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On Being Human

  • J. Houston (a1)


Many people, and not only in 1984, the year specified by Orwell, have expressed thoughts somewhat along the following lines: that in modern society people are being dehumanised, depersonalised, mechanised; that relations among persons are too often impersonal, alienated, objective; that all this is to be deplored, and that institutions and ways of doing things must be so devised as to undo damage already done, or at least so devised as not to do more of this damage, by depersonalising people. Many particular instances have been given as examples of the dehumanisation which is complained of, but we are seldom given any more general account, let alone a definition of dehumanisation, depersonalisation, etc. I am not here assuming the fallacy attributed to Socrates that you do not know at all what a thing is, unless you have defined it adequately. After all many people know at least something of what a teaspoon is, what water is, what friendship is, without being able to offer acceptable definitions of these things. So my point is not that all previous discussions have been useless or hopelessly unclear, but I do say that if we can provide a somewhat general statement or statements about the concept of dehumanisation, that will greatly help us in practical discussion about ways of encouraging fully human relationships; or, more positively put, if we have before us some general account of what humanisation is, we can better see how it might come about.


On Being Human

  • J. Houston (a1)


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