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What Does It Mean to Be Human?

This creative activity is one of the series of games I have created and implemented during my post as Assistant Lecturer on the module PO314: Introduction to Political Theory at the University of Kent (2017/18).

In the festive spirit of Halloween, I provided two blow-up skeletons and a selection of hand cut bone, bat, and pumpkin templates for my students to write on (see images), and I invited my students to decorate their skeleton with qualities they think define a human. In their two groups, the students discussed how these human qualities connected with theories of human nature and collaborated to form a strong argument for their skeleton. In turns, one group presented the theories that made their skeleton human, and the other group asked questions. This format set up a debate between the two groups about the key theoretical debates of human nature. The playful nature of this creative activity supported each student’s contribution and facilitated their involvement in the in-group discussions and the in-class debate without fear of being judged.


  1. What qualities define a human being?

  2. Write the words on the skeleton using the whiteboard markers.

  3. What theories of human nature can connect to any of these qualities?

  4. List theories/theorists on the bone cut-out(s) and stick to the coffin with blu-tac (you may list similar theories/theorists on one cut-out or you can use more than one cut-out and group them together).

  5. What are the debates between these different theories of human nature?

  6. List key debates on the bat cut-out and stick to the coffin with blu-tac. (Hint: Ben mentioned these key debates in the Human Nature lecture).

  7. In turns, each group will present their skeleton to the other group.

  8. Explain what theories/theorists you’ve put on the coffin and the connection they have to the human qualities written on the skeleton.

  9. Argue what key debates your theories/theorists present.

Seminar Questions:

  1. Are these qualities what it means to be fully human? Are they fixed by nature i.e. are we born with these qualities?

  2. How are we different to animals? Why does Hobbes describe us as wolves?

  3. Can any of these human qualities be taken from us? For example, only human beings can communicate with complex language; are you human if you lose the power of speech? What would this mean for Kant or Mills?

  4. What kinds of society has developed from or influenced our human nature?

*This activity was performed on 31st October and 1st November 2017 during the seminar.

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