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So You Think You're Human? a Brief History of Humankind [Paperback]

Felipe Fernndez-Armesto , Felipe Fernandez-Armesto
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

24 Mar 2005
You think you're human. But what does that mean? How can humanity be defined? Felipe Fernandez-Armesto takes us on an enlightening journey through the history of humankind to reveal the challenges to our most fundamental belief - that we are, and have always been, human. Chimps and humans are objectively so alike that an anthropologist from Mars might classify them together; advances in artificial intelligence mean that humans no longer have exclusive access to reason, consciousness and imagination; developments in genetics threaten humanity with an uncertain future. The harder we cling to the concept of humanity, the more slippery it becomes. But if it breaks down altogether, what will this mean for human values, human rights, and the defence of human dignity? So You Think You're Human? confronts these problems from a historical perspective, showing how our current understanding of what it means to be human has been shaken by new challenges from science and philosophy. Fernandez-Armesto shows how our concept of humankind has changed over time, tracing its faltering expansion to its present limits and arguing that these limits are neither fixed or scientifically verifiable. Controversially, he proposes that we have further to go in developing our concept of humankind and that we need to rethink it as a matter of urgency.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; New Ed edition (24 Mar 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199691282
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199691289
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.4 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,053,376 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review from previous edition He writes with such verve... a remarkable tour de force of exposition Ian Tattersall, TLS Impressive and innovative. Few, if any, authors could (or would dare to) cover such a massive topic Mark Ridley, University of Oxford Brilliant... He has used his historical erudition and stylistic grace to produce a little gem that contains a rich array of fascinating and exotic historical examples John Gray, author of Straw Dogs A fascinating book, refreshingly slim, full of interest and food for thought The Spectator

About the Author

Felipe Fernández-Armesto is an internationally renowned best-selling history author and a highly successful radio and television broadcaster. He has won a number of prizes for his publications. Previous publications include Millennium: A History of our Last Thousand Years, Truth: A History, and Civilizations: Culture, Ambition, and the Transformation of Nature. He is currently Professor of Global Environmental History at Queen Mary, University of London.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What Makes Us Human? 19 Nov 2012
Humankind: A Brief History is not a world history rather it is Felipe Fernandez-Armesto's reflections on what it is to be human, where do we draw the boundary line between us and non-us?
He looks at the boundaries between ourselves and other animals. If we grant rights to apes because they're so like us, do we then have to extend them to monkeys because they're so like apes and so on to Bertrand Russell's "votes for oysters"? He also looks at our ancestors to discuss where the line could be drawn there. As the work was written in 2003 and published in 2004 it predates the discoveries of Neanderthal and Denisovan admixtures in non-African humans, discoveries that I think would have strengthen his conclusions.
Besides the biological he also considers the cultural, how 'wild men', 'wolf-children' and 'noble savages' were viewed by explorers and by intellectuals.
Finally he considers post-human futures, how genetic engineering and/or robotics may influence what it means to be human.
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