The Body and Being Human   /   Summer 2001   /    Introduction

The Body and Being Human

From the Editors

Our bodies are central to everything we know and experience. And yet, most of us take our bodies for granted; we don't reflect on the ways in which our bodies provide the grounds for our consciousness, language, worldviews, relationships, and even spirituality. But things are changing rapidly for the human body, and we need to reflect on how these changes are affecting what it means to be human.

It is now possible to do more for, with, and to the human body than ever before. Developments in human reproduction, genetic engineering, organ transplantation, computer technology, and a host of bio-enhancement practices give us the potential to overcome many of the body's constraints and limitations. At the same time, these and related developments also contribute to a deep uncertainty about what constitutes the body, its boundaries, its potential, and its meaning.

It is no surprise, then, that these developments have generated a wide range of social and political controversies in their wake—not only in America but globally. At the heart of all of them are implicit, and conflicting, conceptions of the body.

Consider just two prominent views of the body by way of illustration.

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