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Interpreting Humanity

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1 Interpreting Humanity
Are some people more human than others? Adolf Hitler versus Jean Vanier

2 What does it mean to be ‘human’?

3 Humans are considered to be:
A physically evolving species with the ability of rational thought To what extent does the culture in which one is living influence humans?

4 Adolf Hitler Born April 20, 1889; died April 30, 1945
Born in Austria-Hungary He was the 4th of 6 children, but his elder 3 siblings died in infancy so he was raised as the eldest child; his younger brother also died in infancy He moved to Germany when he was 3 yrs old

5 He got himself into trouble with his father due to his confrontational demeanor; he did not like to comply with rules He had aspirations to become an artist He was enthralled with German nationalism and warfare He was never particularly interested in schooling

6 He was Fuhrer of Germany from August 2nd 1934 to April 30th 1945
He married Eva Braun (his mistress) on April 29th, 1945; no children He appeared to the world as a man totally devoted to this political life

7 Hitler believed in a superior race of humans
Hitler believed in a superior race of humans. The supremacy of the Aryan race! How could he convince so many people that his view was right?



10 Hitler believed… Strongly supported Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, especially the concept of survival of the fittest. He saw a clear distinction between humans and animals that made humanity a unique species.


12 Jean Vanier Born September 10th, 1928 in Geneva, Switzerland; his father was George Vanier, the 19th Governor General of Canada Be was educated in England Be was raised with 4 brothers and 1 sister

13 He established the Foundation of L’Arche; an international federation of group homes for those with developmental disabilities and those who assist them He was awarded the Order of Canada, National Order of Quebec, Legion of Honour He is described as a Canadian born philosopher and humanitarian He was described by McLean’s magazine as ‘a Canadian who inspires the world’

14 He believes that ‘we are all “broken” in some way’
He never married; no children







21 Vanier’s 5 Characteristics of Humanity
1. All humans are sacred, whatever their culture, race, or religion, whatever their capacities or incapacities, & whatever their weaknesses or strengths 2. Our world & our individual lives are in the process of evolving. 3. Maturity comes though working with others, through dialogue & through a sense of belonging & searching together.

22 4. Human beings need to be encouraged to make choices & to become responsible for their own lives & for the lives of others. 5. In order to make such choices, we need to reflect & ti seek truth & meaning … to be human is not to be crushed by reality, or to be angry about it, or to try to hammer it into what we think it is or should be, but to commit ourselves as individuals, an as a species, to an evolution that will be for the good of all.

23 For nearly four decades, Jean Vanier has travelled the world fashioning a network of homes where people with developmental disabilities, volunteers and a sprinkling of staff live together in community. Those we lock away and think worthless, he says, have the power to teach and even to heal us. We are all “broken” in some way, he believes.…“When you start living with people with disabilities”, he says, “you begin to discover a whole lot of things about yourself.” He learned that to “be human is to be bonded together, each with our own weaknesses and strengths, because we need each other.” … Tall and stooped, Vanier radiates the strength of a man who has fought his own inner battles and surfaced with peace. (Maclean’s/September 4, 2000, p.33)


25 How are they similar? Both lived during WWII
Both were born into a family that had 6 children Both lived in Europe; Austria-Hungary/Germany vs Switzerland/England Both had experience in war; soldier vs navy Neither had children

26 How are they different? Varying years of education; different attitude toward education – minimal vs. Ph.D. in philosophy & theology Careers - would be artist vs. university professor Life perspective - supremacist vs humanitarian

27 Discussion 1. Compare Hitler’s & Vanier’s views about humanity in terms of: Value of human life Human evolution Human cooperation Personal choice Purpose of life People with disabilities/ composition of humankind

28 2. What strengths does Vanier see in humanity that Hitler does not?
3. Should the creation of a perfect humanity be the goal of society?

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