A Wall Street Journal Top Ten Book of the Year
A First Things Books for Christmas Selection
Winner of the Expanded Reason Award
“This important work of moral philosophy argues that we are, first and foremost, embodied beings, and that public policy must recognize the limits and gifts that this entails.”
—Wall Street Journal
The natural limits of the human body make us vulnerable and dependent on others. Yet law and policy concerning biomedical research and the practice of medicine frequently disregard these stubborn facts. What It Means to Be Human makes the case for a new paradigm, one that better reflects the gifts and challenges of being human.
O. Carter Snead proposes a framework for public bioethics rooted in a vision of human identity and flourishing that supports those who are profoundly vulnerable and dependent—children, the disabled, and the elderly. He addresses three complex public matters: abortion, assisted reproductive technology, and end-of-life decisions. Avoiding typical dichotomies of conservative-liberal and secular-religious, Snead recasts debates within his framework of embodiment and dependence. He concludes that if the law is built on premises that reflect our lived experience, it will provide support for the vulnerable.
“This remarkable and insightful account of contemporary public bioethics and its individualist assumptions is indispensable reading for anyone with bioethical concerns.”
—Alasdair MacIntyre, author of After Virtue
“A brilliantly insightful book about how American law has enshrined individual autonomy as the highest moral good…Highly thought-provoking.”
—Francis Fukuyama, author of Identity