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Edith Stein

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I am convinced that the species humanity embraces the double species man and woman; that the essence of the complete human being is characterized by this duality; and that the entire structure of the essence demonstrates the specific character. There is a difference, not only in body structure and in particular physiological functions, but also in the entire corporeal life.

Edith Stein

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The vocation of man, as that of any other creature, is to be active in all his being. But man cannot act as an individual. The essence of his life activity is cooperation with other individuals of his species. Outside this cooperation, outside of society, man does not achieve any specific human activity. But so long as this co-operation is arbitrarily ruled by accidentality, so long as it is not organized, man remains limited and constricted in his life-activity....

Moses Hess

The human being, on the other hand, is firmly located in a temporal process. He has an image of the past which extends back far beyond the limits of his own life and experience, and he likewise has an image of the future. Closely associated with the time structure of his image is the image of the structure of relationships. Because we are aware of time, we are also aware of cause and effect, of contiguity and succession, of cycles and repetition. The image of man is also characterized by a much greater degree of self-consciousness and of self-awareness than that of the lower animals. We not only know, but we know that we know. This reflective character of the human image is unique, and is what leads to philosophy.

Kenneth Boulding

To be sure, the human individual can, even must, feel and know himself to be limited—and this is what distinguishes him from the animal—but he can become conscious of his limits, his finite-ness, only because he can make the perfection and infinity of his species the object either of his feeling, conscience, or thought. But if his limitations appear to him as emanating from the species, this can only be due to his delusion that he is identical with the species, a delusion intimately linked with the individual’s love of ease, lethargy, vanity, and selfishness; for a limit which I know to be mine alone, humiliates, shames, and disquiets me. Hence, in order to free myself of this feeling of shame, this uneasiness, I make the limits of my individuality the limits of man’s being itself. What is incomprehensible to me is incomprehensible to others; why should this worry me at all? It is not due to any fault of mine or of my understanding: the cause lies in the understanding of the species itself. But it is a folly, a ludicrous and frivolous folly to designate that which constitutes the nature of man and the absolute nature of the individual, the essence of the species, as finite and limited.

Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach

[A]lthough species may be discrete, they have no immutable essence. Variation is the raw material of evolutionary change. It represents the fundamental reality of nature, not an accident about a created norm. Variation is primary; essences are illusory. Species must be defined as ranges of irreducible variation.

Stephen Jay Gould

Here lies Howard Campbell’s essence,
Freed from his body’s noisome nuisance.
His body, empty, prowls the earth,
Earning what a body’s worth.
If his body and his essence remain apart,
Burn his body, but spare this, his heart.

Kurt Vonnegut
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