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Is Human Life Special?

Religious and Philosophical Perspectives on the Principle of Human Dignity

Göran Collste

The principle of human dignity has greatly influenced the Western moral tradition. It has, however, during the last few decades been questioned by a number of moral philosophers, many of them involved in applied ethics. The aim of this study is to examine different religious and philosophical views on whether human life is special and, if it is, in what respects. The book is divided into three main sections. The first section includes an examination of some important religious contributions from the past and the present. In the next section, the views of modern philosophers criticising the principle and of those defending it are examined. Finally, the meaning and relevance of the principle, when applied to certain moral problems in the modern world, are discussed. With reference to the discussion on priorities in health care it is argued that although the principle has a religious origin it may function as a universal moral principle in a modern pluralistic and secularised society.
Contents: The Principle of Human Dignity – The Foundation: Early Christianity – Man, the Master of Created Beings: Thomas Aquinas on the Sanctity of Human Beings – The Modern Catholic View – Protestant Tradition – Islam on the Sanctity of Human Life – Utilitarianism – Animal Ethics – The Principle of Human Dignity: Philosophical Defence – The Meaning and Relevance of a Principle of Human Dignity – Infanticide and the Principle of Human Dignity – Priorities in Health Care and the Principle of Human Dignity – This book discusses the theories of the following philosophers and theologians with regard to the Principle of Human Dignity: Augustine, Aquinas, Al-Ghazali, Karl Barth, Paul Ramsey, Joseph Fletcher, John Harris, Jonathan Glover, Helga Kuhse, Peter Singer, Tom Regan, James Rachels, Alan Donogan, Alan Gewirth and Ronald Dworkin.