The question of what constitutes a human being, being human, humanness or humanity, in all its variations, has been a longstanding feature in academic and public discourse, and particularly in its relation with human rights. The varied answers and perspectives can influence attitudes and social behaviour that are either in line with or in opposition to human rights norms. The lecture will consider the various perspectives from philosophical, biological, theological, sociological and legal sources, and how these categorizations intersect with human rights objectives. Particular consideration will be given to how concepts of equality and dignity are incorporated or omitted in the categorizations, and finally, the necessity for consensus about what is categorically human, in light of the dangers that categorizations can lead to dehumanization and breaching of human rights standards.
ToPHSS Lectures are part of the project “Topics in the Philosophy of the Human and Social Sciences”, funded by the Humanities Initiative. The project aims to cross boundaries between disciplines of the humanities and social sciences concerned with ‘the human’, that is with human beings, humanity, society, culture, history, and more. It focuses on methodological and ontological issues, in particular on those concerned with contested categories of the humanities and social sciences, and of those primarily on the categories of human, individual and person. This term the first focus is on the contested divide between nature and culture.