Being Human: Core Readings in the Humanities, edited by Leon Kass, is one book worth a spot on the shelf of anyone interested in bioethics or concerns about human dignity. A series of excerpts from things that we read—or should have read—in high school or college, it was selected by the members of President George W. Bush’s President’s Council on Bioethics in 2003. The readings are sorted into ten chapters, organized into three major sections: “natural imperfection and human longing,” “the human being and the life cycle,” and “living well.” Each chapter’s group of readings is preceded by a brief introduction that appears intended to guide your typical undergraduate seminar discussion—or your neighborhood book club. The short bite-sized selections can easily be used for discussion groups, without burdening group members with too heavy a reading assignment. Or they can be read and meditated on, individually, at leisure. Or they can be goads to go back and read more fully that novel that you never got to in college. This is a collection of and from literature, a needed respite from the all-too-often robotic thinking of daily business or the relatively sterile exercise of analytic argument, not to mention the mindless rhetoric of television, the internet, and social media that militates against reflection and discourse. Don’t hesitate to get it.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.