Presented by Philosophy's annual Francis W. Gramlich Lecture
Philosophy's annual Francis W. Gramlich Lecture
Michele Moody-Adams, Straus Professor of Political Philosophy & Legal Theory, Columbia University
Title: Reclaiming the Idea of 'the Human'
Wednesday, April 12
41 Haldeman (tentative)
Free & Open
Description: "Many progressive social movements presume that justice demands treating people with humane regard: combining respect for their capacities as agents with concern for their vulnerability to suffering. For these movements, this is the only way for social institutions, and fellow citizens, to meet moral (and sometimes legal) obligations associated with their status as human beings. Some thinkers reject the underlying concept of a universal humanity, in virtue of which humans belong to a distinct moral community of reciprocal obligation. Critics charge that the concept presumes indefensible dualisms (of mind and body, and humanity and nature); that it wrongly assigns privileged status to reason (and to groups allegedly possessing the largest share); and that it involves a dangerous and unsupportable belief in ‘human exceptionalism’. This paper defends the wisdom of social movements against this ‘post-humanist’ skepticism. We can assert the moral claims of humanity without privileging reason, repudiating nature or ‘the body,’ or denying that there are many valuable ways to be human. We can recognize morally weighty obligations to humans while affirming morally substantive connections to non-human communities and domains. Indeed, humane regard often requires robust respect for these connections. However, we must reject the notion that there is nothing morally exceptional about humanity. Human beings have certainly wrought more havoc in the world than other sentient beings, and this is grounds for moral humility. Yet we must acknowledge—and cultivate— distinctively human capacities to imagine a better world, and to act on imagined possibilities in service of moral repair and moral progress."
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Events are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted.