Being Human Reinventing Humanity


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by Justin Barnard - Professor at Union

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Being Human Reinventing Humanity

  1. 1. JUSTIN D. BARNARD, PH.D. A S S O C I A T E D E A N , I N S T I T U T E F O R I N T E L L E C T U A L D I S C I P L E S H I P A S S O C I A T E P R O F E S S O R O F P H I L O S O P H Y U N I O N U N I V E R S I T Y S E P T E M B E R 2 1 , 2 0 1 3 The New Adam: Toward a Theology of Imago Dei
  2. 2. Ray Kurzweil Author of The Singularity is Near (2005) The Future of Humanity 1. Slow down/reverse aging and disease process 2. Reprogram human biology (through both genetics and nanotechnology) 3. Perfect digital-brain interface capacities for virtually limitless possibilities
  3. 3. Being Human: Post-Enlightenment Being Human = nothing more than a materially-instantiated center of consciousness. „Consciousness‟ is understood entirely in functional terms – i.e., instrumental rationality (means/end reasoning) to satisfy the will (where „will‟ is primarily identified with appetites, wants, desires)
  4. 4. Instrumental Rationality Will (wants, desires) Conscious Self
  5. 5. Post-Enlightenment Consequences 1. The solitary, individual „self‟ becomes the central metaphysical unit of reality. 2. Autonomy becomes the chief value. 3. All relationships among selves become structured networks of power grounded in „rational self-interest‟. 4. Human beings are „persons‟ only for as long as their consciousness exists/persists.
  6. 6. Consequences for Bioethics • Articulates the powers of the selfAutonomy • Protects the self and its powers Non- maleficence • Concerns exchange of goods owedJustice • Concerns transfer/dispersal of goods not owedBeneficence
  7. 7. Ethical Robot Do Good Prevent Harm Be Fair Michael Anderson and Susan Leigh Anderson, “Robot Be Good,” Scientific American (October 2010): 72-77
  8. 8. C.S. Lewis: Abolition of Man “Men Without Chests” “The head rules the belly through the chest– stable sentiments– these are the indispensable liaison offers between cerebral man and visceral man. It may even be said that it is by this middle element that man is man . . .” Critique: Post-Enlightenment View
  9. 9. Limitations Imago Dei  Unexplained conversation stopper  Explained in functional terms  Ex: rationality, creativity, capacity for „dominion‟ Typical Christian Response
  10. 10. An Alternative Christian Reflection Trinity EschatologyIncarnation
  11. 11. Being Human: Eschatology Thinking eschatologically . . . 1. Chastens reflection on what it means to be human 2. Disabuses us of foolish, myopic quests (e.g., immortality, unleashing human potential) 3. Clarifies a Christian outlook on death
  12. 12. Being Human: Incarnation  Thinking incarnationally . . . 1. Means more than mere physicality 2. Takes the organismal unity of the human body as central to being human 3. Rejects any view that reduces being human to mere possession of a transferable consciousness (where the „material‟ upon which it operates is a matter of indifference)
  13. 13. Being Human: Trinity Thinking in Trinitarian terms . . . 1. Removes the error of treating the solitary self as the as the central unity of reality 2. Relativizes the significance of autonomy 3. Signals the primacy of the loving relationships in which we are embedded as vital to being human
  14. 14. Conclusions Being made Imago Dei means being a creature whose intrinsic communion with/for love of God and neighbor and organismal unity make it a candidate for an eschatological existence in (partial) continuity with its present one.
  15. 15. Conclusions  Proposals to “reinvent humanity” in ways that deny either . . . 1. The primacy of our intrinsic loving communion, or 2. The significance of organismal unity, or 3. The necessity of our eschatological existence . . . should be regarded as sub-human