Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Towards a Redefinition of the Human in Humanism

William Kitchin.

This paper focuses on the humanist definition of who we as a species are and how advances in the brain sciences and genetics are creating a need to adjust that definition.
Humanist definitions of humanity make certain assumptions regarding (1) how we cognate, (2) the ultimate product which will result from our cognitive capacities, and (3) the human-centric sources of moral values.
Recent advances in the biological sciences, especially the brain sciences and genetics are forcing some modification of the humanist conceptualization of our species and its capacities. The brain sciences are establishing that extra-logical methods of cognition are also “human,” and that logic and the scientific method itself because they are extensions of humans do produce some flawed renditions of reality. Moreover, the anthrobiological studies of the last decade show that certain moral values which given populations hold are not compatible with logic and seem to defy humanist attempts to explain them. Data from the human genome project are suggesting that far more than we ever thought of our cognitive processes are “automatic,” not deliberate, and at times, self-generating....characteristics very incompatible with the analytic cognitive mode central to humanism. The paper attempts to specify the most significant of the relevant findings and to suggest an adjusted definition of homo sapiens in light of these findings.


William Kitchin  (United States)
Associate Professor
Department of Political Science
Loyola College

  • Humanism
  • Cognition
  • Neurocognition
  • Genetics
  • Brain sciences
  • Brain chemistry
  • Rationality

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)