Benjamin G. Gregg

  • Associate Professor (Department of Government, College of Liberal Arts)


  • PhD Princeton
  • MA Princeton
  • PhD Free University of Berlin
  • BA Yale

NEWEST BOOK: I recently published my second book on human rights, The Human Rights State , this time with the University of Pennsylvania Press. ::: The Raoul Wallenberg Institute (RWI) in Lund, Sweden (affiliated with Lund University, the RWI is an international leader in combining academic research and practical training to support human rights education) recently published the following podcast ::: ::: I have been speaking (and will be speaking) on The Human Rights State in Europe, North America, and Japan: 2016 Invited Lecture, “Human Rights in East Asia,” University of Hokkaido, School of Law, Sapporo, Japan, August 15 2016 Distinguished Invited Lecture: “Human Rights as Social Construction: In Dialogue with the Jesuit Tradition,” University of Duesto, Human Rights Institute, Bilbao, Spain, 27-28 June 2016 Distinguished Invited Lecture: “The Human Rights Challenges Posed by Human Genetic Engineering,” University of Oslo, Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, Oslo, Norway, 13 June 2016 Invited Talk: “Die menschliche Natur als Technologieprodukt: Träume und Albträume der Genmanipulation” [Human Nature as a Product of Technology: Promises and Perils of Human Genetic Manipulation], Abteilung Kulturwissenschaften an der Kunstuniversität Linz, Austria, 01 June 2016 Distinguished Invited Lecture: “The Human Rights Challenges Posed by Human Genetic Engineering,” University of Helsinki, Erik Castrén Institute of International Law and Human Rights, Helsinki, Finland, 24 May 2016 “The Human Rights State: Political Community Beyond the Nation State,” Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Institute of Philosophy, Prague, 18-22 May 2016 Distinguished Invited Lecture: “Human Genetic Engineering: Pressing Issues of Law, Medicine, and Ethics,” DeCode Genetics, Reykjavík, Iceland, 27 April (response by DeCode Founder and CEO, Kári Stefánsson) 2016 Distinguished Invited Lecture: “Genetically Informed Personalized Education: Promises and Perils for Social Justice,” Higher Seminar in Practical Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, Lund, Sweden, 7 April 2016 Distinguished Invited Lecture: “The Human Rights Challenge of Genetic Engineering,” Raul Wallenberg Institute, Lund, Sweden, 6 April 2015 Distinguished Invited Lecture: “The Relationship between Human Rights and Democracy,” Department of Political Science, University of Missouri at Columbia, September 21 2015 “Social Inequalities in the Enhancement of Health through Genetic Manipulation,” European Consortium for Political Research General Conference, Standing Group on Political Theory, Université de Montréal, Canada, August 26-29 2015 “Genetic Diversity Among Humans: A Human Rights Issue?” International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Study of Biology, Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada, July 5-10 2015 “A Human Right Not to Democracy but to the Rule of Law,” Annual Conference of the Association for Social and Political Philosophy, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, June 25-26 2015 Distinguished Invited Lecture: “Human Rights as Constructs: Without Religion or Metaphysics,” Centre for Contemporary Aristotelian Studies in Ethics and Politics, London Metropolitan University, UK, May 26 2015 Distinguished Invited Lecture: “Fundamental Questions for Political Community Posed by Genetic Manipulation,” University of the West of Scotland, Paisely, UK, May 22 2015 Keynote Address: Glasgow Human Rights Network, University of Glasgow, “Challenges to Human Rights Theory and Practice,” Scotland, UK, May 20 I note that some of these talks focus exclusively on The Human Rights State while others address the overlap between The Human Rights State and my current work-in-progress (for Cambridge University Press), Human Nature as Cultural

CURRENT BOOK-IN-PROGRESS (for Cambridge University Press) titled "Human Nature as Cultural Design: The Political Challenge of Human Genetic Engineering" ::: HERE a section on "On Human Nature and Genetically Engineered Human Intelligence" ::: For the first time since evolving 200,000 years ago, Homo sapiens sapiens may soon transform itself biologically, a development no less significant than Copernicus’ transformation of the geocentric world view or Darwin’s of the anthropocentric understanding of animal life. One aspect of transformation is irresistibly hopeful: making predictive genetics available to all persons so that all might avoid or minimize genetic risks; providing prenatal genetic modification to decrease disease-susceptibility, eradicate congenital disabilities and extend life-span. But a different aspect of transformation unnerves: like the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions, it forces us to re-evaluate our understandings of ourselves as human beings and our relationship to other forms of life on our planet. I do just that in a book I am currently writing titled Human Nature as Cultural Design: The Political Challenge of Human Genetic Engineering. For reasons I develop below, I argue that we humans should regard our own nature as socially constructed rather than as something given naturally or supernaturally. Consider, for example, the prospect of genetically engineering human intelligence. And of the many questions that pose themselves, consider two. First, is it ethical? The answer to this question depends on the ethics one invokes in answering it. Any answer is likely to involve one or the other of the many conceptions of human nature. If “human nature” is something natural, such as an aspect of a wholly naturalistic understanding of the evolved species homo sapiens, then engineering any part of it, including human intelligence, is not unethical from the standpoint of natural science because natural science has no moral content, indeed no meaning whatsoever. But over the last ten thousand years, this worldly nature has been interpreted non-scientifically again and again, for example from the otherworldly perspectives of religion and metaphysics. These perspectives invest nature with distinctly non-natural properties. The Book of Genesis, written in the 6th or 5th century BCE, invests the natural universe with divine design and purpose. From that perspective, engineering the human being may be regarded as violating a sacred design (but presumably only for those who share this very particular worldview). Modern biology has no concept of what philosophers, theologians, and poets call “human nature.” Still, modern secular political communities, such as liberal democratic nation states, need to socially construct a range of human natures for purposes of social organization. Above all, one or the other notion of human nature can be useful in grounding the normative legitimation of a system of laws and to guide some forms of public policy. For example, the German Constitution, Article 1, declares that “human dignity shall be inviolable.” The term dignity may be interpreted as allowing the engineering of human intelligence; it can just as well be interpreted as not allowing it. Either interpretation will base itself on a particular conception of human nature. That conception will be law not because it is true — propositions about nature can be true or false (as a matter of objectivity) whereas propositions about how people should be treated can be just or unjust (as a matter of intersubjective social construction). In sum, whether it is ethical to engineer human intelligence depends on what ethical system one deploys to answer this question. There are many ethical systems in history, in the world today, and new ones no doubt will be developed in the future. All of these are incompatible with each other to various degrees, and agreement on any one is in principle possible, but exceedingly

SELECTED PUBLICATIONS ******************************************************************************** The Human Rights State, University of Pennsylvania Press (April 2016) ******************************************************************************** Paperback edition of Human Rights as Social Construction (Cambridge University Press), published July 2013 (hardcopy twice re-published, 2012) ************************************************************************** “Advancing Human Rights in Post-Authoritarian Communities through Education,” Journal of Human Rights Practice, 2015 ******************************************************************************** “Human Rights as Metaphor for Political Community Beyond the Nation State," Critical Sociology, 2015 ******************************************************************************** “Die Bedeutung des Internets für die Bildung einer kritischen Öffentlichkeit” [Problems and Prospects for a Critical Public Sphere On-Line], in Kurt Imhof, Frank Welz, Christian Fleck and Georg Vobruba, eds. Neuer Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit. Wiesbaden, Germany: Springer VS Verlag, forthcoming ******************************************************************************** “Im Strukturwandel der Weltöffentlichkeit: Auf dem Wege zu einem Pluralismus?” [A Pluralistic Conception of Human Rights for a Global Public Sphere?], in in Kurt Imhof, Frank Welz, Christian Fleck and Georg Vobruba, eds. Neuer Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit. Wiesbaden, Germany: Springer VS Verlag, forthcoming ******************************************************************************** “Teaching Human Rights in the College Classroom as a Cognitive Style,” in J. Shefner, H. Dahms, R. Jones, and A. Jalata, eds., Social Justice and the University, Basingstoke, United Kingdom: Palgrave (2014): 253-279 ****************************************************************************“ “Might the Noble Savage have Joined the Earliest Cults of Rousseau?” in Jesko Reiling and Daniel Tröhler, eds., Entre hétérogénéité et imagination. Pratiques de la réception de Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Genève: Éditions Slatkine (in the series Travaux sur la Suisse des Lumières) (2013) 345-364 ******************************************************************************** “Genetic Enhancement: A New Dialectic of Enlightenment?” in Perspektiven der Aufklärung: Zwischen Mythos und Realität, ed. Dietmar Wetzel. Paderborn, Germany: Verlag Wilhelm Fink (2012): 133-146 **************************************************************************** “Comparative Perspectives on Social Integration in Pluralistic Societies: Thick Norms versus Thin,” Comparative Sociology (2012) 11:629-648 ******************************************************************************** “Politics Disembodied and Deterritorialized: The Internet as Human Rights Resource” in H. Dahms and L. Hazelrigg, eds., Theorizing Modern Society as a Dynamic Process (in Current Perspectives in Social Theory, vol. 30). Bingley, UK: Emerald (2012): 209–233 ******************************************************************************** Human-Rights as Social Construction. Cambridge University Press, 2012. (+) first printing sold out within seven months of publication; (+) now in its third printing; (+) ranked among CUP’s ten bestsellers in political theory (other authors on the list include Bernard Manin, Theda Skocpol, Jane Mansbridge, Mark Bevir, Cass Sunstein): ****************************************************************************** “Individuals as Authors of Human Rights: Not only Addressees,” Theory and Society 39 (2010) 631-661 **************************************************************************** “