[SydPhil] David Kirchhoffer. HUMAN DIGNITY and ENHANCEMENT

Stephen Matthews Stephen.Matthews at acu.edu.au
Thu Sep 17 09:08:16 AEST 2015

ACU Philosophy Seminar Series

Dr. David Kirchhoffer

Faculty of Theology and Philosophy & Insitute for Religion and Critical Inquiry

Australian Catholic University


WHEN: Friday September 18, 2.30 PM - 4.00 PM

ACU Strathfield, MSM VC Room (E2.45 Room)
ACU North Sydney, MacKillop Level 16 TWH Building (8-20 Napier Street N. Syd)


Human Dignity and Enhancement: A multidimensional approach


In debates concerning the ethics of enhancement (that is the use of technology to achieve better than 'normal' performance in human beings) arguments both for and against have appealed to the concept of dignity to underpin their arguments. This gives rise to the problem of 'dignity talk', where both sides seem to be appealing to the same criterion as their debate-ending, trump card. In the case of so-called bioconservatives, enhancement is seen as a violation of human dignity; in the case of so-called transhumanists, enhancement is seen as necessary for the full realisation of human dignity. The paper will show that the problem is that both groups are operating from fundamentally different conceptions of what constitutes the human person. They consequently attribute dignity or worth to that feature that is deemed constitutive of the human person. In the case of bioconservatives, for example, this may be the idea that all human beings are uniquely created and loved by God. In the case of transhumanists, the emphasis may be on human moral autonomy. Both, however, overlook a key feature of the human person, namely, that the human person is a multidimensional reality. It is this multidimensional whole to which worth or dignity should be attributed. When this is done, one can move beyond the 'dignity talk' that characterises the debate on enhancement, such that dignity becomes a hermeneutical lens for a meaningful discussion of impact that enhancement has on our estimation of the worth of individual human persons and their efforts to live an existentially meaningful life.

Enquiries: Steve Matthews (stephen.matthews at acu.edu.au)

Dr Steve Matthews
Senior Research Fellow
Plunkett Centre for Ethics (St Vincents & Mater Health Sydney and Australian Catholic University)
Department of Philosophy, Australian Catholic University
Conjoint Senior Lecturer, University of NSW
Institute for Religion & Critical Inquiry (Moral Philosophy & Applied Ethics)

Postal Address:
St Vincent's Hospital
Victoria Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
Telephone:  +  61 2 8382 2871
Fax:  + 61 2 9361 0975
Email addresses:
Stephen.Matthews at acu.edu.au
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