What does it mean to be human?

"At a time when the need to celebrate both our shared humanity and our meaningful differences is all the more painfully evident, the question of what makes us human becomes not one of philosophy alone but also of politics, justice, identity, and every fiber of existence that lies between." –Maria Popova 

The question of what it means to be human has been examined for centuries, by many people from many cultures, through the lens of philosophy, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, religion, and the arts, but the question has never been definitively resolved.

Discussion prompts

1. What do you think it means to be human? 

2. How can we understand the wholeness of a human being? (To answer this, you'll first have to come to a consensus about the meaning of the "wholeness of a human being.")

3. What makes up the whole you?

4. Civil rights activist Desmond Tutu stated: "My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be 

human together."  How do you interpret Tutu's statement? Do you agree? Why or why not?

Post-viewing discussion questions: Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams

1. What is the subject of this film? (The subject of a work of art is a topic that acts as the foundation for the work.)

2. What is the theme of this film? (A theme is the central insight or underlying idea of a work of art.)

3. Before viewing this film, were you familiar with the Chauvet caves, or other famous caves with paintings 

created by humans?

4. Who are the voices of authority in this film? 

5. What techniques does the filmmaker use to communicate essential ideas?

6. Why are the Chauvet caves in the film so important to all the scientists interviewed, and even to the French government?

7. Why does the French government restrict access to the Chauvet caves?

8. What new discoveries were the scientists who work at the caves making? How were they able to speculate about the 

possible lives of the original painters?

9. The concept of the vast scope of time and human existence is a recurring theme throughout the film. What is your  

reaction to the enormous contrast between the span of time each of us is inhabits this world and the span of time human 

beings have lived in this world?

10. At one point in the documentary, Herzog suggests that the cave paintings may reflect the beginning of the human 

soul, as visual art and music became essential parts of the human experience. Why do you think human beings create art?

11. Why is it important to preserve historical artifacts and study them? 

What is your reaction to this film?

Below: drawing from Chauvet Cave


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