I ask, therefore I am human
Outline of a theory on the evolution of man
Thesis: The ability to question signifies the difference between the natures of man and animal as an (a priori) category of reason.
1. Ability to question as the fundamental difference
This aim of this treatise is to ascertain a fundamental difference between the natures of man and animal. I use the term fundamental difference to refer to that difference which can explain all observable differences between man and animal. The aim can hence be stated more precisely with the question: What makes the difference between man and animal?
The scientific disciplines are able to provide answers in respect to purely biological differences. However, if we enquire into the cognitive differences between these natures, recourse must be made to the principles upon which the humanities rest. My thesis takes the cognitive differences as its basis and states: The fundamental difference between man and animal is the ability to question. Man possesses this ability, while animals do not. The fundamental ideas of philosophy form the basis of this thesis.
2. Differentiation between the question and the ability to question
Human language is intended to serve as a medium of expression to explain this theory. The difference between the question - as a form of expression within human language - and the ability to question, which I understand as an (a priori) category of reason, is crucial for the validity of this thesis. If the ability to question can be comprehended as (a priori) a category of reason as defined by Immanuel Kant, then this is a necessary condition for enabling (sensory) experience. Human language is an (a posteriori) sensory experience. It must be learnt. The categories of reason are determined from birth for the respective species of being. The conclusion would then be: Human language is a consequence of the ability to question.
2.1. Ability to question as an (a priori) category of reason
besides space and time, Immanuel Kant came up with 12 further (a priori) categories of reason. The category of negation (approval/rejection) represents the key category in the search for the fundamental difference between the species of being. With negation or the ability to question, the symmetry of crystallising reason is torn asunder. Without the ability to question there is only a "positive" world. Negation splits up, in the sense of a bifurcation, the uniform conception of the world into the positive world and the negative world, or the yes and no world. The conditions for the opportunity to experience are richer for the species of being endowed with the ability to question.
2.2. Ability to question as a category of reason of man
If language is categorised as a medium of expression, it must first of all be established that animals can also "speak". The language of animals is nevertheless restricted to the exchange of signals. It is a signalling language or positive language, which is punctuated with exclamation marks. Protest (the stubborn mule) is not rejection on the basis of the ability to question, but rather "positive" refusal, pure and simple. The symbol of animal language is the exclamation mark. The symmetry remains unbroken. Animals do not possess the ability to question. This fact has been proven empirically in numerous experiments with animals - without research into the ability to question being a direct aim. However, animals possess all other categories of reason, as they are able to orientate spatially and react in causal (temporal) contexts. Hence animals also use tools. Nevertheless, the straightforward use of a tool which is not connected with the ability to question, but is a simple strategy of gaining advantage and, last but not least, surviving. If animals use tools, this is the result of an internal if-then analysis, derived from the experiences of trial and error. An break in the symmetry or a bifurcation arising from negation is excluded from the onset. Clear evidence for this is provided by the fact that animals only use tools for improving their food consumption, and not for use as a weapon for example. The symbol of human language is the question mark. An interruption to the symmetry is an essential component of human language and human communication in general. Each communication and hence each action and each thought process is characterised by the ability to question. This is because the ability to question creates doubt and contradiction and thus controversial viewpoints between the communicants. Contained within this is the motivating force behind the technical and cultural development of man. Without the extended category of reason, the nature of man would not have been able to become detached from nature in the manner we now know today.
3. Conclusion and summary
I have shown that the ability to question is an (a priori) category of reason and that this category has only been given to man. Not only human language can be traced back to this fundamental difference, but also each (observable) difference between man and animal. Two further examples may be outlined briefly: 1. Logic is the ability to form a judgement in the sense of right/wrong. Each judgement must be preceded by a question. It is clear that logic is a purely human category. Hence all reason which can be derived from the application of logic is also human in nature. 2. (Physical) play - insofar as we observe the pure process of play - is an "animal" category. It can be reduced to an if-when activity. A mature technique and much practise repress the cognitive processes ever more, until ideally a physical automatism sets in.
Nature does not give us (humans) any answers, but rather the question as a tool of reason for solving the mysteries of this world. To be human begins with the ability to question. To confirm my thesis in purely empirical terms, I suggest observing animals and examining them for their (in)ability to question.
horst j. siebelts, June 2004
Englische Übersetzung der Theorieskizze aus dem Jahr 2004