a1 University of Exeter
The question what makes us human is often treated as a question of fact. However, the term ‘human’ is not primarily used to refer to a particular kind of entity, but as a ‘nomen dignitatis’ – a dignity-conferring name. It implies a particular moral status. That is what spawns endless debates about such issues as when human life begins and ends and whether human-animal chimeras are “partly human”. Definitions of the human are inevitably “persuasive”. They tell us about what is important and how we should live our lives as humans, and thus help us to make sense of what we are.