Sunday, June 1, 2008

Human rights and the body

A lecture on Human Rights at the London School of Economics (LSE podcast, UChannel Podcast) gave some food for thought on a long quest of mine - reported here on the blog as well. There is no definitive answer, but on the quest for insights in bioethics, the LSE lecture by Rowan Williams (Archbishop of Canterbury), we come to understand the necessity of connecting human dignity to the body.

The title of the talk is Religious Faith and Human Rights and this gives, in my humble opinion, much less indication of what is to come. It is about human rights all right and Williams applies his faith in order to establish the connection with the human body. However, his argument is lucid and rational enough to be a strong point, regardless of what faith one follows, if any at all. If human rights are about dignity and integrity, this must be applied to the physical part (or whole, if you will) of the human being.

What is the essence of humanity? Is it rationality, ethics, aesthetics, emotions, free will, faith, spirituality? Is it the soul or in so many words, is it in his higher qualities and not in whatever beastly likeness he has to animals? Williams shows the danger of disconnecting the human from his body. before you know it, you open the road for making distinctions among humans, between those who have and those who do not have the higher qualities, whether soul, spirit, ethics, rationality and such. Williams proposes to make human rights, or in other words human dignity (and I might add human integrity) indivisible from the physical presence. When there is a body, there is a human endowed with full rights. transcript of the lecture

Such an approach may give some guidance in issues of capital punishment, abortion, euthanasia, bio-engineering and more.

More LSE:
Nuts and bolts of empire,
Islam and Europe,
Beyond the genome.

More bioethics:
Life and bio-engineering - podcast review,
Bioethics without Christ, please,
A useful map into Bio-Ethics,
Stem Cell Research: Science, Ethics, and Prospects.

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