“I don’t want be a human being. It’s too much responsibility”—someone responded to me in a dinner conversation, after my long rumination on why I am not fit to own a pet (“I don’t want to take care of him. But then I feel the obligation to do so if I get a pet. Ergo, no pet.”) Often what is said in jest contains the most truth, for the truth is structured like a fiction. Only when one leads one’s symbolic defense down, of all the courtesies of appropriateness and inappropriateness, and start speaking non-sense in a free-association, can that fictional truth shine through,
What what does this mean, that being a human being is too much responsibility?
I take that deontology (duty), is at the core of being human. To be a person is to take on certain responsibilities, to strive love and help certain people, to try to take the enterprise that we are engaging in seriously (with playfulness). And it is these responsibilities that we take on which makes us the person that we are.
Therefore, to know a person, one need only ask, “What are you responsible for? What are your duties?”
And that is good enough.