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Nick Bostrom writes about human dignity for President’s Council on Bioethics

Thursday, 20 March, 2008

The President’s Council on Bioethics has released their latest volume of reports, titled “Human Dignity and Bioethics“. One notable essay published in this volume is that of Nick Bostrom, the Oxford philosopher who is also the co-founder of the World Transhumanist Association and Chair of both the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies and the Oxford Future of Humanity Institute.

Bostrom’s essay forms chapter 8 of the report, and is titled “Dignity and Enhancement“,  and the opening paragraph concludes with this beautifully well-put sentence:

Like some successful politicians, the idea of dignity has hit upon a winning formula by combining into one package gravitas, a general feel-good quality, and a profound vagueness that enables all constituencies to declare their allegiance without thereby endorsing any particular course of action.

Bostrom goes on to discuss some sensible definitions of human dignity, whether enhancements could possibly increase human dignity under such definitions, and whether the human species or human civilization can have dignity. Have a read.

Also worth a brief look are the essays “Human Dignity and the Future of Man” by Charles Rubin, “The Nature and Basis of Human Dignity” by George Lee and “The Irreducibly Religious Character of Human Dignity”  by David Gelernter.

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