Normative aspects of the human body

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 28 (2):171 – 185 (2003)


In cultural history the human body has been the object of a great variety of opposing valuations, ranging from "imago dei" to "the devil's tool". At present, the body is commonly regarded as a mere means to fulfill the wishes of its "owner". According to these wishes it can be technically improved in an unlimited way. Against this view the text argues for a conception of the human body as a valuable "common heritage". The "normal" human body as the result of natural and cultural history is an essential condition of the modern social and legal order. The consequences of its technical alteration should be the subject of public debates and common decisions.

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Ludwig Siep
University of Münster

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