goes without saying that humans differ from other species. Our highly articulated and flexible use of our vocal apparatus is but one aspect of this difference. We differ in various morphological characteristics, in our rhythms of development, in the environments in which we live. Across all variables we display uniqueness, but in this we are not alone. All species display a unique pattern of variables. The difference between ourselves and other organisms is not to be found in special possessions, but in the manner in which the elements that make us up are put together to achieve a different sort of output.

L_Heglar@compuserve.com