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The Worth Of A Human

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What’s the worth of a human being? What is that worth contingent upon?

The idea that each human being has some kind of intrinsic value seems to be the foundation on which society operates.

In fact, Western society sets the value of human life as priceless. This is reflected in the fact that one cannot legally own a slave. It is also what fuels the abortion debate to a rabid frenzy.  The uproar over the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the case of the death of Trayvon Martin reveals that the worth of a human life extends beyond the legal system into the core of society at large.

Has society always been this way? Are we born hardwired to value all other humans the same way?

A quick look at history will show that neither has always been the case. The value of individual humans has differed in variously from culture to culture.  Slavery used to be legal the United States, for one.  Individual slaves were sold and traded using monetary value based on what they could do for slave owners. In older Germanic cultures, weregild determined the base monetary value for individuals across the board. In both systems, the destruction of a human life was weighed in terms of a monetary debt.

At this point, it is obvious that human life varies depending on culture. So, how do people determine human value to begin with and why does it vary between culture?

Most people hold to their hearts that human beings have intrinsic value.  The first thing to come to mind is that most individuals will fight tooth and nail for their own survival. However, self-preservation isn’t the end-all be-all. Human beings place great importance on preserving those around them. Empathy would appear to be a neurological device for the betterment of groups, thus individuals within those groups. Some believe this very same empathy misfires in regards to those outside one’s own immediate groups, such as charity drives to third world countries (there’s virtually no way to measure benefits to the disconnected individual in any real sense).

I posit that the intrinsic value of a human being is zero. All humans are born worthless in any sense of value.

Potential value is difficult to determine, and it only crystallizes in the context of a network of humans due to its subjective nature.

The progress of the species is meaningless in the grand non-scheme of things, but individually generated value may lend a hand regardless of intent.

Comments

AJR
Posted on August 12th, 2013

Or number one. I’m number one baby!!!



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