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Friday, December 9, 2005

Session 6: Discussion of Staff Working Paper on “
Bioethics and Human Dignity”

Council Discussion

CHAIRMAN PELLEGRINO:  The next item on our agenda — this technology is overwhelming.  The ones I use you have to hold your finger down.  They're older.

The item on our agenda now is the consideration of a staff working paper on the subject of dignity about which we've heard considerably in the last few moments and we'll hear more.

Here there will be no presentation.  The paper was prepared by Dr. Adam Schulman with the participation of other members of the staff.  And so I think here we can start right in with questions and/or comments about the paper, and I would entertain suggestions of anyone who wants to begin to comment.

Anyone?  Adam is not going to make — I asked him if he wished to do so, and he preferred not to so you have more time on the paper, on the substance of the paper itself.

However, if Adam wants to sit here and people may ask a question about what a term means, I'd appreciate it very much.

Adam, I want to thank you on behalf of the Council for doing this preliminary work.

Dr. George, you look like you're about to ask a question.  Have I interpreted you correctly?

PROF. GEORGE:  Thank you, Dr. Pellegrino.

I did want to begin by first thanking Adam for his work on the paper, which is very stimulating and interesting. 

I want to ask Adam whether  it might be possible for us to say that there is, in fact, a national commitment that we as a people have made to a certain understanding of dignity or at least to a limited range of possible understandings, that is, excluding some others.  And if, therefore, given our own role as an agency or body of the United States government, while it's interesting to explore other concepts of dignity, whether we can say with some confidence that we should as a matter of public policy be working within the nation's commitments.

Now, of course, the term doesn't appear in any of the founding documents of the nation, but my question is:  is it possible to glean from the Constitution and particularly from the Declaration of Independence a certain understanding of the dignity of the human being, one that excludes not only some possible alternative ethical understandings, but also some alternative understandings of dignity coming from other traditions which could reasonably be judged as just alien to the one to which we've committed ourselves?

This is not to suggest that even if this is true that there is an understanding embodied in our own national commitments, that that understanding requires no defense.  I would be all for defending it, for sure, but is one there?  Can we make some progress toward understanding what concept of dignity, if any, American policy should be made on the basis of by trying deeply to understand what is already embedded in our founding documents?

DR. SCHULMAN:  My feeling on that subject is that if you take the Declaration of Independence and its trio of rights, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, it's not impossible, but it's difficult to get from that a rich enough conception of the positive content of the good life to address the bioethical controversies that are upon us now and are coming in the future.

It seems to me it's certainly true that it would be wrong to treat Lockean rights as simply negative or devoid of positive content, and there are, I think, successful efforts to find a conception of human virtue or excellence that goes along with Locke's rights.

A teacher of mine at the University of Chicago, Nathan Tarcov, wrote a book called Locke's Education for Liberty in which he, I think, shows that the Lockean conception of rights leads to a kind of notion of the sort of citizen that one would have to be in order to exercise those rights.

But, again, it seems to me that I don't see how that goes very far in the coming age of the power of science to modify human nature.  I'm not sure how far that would go toward spelling out what aspects of our humanity are really essential and inviolable.  Maybe you have some ideas on that.

PROF. GEORGE:  Well, I was wondering if in addition to the invocation of rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness which in the declaration are explicitly a nonexhaustive list.  If there is anything to be gleaned from the idea that human beings are created and that they are created equal.

Is there anything that is implicit; is there an understanding of human dignity that might be implicit in the concept of a creature who is endowed by his creator with unalienable rights, and who is created equal.

So if we go beyond just the attention to the rights, to the sort of deeper context in which that expressly nonexhaustive list is set forth, whether we'd have a richer understanding.

DR. SCHULMAN:  It seems possible.  I guess I'd leave that to you members of the Council to discuss.

CHAIRMAN PELLEGRINO:  Is it on this point, Paul?

DR.McHUGH:  Yes, it is on this point.


DR.McHUGH:  If I can continue on that point because Robby is speaking exactly in the same direction I am because if we are created, and we are created equal, that truly makes — and there is a creator who made us — not only do the rights and duties and ultimate responsibilities come with that, but also a kind of relationship amongst each other comes from that because to some extent that is the definition of brotherhood or sisterhood, that we come from a particular place.

It's that theme of brotherhood — you talk when you go to the Biblical religion that the Judeo-Christian thing talks about man being made in God's image, which you know I think that's kind of interesting, and Augustine develops that, of course, in his Trinity, but the thing that's more telling, it seems, for Americans today is this brotherhood that we have, that we're equal, but we have responsibilities to one another that comes from being brothers, and even the responsibilities and duties we carry.

I was saying to several people yesterday there was this picture of that statute outside of Boys Town:  "he ain't heavy, Father.  He's my brother."  And to some extent that's a kind of thing that we in this society want to be able to say for all of us.  Yes, caring for the sick, caring for the child, caring for everybody can be construed as heavy from outside, but the person who is caring if they think of each other as brothers, he ain't so heavy in that way.


I have Hurlbut, Lawler, and Meilaender, in that order, and Dr. Kass.

DR. HURLBUT:  Well, it seems to me that maybe your answer to Robby contained a little bit of your answer in spite of the fact that you didn't claim it.

The very notion that there might be some ways of living which preserve freedom itself might have a meaning here.  There might be things that we could do to ourselves that would diminish our scope of our freedom and, therefore, our capacities to operate for the good.

Of course, freedom finally doesn't mean much unless it's attached to some notion of the good.  It can't just be floating.

So what I want to come back to somehow or another in this conversation — I'm not quite sure how to do it — is what Leon was saying at the end.  Below the notion of dignity, there has to be some notion of a natural good which we could mess up with our biotechnology, and one dimension of that we might explore would be the concept of freedom.

But it does strike me that dignity intrinsically carries a notion of moral valuation in it because human beings have some open indeterminacy, and therefore, we can't just speak of a human nature because human nature is full of all sorts of stuff, some very bad stuff.

So we've got to have some reference to where we're getting the notion of what is good, and just to add a little to it, I think we need to add to the notion of the Biblical description maybe the term "love."  Maybe that's a little too vague, but God according to the Christian tradition — and I think this is very resonant with all Biblical tradition — is God is love.  Love seems to me to be the notion that carries the coherent wholeness of the good, and therefore, it is intrinsically preserving both the possibilities, the freedom and the use of the possibilities in the positive and just one last piece of that.

We in this current world, you hear it around universities a lot, this flippant claim that you can't derive an "ought" from an "is," the so-called naturalistic fallacy associated with G.E. Moore, but I think it goes back to Hume, right?

And yet it strikes me that if you don't derive your good somehow from what is, it's hard to know where you would get it.  Robby is usually a big authority on this, right?  You can tell us, Robby, but it seems to me that there must be some kind of a coherent good that both preserves freedom and allows the manifestation of that which is unquestionably good for human beings, that they would go hand in hand.

And that's a complicated thought.

CHAIRMAN PELLEGRINO:  Lawler, if you want to comment.  Lawler.

DR. LAWLER:  I agree with Bill, but I'm not going to talk about that.  Among the great contributions of this paper is the criticism of Kant, which is radical and correct.  Adam says on page 8, "In locating human dignity entirely in rational autonomy, Kant was forced to deny any moral significance to other aspects of our humanity, including our family life, out loves, our loyalties, and other emotions, as well as our way of coming into the world and all other merely biological facts about the human organism."

And skipping a sentence, "if the rational will alone is the seat of human dignity, why should it matter if we are born of cloned embryos or if we enhance our muscles or control our moods with drugs or if we sell our organs on the open market?"

And Footnote 11, "one will not, for example, find much hint of human dignity in Kant's definition of marriage as the association of two persons of different sex" — that's the only controversial part nowadays — "two persons of different sex for the lifelong reciprocal possession of their sexual faculties."

So if dignity has something to do with family, loyalty and love, Kant provides no guidance whatsoever, zero, because for Kant the idea, as Bill pointed out, of human nature is an oxymoron insofar as we're natural.  We're not human.

So the big question is in what respect does the Declaration of Independence and our founders differ from Kant on this, and in looking at the Declaration of Independence, you can say the list of rights is nonexhaustive, and I'm sympathetic to that, although not as a matter of judicial review, but the Declaration of Independence itself was a product of legislative compromise, so often recommended by Justice Scalia, and at the end, there were references added by the whole body to the draft, to the act of the providential god, to the judgmental god, and to sacred honor.

So in looking for an adequate conception of our dignity, wouldn't we have to look to these fairly countercultural American traditions mentioned by Adam?  The Biblical tradition, and I'm glad you brought this in because I really like it; our stoic tradition, most recently talked up by Tom Wolfe not only in A Man in Full, but also in I Am Charlotte Simmons with respect to college athletes, Jo Jo, the college basketball player freeing himself from the slavery of big time college athletics through the study of the Greeks.


PROF. MEILAENDER:  Well, I'm not sure what I have to say relates to wherever we are.  I think every undergraduate ought to have to read some Kant before getting the Bachelor's degree conferred upon them, but I want to just ask a question about the paper, which I do not want to direct simply to Adam because I think a question-answer sort of session isn't very helpful.  Adam may want to provide his own reply at some point.

But I'm interested to know what the rest of you think.  I mean, it's a very nice paper.  It sorts out these different conceptions which are in certain respects complementary, though also to some degree in tension with each other.

And what I'm not sure about is the meaning, I guess I want to say, the meaning of the conclusion to the paper, "dignity understood as humanity."

What happens there in the conclusion?  How did the rest of you read it?  Is that an alternative concept?  That is to say we've had four delineated and now we get a fifth.

Is this one that gathers up certain strands of the four that have been delineated and somehow captures what is most essential to them?  What happens in the conclusion of the paper?  What does "dignity as humanity" mean sort of for its own sake in relation to those four strands that have been delineated?

I wasn't quite sure, which I don't make that as a criticism of the paper.  I mean, you only gave yourself a couple pages to conclude it, after all, and one can only do so much there, but I wasn't quite sure.

I'd be interested to know what the rest of you made of it.

CHAIRMAN PELLEGRINO:  Adam, would you like to comment?

DR. SCHULMAN:  I'd rather hear what they made of it myself.


DR. KASS:  I'll bite because I very much welcome Gil's question.  The end sort of surprised me, and Gil's generous way of putting it I would endorse completely.  This is something very useful here.

But if we tied this particular conclusion of this paper to some of the discussion in the last session, it seems to me that various of these attempts to articulate some teaching of human dignity are a way of highlighting certain features of what it means to be human and making them matters of regard, respect, encouragement and the like, and that I took Adam not necessarily yet to be collecting all of those things, but recognizing something of what they had in common, still leaving open the question of which of those previous accounts might be still in the conversation.

At least whatever criticisms he levels at them, I don't think even in his own mind are fully damaging to them, as there's some element there that commands our attention.  And I took this to be maybe an attempt to try our hand not at the language of dignity, but to do the same thing sort of closer to the ground.

I mean, what are the human goods or what is good about our humanity that we should be mindful of it, to do apologies for the presumption of that substitution?

But, I mean, it means all the work is still to be done, obviously, but I think it's the right work.

DR. HURLBUT:  Leon, would our humanity then mean our preservation of our capacity for evil, too?

DR. KASS:  If you're a friend of freedom, then you are a friend of the capacity for evil.  If you don't like freedom, then you say, "Do not eat of the Tree of Knowledge for good and bad."

To be a free being is to live with those two alternatives, and if you want something that's incapable of evil, be a chipmunk.


DR. SCHULMAN:  It seems to me one could raise for discussion the question would it be compatible with human dignity if biomedical progress produced a drug or an operation on the brain that simply removed our capacity for evil.  Would that be something that would be required for all human beings that reach a certain age?  And would that be something conducive to our humanity and dignity?

CHAIRMAN PELLEGRINO:  Anyone want to respond to this utopian question or dystopian?

PROF. GEORGE:  Well, it would be, would it not, precisely an abolition of human freedom?  Is there any dissent from that?  I mean, is there a sense in which it would not be an abolition of human freedom, Gil?

PROF. MEILAENDER:  Well, there are some slightly deeper questions, too, that Leon has raised.  We might want to think about whether there would be a difference between producing a drug that eliminated that capacity, and training a person or perhaps "training" isn't even the right word; bringing about a condition of a person who was so virtuous that he was no longer in any way inclined or drawn to evil.  I would not think of such a person as a chipmunk.

DR.McHUGH:  Well, Durkheim did go so far as to say even in the company of saints there would still be deviants.  The saints themselves would begin to find the deviants in places that we hadn't thought of as deviant before.

PROF. MEILAENDER:  But I take my depictions of heaven from elsewhere actually.



DR. LAWLER:  You worry too much, right?  It's absolutely beyond our power to create a world beyond good and bad or good and evil.  I'm absolutely sure of this even though you can't prove the future, right?

For example, the operation you're talking about, those who prescribe the operation will inevitably exempt themselves from it, and say mood control, so that we can always be in good moods.  Mood management, we wouldn't want to be completely unconscious though.  We'd want to have moods that would allow some creativity, but not too much.  So we would be creative, but we wouldn't be that miserable.  We wouldn't get so moody that we wouldn't be late for work or kind of like the contemporary professor or something, you know, kind of the careerist creative type guy.

So mood management would require an absolutely perfect understanding of human self-consciousness which I think will forever elude us, and not only that, but lurking behind mood management will always be this thought:  life really stinks.  I can't even get through the day without managing my mood.

So lurking behind every attempt to create good moods will be an ineradicable, really bad mood.  So I just don't think we have the capacity to abolish good and evil.  We just have the capacity to really screw ourselves up by not understanding the good to make life worth living.

So I actually think dignity is an intermediate concept and the foundational concepts are the human goods we've been given by nature.


DR. LAWLER:  That dignity — for example, what's wrong with dignity.  I'm not against dignity.  I'm pro dignity, but that dignity is in a certain sense an intermediate concept.  The foundational concept is the appreciation, gratitude for those goods that have been given by nature and our perverse capacity to remove ourselves from them.


DR. HURLBUT:  When I asked Leon about human evil, I didn't mean having just previously said something about freedom that we would eliminate the freedom from humanity.  I was just questioning the equation, dignity equals humanity.  That was what I was after, and so dignity, if we're going to use this term meaningfully, has to refer both to a capacity for the employment of our freedom, but also some kind of reference to what's good in our freedom within our capacities.

I mean, earlier when we were talking about children and dignity, it struck me that I used the term dignity in a way that reflects onto childhood, and yet I use it in a slightly different meaning.  I think children, for example, you watch children and people with child-like mental capacities, very severely retarded people, for example.  You can sense right away in a hospital setting that you can violate the dignity of any human being.  It's an amazing thing how everybody has the center to themselves that they know when they're being violated, and that relates to the concept of dignity in my mind, and it strikes me that this term is a beautiful term because it subsumes the dimensions of human beings that our only capacities are intrinsic natures and then goes on to be inclusive of those manifestations of human freedom as we mature into our freedoms.

But if we're going to use this term, we can't just make it an equation that dignity equals humanity somehow, can we?

We mean what's best in humanity, don't we, when we say that?

DR. KASS:  Well, I think that the term is equivocal in that sense, I mean, the same way as you would talk about the nature of something you could say that whatever happens to arise naturally is natural or you might say what you really mean by the nature of the thing is the thing in its perfection or in its peak.

There is that kind of ambiguity.  You say that's a wonderful specimen of humanity.  You don't mean it's whatever the world has tossed up, but there is a kind of idea or you would say of the Black Stallion in a way in which you wouldn't say of Old Dobbin, "That's a Horse," because that's somehow the embodiment of what the thing is at its best.

I think that's partly what we mean.  It's not just anything that the human species, God help us, has somehow put into the world, much of it regrettable, but sorry.

PROF. GEORGE:  Yes, Bill.  I just wanted to say that if we look at Adam's final paragraph, I think he has captured the essential idea you're after.  Notice that it's not a simple equation of humanity and dignity.  What Adam says is or what he makes reference to is human dignity understood as our essential and inviolable humanity.

I think what Adam must have in mind, and, Adam, you can clarify this for us, is the human being understood as having inherent worth, the human being as not reasonably or rightly reduced to instrumental status, the human being who may have many nonessential things about him, including emotions which may lead us to do inhumane, even inhuman things, hatred, anger, and so forth, but those aren't what's essential.

What would be essential is what I think, Bill, you're trying to capture with the idea of the human good or the human goods or the natural human goods, those things that, when considered as aspects of the well-being flourishing of a creature who has inherent and not just instrumental value, must be regarded as what — well, Adam has given us, I think, a very apt term here — inviolable, that which we cannot violate without violating something essential to the human being, human being now considered as some entity, as a creature of inherent worth, of profound .- well, what other word can we choose but dignity?


DR. GÓMEZ-LOBO:  This in a way tags onto what Robby was saying, but I'm taking it a little bit further back.  I personally like the idea of cashing out some of the claims about dignity in terms of human goods.  I'm convinced that that can be worked out, particularly given the steps that dignity invokes or requires respect, and if one tries to figure out respect for what, it seems to me that respect of the goods of a person is one of the most reasonable replies one can give.

But I want to take it back to Kant, and I think Adam's criticisms of Kant are very well taken.  In fact, the definition of marriage I always considered a terrible inconsistency within Kant's thought.  In fact, if I recall correctly, the German word for possession here was a word that indicates rather use, not just possession, but Benutzen or something like that, but I can't vouch for that.

But what I'm worried about is this.  It's how can we give power in a sense to the notion of dignity within the bioethical discussion, and there it seems to me that the emphasis on the notion that to consider that human beings have dignity is to consider them as ends in themselves, and what follows from that is that it's instrumentalization of human beings that constitute failurs in bioethical procedures.

For instance, in the question of the reasons why human cloning might be wrong in principle, Adam lists because it violates interpreting Kant, of course, and rightly so; it violates an inalienable right or because of effects exactly, et cetera.

It seems to me that prior to that one could say, well, reproducing or having children by cloning is a clear case of instrumentalization.  It's selecting a genome for reproductive purpose, and selecting a genome would only be done with some kind of end and goal to reproduce a great genius or whatever.

So it seems to me that there is this prior consideration of instrumentalization of a human being that can be made fruitful for bioethics, and it seems to me that when that is explained, it could have much wider acceptance than it seems at first sight.



PROF. MEILAENDER:  I don't disagree, Alfonso, with what you said, but I'm not sure instrumentalization gets everything that we want to talk about.  If you think about the cloning example, for instance, I mean, there are some arguments that just seem to go on forever about whether bringing a person into being in a certain way instrumentalizes that person since, after all, only by bringing them into being do they exist at all, and you have conferred the good of existence upon them.

I mean, those arguments never seem to come to an end in the bioethics literature, and I've never really known what exactly to say about them, and so it seems to me that it might be that the issue in that case, for instance, is not just instrumentalization of a particular being, but the nature of the relation between the generations or the fact that how we come into being is part of what we mean by human dignity in some way.

And I'm not sure that that can all be captured in the language of instrumentalization, though that language captures some things that we mean.  So it's in that sense that I think it's a larger concept.  It is what in the last session near the end Leon referred to as sort of an anthropological concept before it gets to some of these other issues.  It just seems to me that it will get a little too narrow and won't do all of the work it's supposed to do if we reduce it to that, though I don't deny that that's an important aspect of it.

DR. GÓMEZ-LOBO:  Well, I agree with that, but it seemed to me that this reduction or narrowing is what might be helpful in the public domain, but incidentally, I would also interpret the way the two generations would relate to each other in the case of cloning, again, as instrumentalization.

CHAIRMAN PELLEGRINO:  Adam, I think you wanted to respond.

DR. SCHULMAN:  I just wanted to amplify what Gil said.  It seems to me the prohibition against instrumentalization or objectification can be helpful in certain biomedical, bioethical contexts, but it's not clear to me that it can do all of the work that you suggest.

And in particular, there are a couple of problems with it.  One is that in Kant's formulation it's not so much that instrumentalization is forbidden.  Kant doesn't ever say that it's wrong to use someone as a means.  He says it's wrong to use someone only as a means and not at the same time as an end, and that's a serious problem in interpreting that principle even in traditional moral problems, let alone newfangled ones like cloning.

But it has also been suggested by some critics of the notion of human dignity in the bioethical context that it's really not adequate to say that cloning essentially amounts to instrumentalization because it all depends on how the child is treated after it's born, and it's certainly imaginable that someone could be the product of cloning and never know about it and be adopted by a family that never knows about it and treated as a human being with all of the rights and freedoms.

So the argument is made that you can't prove that just because someone is cloned he has been treated like an object and has been essentially deprived of dignity, and so it seems to me that one would have to find a broader account of what is troubling or incompatible with human dignity about the technology of cloning.


Leon.  Oh, I'm sorry.

DR. KASS:  I want to change directions, Peter.  I want to pick up on some things in the paper that have also been part of our discussions in the past and led to some rather heated exchanges in the work on the Taking Care document as to how we speak about worth and dignity, and  Robby has already weighed in with a deep reading of the Declaration and the meaning of equality in which equality means more than having equal rights.

And in the paper there are suggestions that at least certain ancient notions of dignity are aristocratic and are unsuitable therefore for the discussion of democratic times, and as a matter of rhetoric I think there's something to be said for that, but people, Peter, Bill, Gil, willing to talk about the human goods or what is a good community, they don't seem to be shying away from — they wouldn't necessarily put it always in terms of virtue.

Paul speaks about the virtues of the physician, and I'm not sure whether it's fair to say that some notion of what's humanly admirable is necessarily off the table just because we are egalitarians also.

And it seems to me part of the difficulty of some of these presentations is you've given us for the sake of clarity a certain polarization, and the question is, I suppose, can one give an account, an anthropological account of the human that would hold together both the higher and the lower without having to drive a wedge between them.  There will be circumstances in which we'll be invited when you've got someone who has lost all of their higher functions and they are simply reduced to a largely vegetative state.  The question is what does their residual humanity or residual dignity, if they have it, apply just to how we are obliged to honor and recognize that.

But I'm not sure that the people who hold only that that should not be eliminated are denying — this is to refer to an old conversation where Alfonso said any other kind of notion of dignity is purely a social construct or matter of social convention.

I don't think he really would — I know I don't want to hold you to that, but we all look up to and find admirable certain kinds of displays of our humanity and not just among the greats.  I mean, there is human dignity in the embrace in the house of mourning, and what we're honoring there is not an act of wilfulness or of reason, but of some kind of expression of the understanding of what our humanity calls for, and when we see it we appreciate it.

So I'm fumbling towards saying I think that the task here is to try to give an account of the human that Kant, for his own reasons was obliged not to be able to give, having surrendered so much of the rest of the world to Newton, but which holds together the high and the low in the account of human life that doesn't force us to start with to drive the wedge between them.  Circumstances may make those questions hard.

Now, if I may be indulged, Mr. Chairman, just a little longer, there is a Biblical passage whose truth, it seems to me doesn't depend upon the place you find it.  It's in the Noahide Code where it says, "Whosoever sheds man's blood by man shall his blood be shed, for in God's image was he created."  I may have the subject and the verb wrong in the last.  It may not have been passive.  He created him.  It might have been active.

There is an attempt to give an account as to why homicide is wrong.  It's not just fear of punishment.  There's a reason given.  To shed human blood is the destruction of a creature made in God's image.  One amongst the animals, it's in the context of the law about the eating of the animals, but not nearly on all fours with the animals, and indeed, humanity takes responsibility for defending human life against its violation precisely in that law.

But the funny thing about the injunction is although man is god-like, what is somehow sacred is his blood or at least you shall not spill the blood, and that the blood of the human, the mere circulation is somehow also dignified by virtue of its being part of the being that's an image, admittedly nearly an image, but a god-like being.

Now, there's a way in which there's an attempt to hold together a unity of the being however hard it might be theoretically finally to justify, which begins to give a picture of the human person not only in terms of the higher things, but in the very terms of the psychophysical unity, to use an anachronistic term that would support the intuition that it would be a violation of being itself to shed human blood.

And that, it seems to me, is a place to start where you don't have to begin to pull all of these things apart, but to see certain kinds of foundational things beginning with the good of human life in which human dignity and the sanctity of life are not simply at odds with each other, but are somehow friends.


I think we have — oh, excuse me.  Sorry.

DR. KASS:  No.

CHAIRMAN PELLEGRINO:  I think we have time for one more comment, and I'm going to give that to Adam who was kind enough to pull this together.  Do you have any comment, Adam?

DR. SCHULMAN:  Actually I'd rather hear from — I think Robby George had something to say.

CHAIRMAN PELLEGRINO:  Oh, I'm sorry.  Did you have your hand up?

PROF. GEORGE:  No, I don't want to take Adam's.


DR. SCHULMAN:  Well, I thought what Leon just had to say is very fine.  I wanted to say that in the paper I think, though I tried to present as vividly as possible some of the problems with the sources of the modern notion of dignity, it seems to me that none of those problems are simply decisive and that there may well be wisdom in all of those sources, including the Bible and Kant's moral philosophy and classical notions, including the Stoic and also the Aristotelian notion of excellence, and that all of them may serve as useful sources in seeking a concrete understanding of dignity that would be sufficient to help us weather the storms of modern biotechnology.


Did you want to add?

PROF. GEORGE:  Well, if we had just another second I would say how valuable I think Leon's comment is.  One of the points he made, and it's certainly true, is that it's difficult to give a satisfactory, intellectually satisfactory, account of the unity of the human being, but the other side of that coin is that it's also difficult, indeed, notoriously difficult to deny the unity of the human being, to defend an account of the human being under which one's true humanity is one's consciousness or conscious awareness and one's bodily self is a subpersonal instrument of the consciousness considered as the true self.

There are many different versions, many different efforts to defend that kind of dualism, and they have as far as I can tell, at least, come to naught.  So it's a very difficult problem on both sides, not just on the one.

CHAIRMAN PELLEGRINO:  Thank you very much.

Adam, I want to thank you very much for undertaking the heroic task of trying to address this very, very complicated issue, and I think Adam's intent is to provide us with a tentative draft so that we could look at it, and I want to thank all of you for your input, and I know you're going to take this under advisement and probably work on it and come back with something further, but I do want to thank you.

It's a daunting task, as you know from the discussion this morning, to deal with this concept of dignity, and I think we owe him tremendous gratitude.


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