STREET INTERVIEWS: What makes a human a human? – 5 common beliefs

Imagine you are doing your groceries, and suddenly, somebody walks up to you. The interviewer asks you, ‘What makes a human a human?’ What would your answer be? Please think about it for a moment. Your answer might resemble one of the responses I received from complete strangers. Let’s explore each of their responses.

Belief 1. Only humans can think


According to this gentleman, there is a clear distinction between humans and animals. #humanbeing #humanbehavior #contemplatelife #existence

♬ original sound – Youri Hermes

Humans can think for themselves. The ability to think defines a human being. ‘However, most scientists agree that animals have complex mental capacities, with some species displaying attributes once considered unique to humans. Consider this: while no animals possess all human mental attributes, almost all human mental attributes are found in some animals’ (CXO Media, 2022).

The underlying question is: what do we mean by thinking? Are we referring to the ability to express thoughts through language in a sophisticated manner? Couldn’t animals do so as well, albeit differently? A way that we might consider less evolved, sophisticated, or intelligent?

Belief 2. Only humans have feelings

“As we know, animals indeed show emotions such as fear. But, this can be taken to be instinctual, just like the way we cry out in pain. However, there are several observations of animals going out of their way to help creatures, which may show how animals can have feelings and empathy” (CXO Media, 2022).

It’s interesting that humans often believe they understand feelings. We generally believe our feelings are way more evolved than any other creature. Even if true, it doesn’t negate the rich experiences of other living beings, does it? Feelings are universal, wouldn’t you agree? Adding complexities to your definition of typical human feelings might distract from simply observing what is.

Belief 3. Only humans have a free will


This sir was very clear about what makes a human a human. #freewill #lifelessons #contemplatelife #lifeadvice

♬ original sound – Youri Hermes

Humans must possess free will; how else can they be so spontaneously expressive? No other creature can go to a casino, drive a car, or cook a five-course meal. Moreover, it’s just too sophisticated; all those things can’t be mere coincidences, can they? It’s just way too random and complicated for it to just happen on itself, without an individual having decided to do so.

If a person didn’t choose at all, would nothing happen? Would the inner world come to an end? What would that be like? Slowing down, only sleeping, being dead, anything else? If nothing gets decided, do situations still occur? How were any of “your” actions ever driven by you? Are you the driving force behind your behaviour, or are things just happening randomly and simultaneously? Is there any room left for you to make choices yourself?

Belief 4. Only humans have the ability to love


To this peaceful gentleman, it’s all about the connection with the universe. #selfdiscovery #connection #connected #universe #lifelessons #lifeadvice #peaceofmind

♬ original sound – Youri Hermes

What is the meaning of love? Does it involve forming and appreciating complex connections with other living things? Does it involve showing affection to living beings? Does it revolve around understanding your true place of being, possibly rooted in pure love? Do humans acquire it, or is it innate? Can it be developed over time or could it have always been there, unnoticed by you? Is it necessary to identify ‘love’ before living it? Does love require effort? Does it exist here and now? Would you allow yourself to discover? Do you even need permission for this?

Belief 5. Only humans can be unique and authentic


Asking two British girls 🇬🇧: What makes a human a human? #selfdiscovery #lifelessons #existence #humanity

♬ original sound – Youri Hermes

How unique are individuals from each other? Would you base this estimation on the type of expression? Are there other criteria you use to assess your uniqueness?

Are you authentic when you stay close to your uniqueness? Is it important to be true to your authentic yourself? Who exactly are you being authentic to? Who are you referring to when using ‘yourself’? Are you talking about your character and a part of your personality? Who determined that this is you?

Is it necessary to distinguish between your authentic self and your true nature? Could it be that your true nature shines completely through your authenticity? If so, would the specific form of your authentic self be secondary? Could your true nature be in fact primary? If that is so, would there be any separation between you and your neighbour? Can you allow yourself to look beyond gender, appearance, behaviour, etc.?

Belief 6. Only humans are fully alive

Life can be found (almost) anywhere you look. The mind may attempt to dispute this. It thinks it can perfectly distinguish life from death. If something doesn’t breathe or move on its own, you may consider it dead. But is that truly the case? Do you consider a flowing river dead? Or is it, despite not powering itself, fully alive? How about a dead animal? Could a carcass be teeming with life, whether spread over millions of organisms or not?

Must something have a living soul in a clearly defined image, like a cat? Must you see and identify a living thing before acknowledging its aliveness? Or are perceptions of the living and the dead mere ideas? What, in essence, is a living soul anyway? Is it something exclusive to human beings? Is it merely something we like to believe in? Does it contribute to the magical experience of being human? Does it serve as a deep connection to the universe? Or is it, according to your own ideas, something else? Is it even needed to define it?

Would you like to stay up-to-date for the new little field research study? Follow me on TikTok by clicking here.

Every Sunday, I’m publishing a new article (click here go to the article overview) in which I share a little analysis on the short interviews I did.