Uehiro Internal Research Seminar: Professor Benjamin Gregg

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Updated 5 January 2022

A Human Right to Freedom from Genetic Disability

If individual autonomy is a feature of individual well-being, then physical or mental disability can be seen to reduce the disabled person’s well-being. Prospective parents might exercise procreative autonomy to screen their embryos for genetic disabilities toward selecting a disability-free embryo. They would then seek to facilitate the expectable possible autonomy of a future person, their child. These two forms of autonomy —the autonomy of a future person, and the parents’ procreative autonomy — are challenged by a third: the autonomy of a disabled person whose genetic characteristics, at the embryonal stage of life, were not screened for disability, hence a person not “chosen” for her disability-free genetic constitution. This line of argument opposes a human right that would prohibit all forms of genetic selection. Instead, it supports a human right to freedom from genetic disability.

Speaker: Benjamin Gregg  (University of Texas at Austin and Lund University, Sweden)

Benjamin Gregg is Professor of Government and teaches social and political theory, as well as bioethics, informed by philosophy and sociology, at the University of Texas at Austin but also in Germany (Frankfurt/O.), Austria (Linz and Innsbruck), Sweden (Lund), Japan (Tokyo and Hokkaido), China (Beijing), and Brazil (Goiãnia). He studied with Michael Walzer in Princeton, Axel Honneth in Berlin, and Seyla Benhabib at Yale. In addition to more than eighty articles, he is the author of The Human Rights State (Pennsylvania, 2016); Human Rights as Social Construction (Cambridge, 2012); Thick Moralities, Thin Politics (Duke, 2003); and Coping in Politics with Indeterminate Norms (SUNY, 2003). In 2022 Cambridge University Press will publish his newest book, Constructing Human Nature: The Political Challenges of Genetic Engineering, which he wrote as a visiting researcher at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics in 2018. He has presented aspects of this project at invited lectures in Europe, Asia, South America, and the United States. His work has been translated into German, Portuguese, Italian, Japanese, and Chinese. He is the 2021-2022 Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Public International Law at Lund University, Sweden. He will be a Visiting Researcher at the Centre for Biomedical Ethics, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, in the summer of 2022.

This internal talk is for Oxford Uehiro Centre members and associates.


Zoom Meeting: Email rachel.gaminiratne@philosophy.ox.ac.uk to request the meeting link and passcode