5 Jun

Leon Kass, Life, Liberty and the Defense of Dignity: The Challenge for Bioethics (Encounter Books, 2002)

Category: What We're Reading
By: Amy L. Graeser
Published: 06/05/03

"We need to realize that there is more at stake in the biological revolution than just saving life or avoiding death and suffering. We must also strive to protect and preserve human dignity and the ideas and practices that keep us human. This book is an invitation to remember these human and moral concerns, concerns that are themselves manifestations of what is humanly most worth preserving."

—Leon Kass, Life, Liberty and the Defense of Dignity

In Life, Liberty and the Defense of Dignity: The Challenge for Bioethics, Leon Kass extends a deliberately-reasoned, perspicuous, and urgent invitation to study the beautiful, mundane, and messy realities of human nature that are vulnerable to burgeoning biotechnologies. The book comprises an introduction and three sections, the second of which is titled "Ethical Challenges from Biotechnology." In it Kass, the chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics, describes the challenges biomedical science and technology pose to human nature, alongside of which he also describes that of which human nature consists, or, in other words, what makes people human. The particulars he addresses are life and lineage, body and soul, and death and immortality. In the first and third sections of the book, he explores, respectively, the poles of the biotechnologies argument, technology and ethics, and the "underlying scientific quest." The introduction sets the stage for the rest of the work, explaining that all societies are facing a "posthuman" future and thus need a richer understanding of human nature in order to navigate it wisely. [Posted June 2005, ALG]