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What is human dignity? George Kateb, author of the new book Human Dignity, discusses the meaning of the term and its importance in the struggle for universal human rights.
Listeners: What's your definition of human dignity? Comment here!
One odd thing is that the Declaration of Independence, the companion to the Constitution, does say where our rights come from: "that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights...", a section President Obama skips when he quotes it.
Not even up to your usually apparently ill prepared, unfocused presentations.I think the Professor needs some seasoning on whatever "farm team" is available.
Would like to expand on my comment by quoting from the email I just sent to this guest by looking up his info at Princeton:
Dear Professor Kateb,
I just heard your segment on the Brian Lehrer Show. The attitude of elevated human dignity in relation to all other species leads to the terrible abuses of animals we see in so many areas, especially prolonged unmoving confinement in factory farming, unnecessary repetitive unanaesthetized animal testing lab surgery, fur farming in small wire cages exposed to freezing weather, leghold trapping, shipping of pigs for thousands of miles in winter weather with no protection from the elements (the pigs' skin often freezes to the metal slats of the trucks and they need to be pried off with crowbars, leading to massive bleeding), and many other abuses. In my view this attitude of superior human dignity is speciesist and, because of the practical results as mentioned above, abhorrent. I submit that in view of these abuses, and the fact that *many people are aware of them but turn their eyes away rather than work for their amelioration*, human dignity is *notably inferior* to that of other species.
I would welcome your comments on this.
Certainly, the human species is somewhat special, but the reasons G. Kateb's gives for it are astonishingly uninformed, and wrong onseveral levels. According to him, what makes humans special is the use of language, which allows humans to think and to transmit knowledge.In fact, many animal species have cultures, techniques that a particular group of animals has developed, and which is not known (but can be easily acquired) by other groups from the same species. It's a very hot topic of research in ethology. It had been observed with apes and monkeys, dolphins, orcas, and a host of other species. Many of these social species have some form of language (not all of which involve making noise). Lastly, it is completely wrong to say that language is necessary for what we call thought. Much of our cortex is used for "thought", but only a tiny-teeny portion is used for language. The highly elaborate thinking that has driven the big scientific advances of our times (think of Einstein) was largely the result of "right-hemisphere" thinking, which is entirely non-verbal: it consists in using your mind as a simulation engine, or a geometry machine. This has more to do with imagery than language. This intuitive reasoning is the complicated part of mathematics, physics, and many other areas of science. The process of turning these intuitions into proofs and formulas, which is more of a left-hemisphere process, is rather trivial by comparison.
left this kind of a comment in the past: i love Brian's program BUT i dislike the name 'show' and the overly segmentation. point in case: the most interesting discussion about dignity had to be stopped when it just started to go into some depth. Brian, please consider this changes. aren't you adding the short span of concentration and avoidance of a more lengthy and thorough discussion? true; this topics cannot be completed in a program; but they and the listeners deserve a more.thank you
This is a fascinating subject. Unfortunately, the poorly structured interview and terrible sound quality served to diminish its listen-ability. Let's bring George back for a more in-depth discussion on the subject. Also, Can we please get this book on Kindle already? Who's got space or cash for hardcover anymore. This segment at least made me really want to read further.
My labor law professor at Harvard (later to be an aborted Supreme Court nominee) spent endless class hours trying to convince us that labor law was only the clash of various economic interests. My wife's labor law professor at Fordham, Joe Crowley, defined it in two words in her first class: "Human Dignity". I still believe Professor Crowley got it right.
BLShow -- please bring this guest back for a longer segment. Maybe on MLK day. Segment ended just as he was making his point. Perhaps a good discussion of human dignity will help us see our way into the future -- especially immigration reform and even saving the middle class.
What a painfully inarticulate man. I would expect a Princeton professor to know how to speak better.
Hmm..."Special in nature..."Please include human humility in your argument for human dignity. Part of our assumption of superiority of the human species has gotten us to many of the environmental problems we face today. How can we advocate for human rights without including the vast ecological network that our species exists within?
The UN does not represent the people of the world.I don't think any people elected any official in the UN.The UN is government of the governments, by the governments, for the governments- -regardless of how unrepresentative those governments are of their people.
With all that's happening today, I turned on my radio at home to hear what you had to say.This is killing me.Couldn't you have an alternate channel for boring for those who have nothing better to do?
There is no contradiction between saying that we are animals...and that we have such powerful brains that we have been the one species to truly re-invent ITSELF and (for better or worse) reshape the entire planet. no supernatural explanation needed.
The attitude of elevated human dignity in relation to all other species leads to the terrible abuses of animals we see in so many areas, especially factory farming, is speciesist and is abhorrent. I submit that in view of these abuses, human dignity is INFERIOR to that of other species.
Being a human being is the most important thing that anyone can be. It is the only thing we have in common with everyone else in this world. If we do anything to hurt or harm any one else we diminish our own humanity and dignity.
This is like listening to paint dry. Interesting topic, horrible interview.
Being humans, we cannot reliably judge the superiority of humans over other species in this absurd arena of "dignity". Of course we think we're The Bomb. I doubt many of our fellow earthdwelling species would agree.
Mr kateb is a Unitarian Universalist, isn't he? Sounds much like my UU church school up bringing!
As people grow older, wisdom usual rises but personal dignity usually goes down.
And what is meant by "dignity" anyway? Respect? Self-respect, or the respect obtained from others? Everyone wants respect, but obtaining it is usually easier said than done.
Human dignity comes from being a member of this species, from conception to natural death, and rights adhere at each moment.
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