EPLab • Conference

Benjamin Gregg

Against Essentialism in Conceptions of Human Rights and Human Nature

Political community in complex modern societies confronts abiding competition among different normative understandings and commitments that render agreement difficult on urgent issues of bioethics and biotechnologies. Disagreement follows in part from essentialist understandings of human nature as well as essentialist understandings of human rights. Broad agreement could be facilitated by a “political” and naturalistic understanding of both human nature and human rights. Human nature could be construed politically as the self-understanding of the human species in response to the question: To what kind of human nature should we humans aspire? Such construal leads to a notion of a human nature oriented on human rights. This notion offers a moral standard in current debates on the legal regulation of biotechnological interventions into the human genome. That standard is capable of wide embrace by participants.

Benjamin Gregg (University of Texas at Austin)