What Does It Mean To Be Human?

One of the most fundamental questions that is increasingly facing bioethicists and society alike is the question, "What does it mean to be human?" "In what consists the act of being human?" "Is my humanity a 'bodily' humanity?" In every area of philosophical concern, we are always thrown back to these basic questions… I hold that every human being is a human person, and every human person is a human being. I also hold that the existence of a human being, say my own existence, began when my bodily existence began, that is when I was conceived. There are some who do not maintain that human beings are human persons as I do. These differences in view indicate that here we are faced with a problem about the recognition of what we take human beings to be as we experience them, and so as we experience ourselves. Obviously, the facts, say, about our embryonic beginnings-as much as the beginnings of other animals – are well known to biologists and to most of us; the facts are the same, they are written in good biology books. Yet these facts, these realities, are seen to be different, interpreted to be different; so different that some would say: "now at that stage there is a human being in its embryonic form." Another would say, "there is no human being at all; we have only a blob of cells," while still others would say "we have a potential human being, but not a full human being." Now if the account of the facts is biologically the same, for we do not quarrel much...