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Human Flourishing in an Age of Gene Editing$
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Erik Parens and Josephine Johnston

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190940362

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190940362.001.0001

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The Politics of Intrinsic Worth

The Politics of Intrinsic Worth

Why Bioethics Needs Human Dignity

(p.228) 16 The Politics of Intrinsic Worth
Human Flourishing in an Age of Gene Editing

Gaymon Bennett

Oxford University Press

Talk of “protecting human dignity” has become a fixture of modern counterpolitics. Indeed, it has become so widespread, some in bioethics have suggested the term now means too little by being made to do too much. This chapter argues that however philosophically “thin” it has become, bioethics still needs talk of dignity. It proposes that the power of the concept lies less in clear philosophical definitions and more in how notions of intrinsic worth evoked by human dignity offer a language for critiquing the sometimes-violent ways science and technology have been used to “normalize” human life. Working historically, the chapter concludes that giving up on dignity would mean giving up a key resource for asking not only what we might gain in transforming ourselves with new biotechnologies, but also whether there is something inviolably precious we might lose.

Keywords:   human dignity, human rights, bioethics, biopower, biopolitics, United Nations, Second Vatican Council, President’s Council, gene editing, flourishing

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