Thanks for the responses everyone!
After thinking about it a little more, I have come to appreciate just how layered my question is. I suppose I could say that the fact that we can ask what it means to be human is itself a manifestation of that humanity, isn’t it? I could argue that emotion (love, compassion, altruism, anger, fear, contempt, etc) is not what makes humans unique since it appears that other animal species experience something analogous to emotion. Perhaps it is the human mind itself, or more precisely, our ability to abstract, that makes our species so unique. This abstractive capacity would naturally include the precision of our reason, our ability to remember, our capacity to communicate what we think via complex language and so on. Just food for thought.
I liked what you said about normals with perhaps an average range of empathy, using all manner of means to manage those feelings when they become inconvenient or downright painful. It is true that no single person, no matter how compassionate they are, can save the world. If any would be savior allowed him/herself to feel the totality of the world’s pain, the totality of all that suffering might kill him/her. Oh wait, that sounds suspiciously like the doctrine of the substitutionary atonement of Jesus. He was said to carry the weight of all of mankind’s sins on his shoulders the day he died on the cross, hence the salvific nature of his crucifixion. Mythology aside, I do not fault normals for having to shut down somewhat just to make it through the day. It does make sense. The unreflective self righteousness is what annoys me. I think my “problem” has been that I have been surrounded by provincial thinkers most of my life. So many people in my offline have been and are even today very simplistic in their outlook. I have reacted adversely against that. I think that is one of the reasons I come to forums like this one. It has given me a chance to work out some of my thoughts with obviously intelligent and self aware folk like you.
It has never occurred to me to consider measuring suffering. I think in a few senses, we can measure it, but only with great approximation. We would also have to define what we mean by suffering.
Also, I have never heard of the idea of empathy as a kind of measurement either. What do you mean by that?
Finally, you mentioned weapon control. I do not have a strong opinion about that. As you can guess, I am anti-ideological. It is one of my pet peeves about both liberals and conservatives. They believe in their political doctrine so strongly that they blind themselves and become unpragmatic, destructive and downright stupid. I will say this though. Those who really want to get a gun will get a gun, regardless of what the law says.
Your honesty is most refreshing. It is great to hear someone besides a guy like me point blank state that they are not moved by the suffering of strangers who have been victims of natural disasters, wars or accidents. It is probably truer to say that even within the realm of average consciences and empathetic feelings, variation exists. We are all different aren’t we? Then again, to put it more cynically, we are our own unique little snowflake, just like everybody else.
Isn't it true "freedom of choice" (inborn), that makes us human? Thanks Daniel, I hardly have time to sit down for a minute this weekend. I'm normally more vocal ;)
If the essence of being human is free will then no one is human because as far as I can see, free will as it is popularly understood is a fiction.
Hmm, perhaps I should have said the ability to entertain the illusion of free-will?
Anyway, I'm not sure thats everyone's popular theory, though it seems to be here.
Honestly, I like to think there is a middle path. Obviously genetic, cultural, environmental and possibly other predeterminants limit or direct one's choices and progress in life. And I believe that to a large extent the development of moral pathways isn't free will. And I'm aware of what brain scans show, but I do believe that self-awareness and the controlling of ones own response to ones motivations can significantly vary outcomes. Chicken or egg first?
Empathy, IMO, like conscience is developed depending on genetics or environment, but not necessary to being a "human".
Could you explain your funny way of writing/style? What or where does it originate from?
I have read all of your posts on this forum. Are you kidding us with that strange lingo, or is this really the way you talk?
Besides your funny way of writing which I believe must be a joke of some kind, your point of view is terribly judgmental and self righteous. And I hear a nastiness behind it. I suggest you read Doctor Robert's reply to the man who constantly found himself surrounded by sin.
Gah really sorry for the late reply.
Here's what happened: my pc shut down and I lost all your replies that I was writing. I should use MS Word from now on. Ugh! And it’s 6++ a.m. right now, I haven’t slept and so, forgive me if my grammar and punctuation are off.
Also, forgot about this: