Is the altruism separating the quality of humanity (virtue) from the quality of justness (by which we will all probably be governed in one way or the other through social devices) essentially rooted in the ability(!) to better assert the value of group behavior and to apply the delayed gratification device to oneself?

Is there more to it? Wouldn't it otherwise simply imply that all mammals are potentially humane?

Considering humanity exists as society, does the definition of society (not neccesarily human) provide a measure by which observations can be qualified/quantified as humane?

Assuming groups can obtain rights and ultimately reach autonomy, couldn't (or shouldn't) there be a less humane aspect to morality? Ironically this would fundamentally serve the group (thus "create" humanity (or not :), i guess that's the question here) instead of the individual acting out of enlightened self-interest.

  • Why mammals? We can move from being speciesist to being cladistically classist, but why bother? I am reminded of the Klingon objection to the fact there is no nonspecific translation of the term 'human rights' in one of the Star Trek movies as racism. Etymology is not the ultimate determinant of meaning, usage is. I would consider any member of any species that treats others as a humans generally prefer to be treated to be humane.
    – user9166
    Commented Mar 23, 2018 at 22:29
  • Yes but not the converse!
    – user4894
    Commented Mar 23, 2018 at 23:04
  • @jobermark good points. I am trying to get to communication (or ability to communicate) as being the defining aspect of a group (both social and mathematical) where in practice etymology causes usage. Consider a part of a system interacting with another part thereby subsequently changing both their potential to interact - 'a story being interpreted and written for subsequent interpretation'. Does the logical construct of morality lead to classification into humans? Does that require a common ancestor in order for groups to identify with the logic construct/story and have peace?
    – Ropstah
    Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 13:08
  • @jobermark: to add - the goal is to allow for harmonious/peaceful and independent (though not isolate) truth definition (or creation). Whereby the the ability to sense/make sense over time defines truthfulness (or provides a justification mechnism). It feels like science, but also as a sound story with a built-in legacy but also as DNA where it finds ways to replicate but this gets a little bit more vague i suppose (and non-philosophical, other than by analogy).
    – Ropstah
    Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 14:19
  • From my own favored (Bion/Tavistock) position, the 'communication' that really holds a group together is not verbal, it is on the same order as we see in animal packs. Kant notwithstanding, morality seems to be fixed at the same level and thus is not a logical construct. Peace is a strange and unstable goal. (Despite being a pacifist in the anti-Statist sense) I don't think peace is natural to humans. We are given to competition and power games, but constrained by our interdependency. Putting peace first is (as in the answer below) an error caused by unhealthy population density.
    – user9166
    Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 22:28

2 Answers 2


I think 'humane' splits two ways for the purposes of your question.

1 It currently serves as an adjective semantically attached to humans or human beings. We say only that people, not (other animals) or life forms, are courteous, civil, obliging, compassionate, averse from inflicting pain and inflicting only the minimum of pain when infliction is necessary. All of these terms are stand-ins for 'humane' in different contexts.

2 However, language is vital, flexible, and capable of growth. There probably are situations among non-human mammals where at the very least compassion is both possible and actual. As we learn more about other species we may find - to put it at a minimum - that some of them exhibit some of characteristics by virtue of which some humans are called 'humane'. This would not be anthropomorphism but a recognition of characteristics we had previously missed or which have evolved.

  • Thank you, I guess my underlying point boils down to semantics, communication, qualification (attribution of quality, ability to sense or ability to make sense) and the role this plays in: actuality and the rapid increase in complexity. (and corresponding supremacy of those able to communicate: "humanity" (noun)) and how that draws an analogy between DNA, Brain, Language and Internet in terms of inter-species and inter-generation communication. I guess the issue that needs addressing is how actuality (a decentralized network of .../the internet) should address morality.
    – Ropstah
    Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 13:57
  • Perhaps it requires more concepts to be taken into account within the drawn analogy. I guess the human body as a system capable of storing information in the immune system and the other abilities to communicate between organs are instances that could be taken into account when morality is evaluated... These systems use a language to communicate (or perhaps apply force) in order to create homeostasis
    – Ropstah
    Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 15:33
  • 1
    @Ropstah I agree that anything like a fully developed morality, or even one just to match what humans have, requires language. But behaviourally there does seem to be an elementary morality among some non-human animals who will e.g. protect others' young and not only their own. But there is no serious disagreement between us, so far as I can see. I was perhaps a little imaginative in my projection of how far the development among non-human animals can or is likely to go.
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 15:52

(I am omitting the considerations of etymology and usage that you raise, which belong elsewhere in the StackExchange network altogether.)

Starting in The Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche would claim that humaneness needs to be motivated by something other than the wish to promote the good of the group. He notes that we felt differently about 'humaneness' before Christianity and other traditions emphasizing rejection of the material world took over as the majority religions.

In later books like The Gay Science, he explicitly attacks preservation of the species or the nation as goals that are worthy in themselves. He points out that they create destructive emotions in those who relate more naturally to power, among them people who might do great things for themselves, which would then pass on to the society. So the whole notion is not just unstable, it is self-defeating on purpose.

He proposes there is a proper balance between 'master' and 'slave' moralities, noting that our notion of human refinement and proper interactions with other people in Classical civilizations and in other parts of the world that were quite civilized (e.g. Edo Japan) involved honor above compassion and may have actually done more to advance our ability to create better humans.

The global notion of 'humaneness' in general should clearly not be hemmed in by our current biases, shaped by our latest choice of religions and our current level of population and luxury.

There are people who would not care to be treated in what we now label as a humane way. It would not be genuinely compassionate to do what we see as the compassionate thing and spare the life of someone who might hold themselves less honorable afterwards.

This limits our ability to speak reasonably to certain other cultures. And it may ultimately just not be good for us.

  • Just added a comment to your initial comment. I tried to get to a definition of peace in which harmony is sought after by creating a group (based on communication abilities) in which ignorance could be an option - bit.ly/2pCFuIF. Fundamental here is the concept of autonomy broken down by Kant into "independent" and "knowing/truth choosing" and as I interpret in which he allows application of justness (within a group) when something is not able to "make sense independently" but only when it is made possible for something to "make sense" within the group.
    – Ropstah
    Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 13:25
  • From a sort of Neitzchean perspective modified by genetics, the problem here is that history moves the other direction. We evolve both biologically and culturally out of shared expectations and automatic rules and into autonomy. What makes sense morally is embedded, not evolved, and it is always an impediment because it is too simple to be right. So it evolves out of being an instinct, to free us from that limitation. But as we lose a reflex/instinct, we embed the rule in logic and try to maintain the good part of it in that way.
    – user9166
    Commented Mar 24, 2018 at 22:36

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .