Heinz von Foerster on becoming human

By Heinz von Foerster — published as the preface to his Festschrift, which is hosted by Alexander Riegler’s Radical Constructivism site at the University of Vienna:

I was always a little bit disturbed that English has no word for what in Latin would be “homo”, in French “l’homme”, or in German “Mensch”. The way English describes this, how it handles the problem, is to talk of a “human being”.

If you are a human being this gives me always a sore taste in my mouth. As if it were already the case that this thing you are talking about were already a human being and therefore can always whatever it does act and say I am acting because I am a human being. It could be really a horror show.

My feeling is a human being has to be developed first in order to become a human being and I think this is only possible through his actions but in my perspective alone one cannot develop anything. We are enmerced in our circle of friends, relatives, family and a society. I think we develop a connection with all these friends and other human beings into what may become a “human becoming” and what may become a human being.

For me this existence is always a kind of a dance. And since you have here a group of friends who are writing about me I thought is it because of the dance with these friends, because of the interaction with all these people that I slowly suceeded in becoming a human being. One becomes a human being through one’s interaction, love, and friendships with others.

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