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Technicians of Human Dignity

Technicians of Human Dignity: Bodies, Souls, and the Making of Intrinsic Worth OPEN ACCESS

Gaymon Bennett
Copyright Date: 2016
Published by: Fordham University
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    Technicians of Human Dignity
    Book Description:

    On Civic Republicanism explores the enduring relevance of the ancient concepts of republicanism and civic virtue to modern questions about political engagement and identity.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-6780-4
    Subjects: Political Science, Health Sciences
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  1. My aim in this book is to offer a more anthropologically satisfying account of human dignity—or at least the minimal archaeological elements needed for such an account. By human dignity here I don’t mean that universal feature of human reality that has been enshrined in political, religious, and ethical discourses, practices, and institutions. I mean, rather, human dignity, the notion and phrase—the figure of speech—which animates those discourses, gets turned into those practices, and gets incorporated in those institutions. My attention in this book is captured by a curious fact: namely, that since the middle of the...

  2. I Human Dignity and the Vatican
    • On October 11, 1965, almost three years to the day after the opening of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI offered an address to the General Assembly of the United Nations.¹ The timing of the address was strategically important. It was scheduled during the last of Vatican II’s official working sessions. The council participants, including some 2,200 bishops, hundreds of theologicalperiti(official expert advisors), and many dozens of outside observers, had met for several months every fall since 1962, when Paul’s predecessor, Pope John XXIII, had convened the council. Although some of Pope Paul’s allies advised against leaving...

    • In the last chapter I began to characterize one of the key themes and sites of contestation at the Second Vatican Council: the demand for a new kind of pastoral relation between the church and the modern world. I gave particular attention to the main predicates of this demand as they were set out in Pope John XXIII’s opening address: an ontological and temporal conjunction between the church and the modern world in the figure of the human as natural but fulfilled in the supernatural. This is a conjunction that, for John, invites and justifies a reconfigured pastoral relation. John...

  3. II Human Dignity and the United Nations
    • In the previous chapter, I began to specify some of the critical elements that were brought together and that contribute to the form of human dignity as an object of thought and care in relation to the problem of pastoral power. I also attempted to specify the kind of pastoral equipment that the council fathers proposed would be appropriate to this figure of human dignity. This pastoral equipment consisted in the obligation to care for humanity and each human by interpreting the terms of a primordial calling amid the flux of the modern world and by speaking the truth about...

    • In the previous chapter I tried to identify some of the significant characteristics of the political problem space within which work on the Universal Declaration on Human Rights was carried out. The problem consisted of a demand for something more from power: political relations and practices calibrated to universal human dignity and carried out by means of human rights. I tried to show how the challenge of constituting the United Nations as a venue capable of formulating and facilitating human rights equipment was taken up against the background of the raison d’état and the interests of state sovereignty. In short,...

    • In the early 2000s, at their annual meeting, the American Academy of Religion convened a session on the now well-worn theme of “philosophy’s return to religion.” The session brought together a slate of thinkers that included, among others, the theologian John Milbank, the cultural critic Slavoj Žižek, and the philosopher Alain Badiou (who failed to attend). On one level, those present in the overfilled hotel ballroom could have been forgiven thinking this group a rather peculiar collection, considering the sharp intellectual and dispositional divergences among them. John Milbank had become the central figure of the self-named “Radical Orthodoxy” theologians; his...

  4. III Human Dignity and the President’s Council on Bioethics
    • In the Diagnostic Excursus, working somewhat schematically, I sought to recapitulate and recompose the elements of human dignity in terms of pastoral power, and to do so with reference to the two venues I have examined thus far: the Vatican at the Second Vatican Council and the United Nations in its work on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As I proposed there, it seems to me that the figure of human dignity and the effort to turn that figure into a practice can usefully be thought about as a restylization and reconfiguration of the principal elements of pastoral power...

    • The purpose of the previous chapter was to begin to characterize the problem space within which a specifi venue—the U.S. President’s Council on Bioethics—was asked to take up human dignity as central to the practice of bioethics. I certainly could have chosen other venues in which human dignity was brought to bear on biology and ethics. The phrase “human dignity” circulates in the bioethical writings of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for example, or in the UN commissions on genomics or cloning. The German government faced the question of human embryonic stem cell research...

  5. I have been guided in this book by the proposition that the turn to human dignity in the last half-century marks out a shift, or a series of shifts, in relations among conceptions of human worth, modes of exercising power, and the elaboration of ethical equipment. Equally important has been the conjoined proposition that this series of shifts was put into motion by breakdowns in prior ways of imagining and acting on these relations. In each of the three cases I have tried to provide a sketch, however minimal, of the situations wherein these breakdowns and shifts occurred. To be...

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This book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International.
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