Who Do We Think We Are?

What It Takes to Be Human

Herb Gruning, Ph.D.

Order now, with secure on-line order form
ISBN: 978-1-57733-279-4, 240 pp., 6 x 9, paperback, $19.95

Also by Herb Gruning:
God and the New Metaphysics
God Only Knows

Do we ever wonder who we are? Is there something obvious about human nature that we all simply assume? Doesn’t being human make us authorities on what it means to be human? It turns out that answers to such questions are not so certain, for difficulties abound. Tough ones. This volume takes on the stubborn problems from biblical, theological, philosophical and scientific angles and uncovers that the issues are perennial and advancements modest. If we are going to make any headway, then we need to ask these questions afresh with each passing generation. That is, if we do not hamper progress ourselves or first run out of generations.


"I love Gruning’s humorous, engaging style and his ability to take seriously and integrate religious traditions, philosophy, and a wide variety of scientific research in his quest to understand reality, without letting any ideas go unchallenged." Paul van Arragon, computer scientist

“This book puts into question one’s own habits of thinking regarding our ‘human’ nature. ‘We never grow too old to construct a different us.’” Maurice Boutin, John W. McConnell Emeritus Professor of Philosophy of Religion, McGill University, Montreal, Canada

"The question of the ages: Who Do We Think We Are? Before the Enlightenment this question, at least for European civilization, was literally immaterial. Since the 18th century, however, the approach has been one of engineering the perfect human being, and thereby the perfect human society. In his fourth book, Dr Gruning examines this vexing problem from historical, biblical and personal perspectives for an intriguing and unique assessment that gauges the heights of the human spirit, while casting a pessimistic note on our prospects." Keith Sudds, retired industrial worker and student of the human condition.

"Like his earlier works, Dr Herb Gruning’s latest book examining what it means to be human covers subject matter of keen personal interest . The subject is far from my areas of technical expertise, and I greatly appreciate his clear and succinct identification of different theorists and schools of thought, without the excess detail that would make this highly readable book into an exhausting tome. Written in relaxed style, this conversation with a friend has challenged and informed, prompting arresting inner dialogue between my mind and soul or mind and spirit, as well as external conversation with the divine." Ian Moore, PhD, PEng, Professor of Civil Engineering, Queen's University at Kingston

"Can we know who we are? Herb attacks this ageless mystery playfully but extensively, through many cultural lenses. He enjoys that God is a step ahead of our most scholarly wonderings." Carolyn Smith, Minister of Christian Development and Pastoral Care, Applewood United Church

"In Who Do We Think We Are, Herb Gruning writes about big ideas in an accessible, reader-friendly way. He does not propose a definitive answer to questions but solicits the reader’s participation in a reflective journey through theological and philosophical issues vital to human self-understanding. With refreshing honesty and an inimitable personal touch, he addresses perennial issues that deserve a hearing in any reflective, intelligent life.

"Trying to make sense of human nature is a formidable task; the problems the subject poses are multilayered and formidable. Gruning responds with a wide-ranging and meticulous treatment of seminal issues. He adopts a moderate, probing voice throughout. The book displays impressive historical scope, moving from the ancient to modern ideas to recent evolutionary and anthropological preoccupations. The author carefully investigates a multitude of religious and secular thinkers and panoply of relevant issues from biblical exegesis, to materialism, to idealism, to the mind-body problem, to reincarnation to pop-culture, to dreams.

"This book provides a stimulating if sometimes unsettling perspective on major themes. Religiously and philosophically inclined readers, those who like to go beyond clichés and canned stereotypes, will find the treatment absorbing. This is not philosophy for professors but philosophy for independent-minded readers who like to make up their minds on their own." Louis Groarke, (Full) Professor, Philosophy Department, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia

“I know of very few individuals who have the requisite expertise in evolutionary theory, metaphysics and the philosophy of science, and the history of religious thought and particularly biblical scholarship, to bring all of these viewpoints together and even begin considering the implications for theories of human nature in that interdisciplinary context. To accomplish this in a way that makes the reader feel educated rather than intimidated is quite simply a most impressive achievement.” from the Foreword by Kevin Krumrei

Table of Contents

Foreword by Kevin Krumrei

Part One: Biblical Material
Part Two: Historical Material
Part Three: Contemporary Material
Part Four: Recent Developments
Part Five: Case Studies
Conclusion and Personal Reflections (or Reflections on the Personal)

Appendix: Dreamworld
About the Author


This book, now my third with Blue Dolphin, is about human nature. The personal reflections contained herein take on a similar format as my previous volume, God Only Knows, also published by Blue Dolphin. Selected passages from the Judeo-Christian scriptures dealing with the topic are addressed and receive commentary, and this comprises Part One of our present study. Part Two examines several religious and philosophical systems to determine what “the sages down through the ages” have uncovered concerning our investigation. Part Three then wrestles with modern developments in this area of research. In this way, the study follows the threefold division of my prior work. Yet this is where the similarity ends, for three additional parts round out the treatment and the arrangement is thereby doubled. Part Four considers more current analyses in the field, Part Five reviews two documentary films as case studies of what humans engage in and what this says about us, and following the Conclusion where I interact with much of the foregoing material, the Appendix amounts to a recounting of two dreams from yours truly as a further indication of the type of experiences that are common to humanity....

On a personal note, I am afraid that I cannot be entirely positive about the prospects of human nature. We have all come to know what humans are capable of, both the good and bad, and I wager whether the default drive of the bulk of humans, particularly in times of crisis (though our best characteristics have been known to shine forth here as well) is geared toward the negative end of the scale. It is a bad sign when the media, which does not fail to report on and present the negative side of life (and what does this say about those who feast on it?), points out acts of kindness as newsworthy owing to their scarcity. Bus drivers and police officers who procure shoes for the homeless and marathon runners who quite literally go the extra mile, or in this case two, to a hospital in order to give blood for victims of bomb blasts are rightly lauded as model citizens, when their example should be more the norm. But more often than not, at least this is the way it seems, people will act out of self-interest and some out of hate. For reasons such as these, I see the pessimistic view as the camp where greater accuracy resides. Rebuttals are invited.

Blue Dolphin, 2015

Order Information / Blue Dolphin Publishing Home