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Humans and Humanities


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Describes the biological capacity for culture and the humanities.

Describes the biological capacity for culture and the humanities.

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  • 1. Humans and Humanities The Biological Dimension
  • 2. The Human in Humanities
    • However we define humanities, the central figure is the human, Homo sapiens
    • According to the Greek philosopher Protagoras,
    • “ Man is the measure of all things”
    • What about, might we ask, about woman? Is she not the measure of all things, too?
    • There is much about humans that go into the field of humanities
    • Sex is one: but there is much else that we will elaborate on.
  • 3. What Did Protagoras Mean?
    • “ Man is the measure of all things” has been interpreted in various ways.
    • Most humanists see the quote that the only perceiver of reality are humans themselves
    • In this view, there are no gods or eternal truths.
    • What is true is relative to the perceiver: an example is “is it hot or cold in this room?” So tell me. Is it hot or cold? Or are you Goldilocks and the temperature is just right?
    • Protagoras also advocated agnosticism; he didn’t know whether there were gods or not.
    • A sophist whom Plato (and Socrates) despised, he was an easy target
    • Plato saw all phenomena as subject to an ideal that the gods had designed themselves, so he had no love for Protagoras, a relativist and an agnostic.
  • 4. Meaning of Homo sapiens
    • It means “Man who is wise”
    • Wise enough, I suppose, to make nukes—but I digress
    • It is worth noting that traditionally, androcentrism has dominated the humanities
    • Homo sapiens goes back to our ability to think, communicate, make tools
    • And our human form begins with bipedality—our ability to stand and walk on two feet
    • Defining who we are and how we got here is the first order of business.
  • 5. So What Are We As Humans?
    • We have language: no language, no culture, nothing for the humanities to study
    • We have symbols: we can represent ideas and events by something else, such as music, visual arts, literature—and language itself
    • We have tool making and using abilities: how else could we make or play an instrument, paint a picture, write a play or philosophical treatise?
    • We are bipedal , and whatever else we may portray humankind as, she and he always can stand and walk on two feet.
  • 6. Trends in Human Anatomy: Cultural Capacities
    • Language:
    • Brain : Lower Motor Cortex, Broca’s Area, Wernicke’s Area, Angular Gyrus
    • Speech Tract : Lungs, Oral and Nasal Cavity
    • Tool Making and Use:
    • Brain: Upper Motor Cortex
    • Other Areas: Hand, Fingers, and Arm
    • Bipedalism:
    • The entire skeleton
  • 7. We Start with the Human Skull
    • These bones protect the center of our behavior—our brain
    • And our culture, in both senses of the word:
    • Who we are as Americans, or Greeks, or Romans
    • And the arts and literature that make up the humanities.
  • 8. Language and Related Centers in Brain
      • 1. Broca’s Area: Center of Speech
      • 2. Occipital Lobe: Center of Vision
      • 3. Wernicke’s Area : Center of speech reception
      • 4. Motor Cortex : Language and tool making and use
      • 5. Frontal Lobe : Center of thinking
      • 6. Auditory Cortex: Center of hearing
      • 7 . Angular Gyrus: Center of sensory coordination
  • 9. Brain Structure: Language
    • Broca’s Area: Speech Processing
    • Wernicke’s Area: Speech Reception
    • Arcuate Fasciculus: Nerves Connecting Broca’s with Wernicke’s Area
    • Angular Gyrus: Interconnection among the five senses; so we can translate all senses into the sound we call language.
    • So language begins with the brain
  • 10. Vocal Tract and Language: Repiratory System
    • Lungs provide the airstream
    • Intercostal muscles expand and contract the lungs
    • Diaphragm does the same thing
    • Trachea: the windpipe
    • Pharynx: The space between the oral cavity and the larynx
    • Epiglottis: flap of muscle that prevents food from entering the trachea
    • Every singer knows this anatomy
  • 11. Vocal Tract and Language: Oral Cavity
    • The oral cavity is where language is articulated
    • The tongue is the most important part of speech articulation
    • Language is derived from the Latin meaning “tongue”
    • Consonants: sounds that stop or constrict the airstream.
    • Vowels: the sounds that resonate.
  • 12. Motor Cortex and Function
    • Notice how much space is taken up by the facial muscles (lower), reflecting the ability to speak
    • Notice how much space of the motor cortex is taken up by the hands and fingers, reflecting the importance of hand and finger manipulation
  • 13. Hand Bone Structure
    • Note the following
    • Flexible fingers
    • Opposable thumb
    • That allows for making fine manipulations.
    • Below Left: The power grip for using hammer and axes
    • Below Right: the precision grip (using thumb and forefingers) for finer work like using a pen or screwdrivers
  • 14. What Are the Products of Language and Tool Use?
    • Upper left: Writing requires a precision grip
    • It also requires the ability to translate speech into visual form
    • Lower Left: Music itself is a language of sorts
    • It involves combining pitch in an aesthetic pattern
    • And you need an ability to manipulate to play a violin
    • You need tool-making abilities to make a violin, and its bow
  • 15. Bipedalism: The Human Skeleton
    • Notice the following:
    • Vertical backbone or vertebrae
    • Hands freed from locomotion
    • Short, bowl-shaped pelvis
    • Inward-angling thighbone (femur)
    • Arched foot
  • 16. Compare This Fine Fellow to Zeus, Boss of the Greek Gods:
    • As you will see in the arts, gods are often made in the image of men (Oh, yes, and women too; I think we call them goddesses, but I could be wrong. )
  • 17. Of Course, This Biped Gets Religion
    • Here we see a bare-bones version of a prayer position
    • This image actually comes from Hawaii
    • It could just as well come from Europe—or North America
    • Seriously, folks—religion too is part of the humanities
  • 18. What Comprises Bipedalism: What Congress Lacks
    • First, you have an S-shaped backbone or vertebrae
    • The top part is nearest the neck, the cervical vertebrae
    • The middle part is back of the ribs, the thoracic vertebrae
    • The lowest part bears most of the upper body weight, the lumbar vertebrae
    • The sacrum and the coccyx comprise the lowest part
    • That keeps us upright when standing or walking
  • 19. What Comprises Bipedalism: The Pelvis
    • Note the following
    • The overall pelvis is bowl shaped.
    • The ilium supports the body and is an important area of thigh muscle attachments
    • The pubis forms the front part of the pelvis
    • The Ischium form the back base and provides more attachments for thigh muscles.
  • 20. What Comprises Bipedalism: The Femur
    • Notice how the femur angles inward from the pelvis
    • It provides more support for the body
    • It enables us to walk more comfortably
  • 21. What Comprises Bipedalism: Oh Yes, The Feet
    • Notice the following
    • We have two arches
    • The longitudinal arch extends from the first metatarsal (Inmost foot bone)
    • And goes to the heelbone (calcaneus)
    • The transverse arch goes from the instep to the outer bone.
    • This gives us absolute stability when we stand and walk
  • 22. Attributes We Share with Other Species
    • We come in two sexes.
    • Therefore, we come in two genders—the cultural interpretations of the sexes.
    • Like other animals, we compete and fight. (Here are Aphrodite and Mars [not] getting along)
    • Like other animals, we bear offspring
    • Like other animals, we grow and develop
    • And like other animals, we die (below; a modern motif of an old symbol)
    • All these are addressed in literature, history, even religion
  • 23. What Does All This Have to Do with the Humanities?
    • Glad you asked!
    • First, dance, Greek, medieval, or modern emphasizes the human form
    • Second, the brushes we use, the musical instruments we play, all involve the dexterity that comes with the ability to make and use tools.
    • Third, the literature we compose, the laws we pass (or endure), the religions we believe in, are all symbolic, and ultimately lead to language.
    • Even the gods (and goddesses—below, of Aphrodite) are created in our image.