The Ethics Blog

A blog from the Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics (CRB)

Tag: humanism

Who belongs to us?

Bioethics has a problem with human beings, the philosopher Roland Kipke writes. It must ask who belongs to our moral community. Who has rights? Who has human dignity? Who has the moral status usually attributed to healthy adult humans? Who has the right to life? The question is: Who belongs to us? Are human embryos […]

Intellectual asceticism

We dismiss the magician’s claim to be in touch with the spirit world. We dismiss the priest’s claim to be in touch with the divine. We do not believe in supernatural contact with a purer world beyond this one! Nevertheless, similar claims permeate our enlightened rationalist tradition. Even philosophers promised contact with a purer sphere. […]

Being humans when we are animals

Most people know that humans are animals, a primate species. Still, it is difficult to apply that knowledge directly to oneself: “I’m an animal”; “My parents are apes.” – Can you say it without feeling embarrassed and slightly dizzy? In a recent paper I explore this difficulty of “bringing home” an easily cited scientific fact: […]

Is it human fan club mentality?

Philosophers often put humans on display as beings that have some unique quality, like rationality or conceptual powers. And conversely they present animals as beings that lack that quality. What comparison underlies such a notion of “human positivity” and “animal negativity”? One could suspect that the dualism arises through a human-centered comparison. As if intellectual […]

Beware of the vanity of “autonomy”

Important words easily become totalitarian. They begin with communicating some humanly important point, so we listen with attention. But then it is as if the words suffered from vanity and assumed that our attention was directed at them; not at what they were used to say. Over time, the words become like grammatical codes of […]

Humorous and comical thinkers

In my philosophical reading experience it is striking that some thinkers crack really good jokes. They are humorous and I laugh with them. Others are comical in their unyielding seriousness: difficult not to make jokes of. Humor is not exactly what you think of when you think of philosophy. Hardly anyone reads philosophy to get […]

Human and animal: where is the frontline?

Yesterday I read Lars Hertzberg’s thoughtful blog, Language is things we do. His latest post drew my attention to a militant humanist, Raymond Tallis (who resembles another militant humanist, Roger Scruton). Tallis published Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity. He summarizes his book in this presentation on YouTube. Tallis gesticulates violently. As […]

Who, or what, becomes human?

Our long childhood and dependence on parental care seem to leave no doubt about it: we are not born as humans, we become human. I want to highlight a particularly tempting metaphor for this process of “becoming human” – the metaphor of: “Order out of chaos.” According to this metaphor, human infancy is abundantly rich […]

Neither innate nor learned

A child begins to speak; to say that it is hungry, or does not want to sleep. Where was the child’s language hiding before it began to speak? Did the child invent it? Certainly not, experts on language development would insist. A child cannot create language. Language exists before the child starts to speak. All […]

Trapped in our humanity?

Being human, can I think nonhuman thoughts? Can the world I perceive be anything but a human world? These philosophical questions arise when I read Cora Diamond’s and Bernard Williams’ humanistic portrayals of our relations to animals. A certain form of “human self-centeredness” is often deemed unavoidable in philosophy. If I talk about a dog as […]