Man – Concept and different meanings

We explain what man is and its meaning throughout history. In addition, its definitions according to philosophy, anthropology and biology.

Man’s existence on the planet dates back 315,000 years.

What is man?

The human being, formerly referred to in a general way as man (discarded as referring only to human beings of the male sex), is the only language-conscious and language-capable animal on Earth. Its existence on the planet dates back to 315,000 years ago, when it emerged among other species of hominids that are now extinct and spread throughout the continents.

The distinctive range of our species is the development of a complex consciousness, capable of generating articulate language and intelligent reasoning, which has allowed us to understand and shape the world around us in the way that is most convenient for us. For this we have developed tools, devices and even previously non-existent chemical elements.

However, the human being is alone on his planet and lacks an answer to your most momentous questions about existence, life and death, for which it has developed over the centuries of human civilization different philosophies and belief systems, which among other things have allowed it to define itself.

In that sense, human beings we share essential mental and cognitive traits, such as the awareness of ourselves and our certain death, the ability to remember our past and foresee the future, as well as to connect symbolically with the universe (through art, or religions, for example).

However, it is always a challenge to define what is human, and in this regard numerous perspectives have been woven over time.

The man in philosophy

The essential question of philosophy is “what is man?”

The branch of philosophy that deals with thinking the essential sense of the humanTo embrace it, to contemplate it totally, is philosophical anthropology. His essential question, in that sense, is “what is man?” And since ancient times he has offered numerous possible answers.

Thus, for the French philosopher René Descartes (1596-1650), father of rationalist thought, the human being should be defined as a thinking being; while for Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), the first philosopher of criticism and precursor of German idealism, the distinctive feature of the human being should be his ability to self-determine morally.

On the other hand, the German poet, playwright and philosopher Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805), a central figure in Weimar classicism, proposed that man was “a being who can love”, a definition closely linked to Romanticism, which valued emotions and human subjectivity above any other trait of his person.

Other definitions of the human link it to their ability to build tools (Benjamin Franklin), to symbolize (Ernst Cassirer) or to elaborate an articulated own language (Ferdinand de Saussure). For its part, the Marxist concept (in the doctrine of dialectical materialism of Karl Marx), proposes it as the protagonist of history: being able to create, produce and transform reality within reach.

Man in anthropology

man-human being
The human being has always mythologized its origin with fables and founding stories.

The human being is a gregarious being, who prefers the company of his fellow men to solitude, and that is why since ancient times he grouped himself into increasingly larger and more organized tribes, communities and social structures.

Thanks to his capacity for complex language and communication, he was able to conceive and transmit to his offspring a set of beliefs, laws and vital perspectives, which we know today as culture.

In its various cultural branches, the human being has always mythologized its own origin, through fables and founding stories that, in general, have a magical or religious character. The belief in a creator god (or several) is widely spread in human civilization, and hence also an idea of ​​himself as the summit of creation, the owner of the world.

Man in biology

The man has sexual intercourse independently of the reproductive cycle.

The human being is a living being of the animal kingdom, belonging to the order of the primates and to the family of the hominids. The scientific name of the species is Homo sapiens (which translates “wise man”), and it originated during the Middle Pleistocene, between 0.781 and 0.126 million years ago.

It is a bipedal species, with notorious sexual dimorphism (physical differentiation between the sexes) and sexual reproduction that takes around 9 months to engender a new individual.

It is also one of the few species on Earth that has sex independently of the reproductive cycle.
Its nutrition is omnivorous and his life expectancy is around 80 years, although genetic and environmental conditions affect it.