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So You Think You're Human: A Brief History of Humankind
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So You Think You're Human: A Brief History of Humankind

3.36 of 5 stars 3.36  ·  rating details  ·  44 ratings  ·  9 reviews
Shows how our concept of humankind has changed over time and argues our current understanding of what it means to be human has been shaken by new discoveries from science and philosophy.
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published March 25th 2004 by Oxford University Press (first published 2004)
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In an age that prides itself on its humanism and respect for human rights, we need to define, what it means to be human. All living humans belong to a single biological species, which is obviously a mammal most similar to apes, and less so to monkeys. When Europe learned about the great apes in the 17th and 18th century, it took a century to realize that these creatures are not human; even Jean-Jacques Rousseau thought that orangutans are a variety of humans. We now know that the orangutans, the ...more
Jan 07, 2010 John added it
This is a great little book about the notion "Human".

Throughout history, the writer shows, human beings in one part of the world have tried to deny the label "human" to other human beings. Meanwhile, animals of various kinds, chimpanzees and orang-utangs for example, have vied at times to be included in such a definition.

The idea of what it means to be human has thus shifted one way then the other, upwards and downwards, including some and excluding others, and it continues to do so today.

Ben Thurley
This is an interesting, albeit odd, little essay, exploring the history of our views of what (if anything) makes us human, who is "us" and how and where you draw the boundary line, if there are any to draw. Fernandez-Armesto argues that our seemingly settled conception of humanity is being unsettled, or threatened, by greater understanding of how close to apes we are, by a concern to extend concern and even some thought of rights to other animals, by a greater appreciation of our evolutionary hi ...more
Mikael Lind
I really enjoyed this book. It's a fast-paced read, short in length yet packed with information and great in depth. Fernández-Armesto's great knowledge of history and anthropology makes this book into something more interesting than most of the popular neuropsychological "this is your brain on..." books of our time.
Fernández-Armesto touches on a broad range of topics, ranging from biological questions about the differences and similarities between humans and animals and mankind's different atte
Stephen Wong
I'd take away the sense of discovering "noble savagery" and the idea's locus in the idealism of Nature---perhaps the reaction of European Romanticism to the Enlightenment. This may have been the prevailing sensibility before Thomas Hobbes declared the state of nature is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short".... Fernandez-Armesto appears to follow historicism in his treatment of the notion of humankind, and perhaps there is no other path. Especially in the chapters that move from animal-redu ...more
The dichotomy of the Two Cultures is well-known. Less well advertised is its asymmetry: scientists know much more about the arts and literature than the literati know (or care) about science. So much is clear from this book, an entertaining discourse on what we mean by 'humanity'. The review of our changing attitudes to the definition of humanity with respect to nature at large is fascinating. But as soon as the author steps into science he trips up. The sections on human prehistory are full of ...more
Sense of  History
This is a brief inquiry into what mankind through history saw as "human", and of the acute questions the notion of humankind arouses today. Very interesting ofcourse, but I was rather disappointed by the casualness of this study.
Marc L
Geschiedenis van het concept mensheid; Interessant overzicht, maar teleurstellend einde.
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Born in 1950, Felipe Fernández-Armesto was raised in London by his Spanish born father and British born mother both active journalists. As a historian, he has written numerous books on a variety of subject from American History to the Spanish Armada. He currently serves as the Principe de Asturias Chair in Spanish Culture and Civilization at Tufts University and Professor of Global Environmental H ...more
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