Via Bryan Caplan at EconLog:
“It’s only human,” you cry in defense of any depravity, reaching the stage of self-abasement where you seek to make the concept “human” mean the weakling, the fool, the rotter, the liar, the failure, the coward, the fraud, and to exile from the human race the hero, the thinker, the producer, the inventor, the strong, the purposeful, the pure–as if “to feel” were human, but to think were not, as if to fail were human, but to succeed were not, as if corruption were human, but virtue were not–as if the premise of death were proper to man, but the premise of life were not.”
He’s quoting the John Galt speech out of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. I agree with Caplan that that is a great quote. And she was right: if we say “it’s only human” when we refer to someone being an asshole, or forgetful, or inconsiderate, or loses their temper, or some such, shouldn’t we also say “it’s only human” when a person is thoughtful, considerate, productive, courageous and adventurous”?
On a slightly different tack, though, I think people often use the “I am only human” when, as the use of the word “only” implies, we are talking about the limits, and inevitable fallibility of we creatures. But then again, it is precisely because of our limits and partial knowledge, that it is all the more admirable, and worthy of note, when we imperfect creatures do the right thing, do things well, and show excellent character.