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Being, Humanity, and Understanding$
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G. E. R. Lloyd

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199654727

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199654727.001.0001

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Humanity between gods and beasts?

Humanity between gods and beasts?

(p.8) 1 Humanity between gods and beasts?
Being, Humanity, and Understanding

G. E. R. Lloyd

Oxford University Press

Wherein lies the humanity of human beings? Many conflicting answers have been given in ancient and in modern times, with many focussing on what differentiates humans from gods and beasts. This chapter reviews a wide range of suggestions, from some of those of ancient Greeks, ancient Chinese, and Christians, to recent anthropological studies, notably Viveiros de Castro’s perspectivism and Descola’s four-fold classification of ontologies based on differing conceptions of physicality and interiority. This great variety of views certainly challenges many of our usual preconceptions, but should not lead us to a conclusion that we inhabit mutually unintelligible worlds. Rather they offer resources for exploring the substantive questions of how humans, with a rich talent for investigation and speculation, have understood the world and one another. That sets the agenda for the studies that follow.

Keywords:   humanity, gods, beasts, perspectivism, physicality, interiority

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