The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Human condition

The human condition is a term used in literature to describe the joys and terrors of being human, and generally refers to biologically determined events which are common to most human lives, and to our reactions to these events, and how we cope with them.



These events include:


Unlike what is believed of other animals, humans can have some degree of sentient self-awareness of these events. Different cultures treat these events in different ways. Many religions and philosophies attempt to give meaning to the human condition. The human condition is the central subject of much literature, drama and art.


The human condition is the subject of fields of study like sociology, anthropology, and demographics. In some of the poorest parts of the world, the human condition has changed little over the centuries.

In most developed countries, improvements in medicine, education, and public health have brought about marked changes in the human condition over the last few hundred years, with increases in life expectancy and demography (see demographic transition). Probably one of the largest changes has been the availability of contraception, which has changed the lives of women and attitudes to sexuality. Even then, these changes only alter the details of the human condition.


Some movements like transhumanism aim to radically change the human condition. Other thinkers, like Enrico Fermi, deny that human nature has changed radically over time.

Overheard in passing

Some comments which reveal the condition of others:

  • "My husband doesn't understand. I need to ..."
  • "Now Jimmy, if you don't behave, I am going to have to find some nice family that will take you. ..."
  • "I'm bored. Let's ..."
  • "If I had enough money, we could ... "
  • "I need to make today count."
  • "Again? Perhaps. Perhaps."

Negative usage of the term

This term is sometimes used with a pessimistic or derogatory air by a certain kind of human, to imply that the human condition is in general a wretched one. This can be associated with the ubiquitous phrase "only human," as far as pertains to its implications of inferiority to an unspecified comparative source. This can also be compared to the phrase "mere mortals" in a more declamatory or melodramatic mode of speech. The far-reaching implications of that philosophical inclination, however, are beyond the scope of this article.

See also

Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04