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Coming to Terms with Being Human

Michael J. Hyde

Publication Year: 2010

In a masterful survey of the history of the idea of human perfection, prize-winning author and noted rhetorician Michael J. Hyde leads a fascinating excursion through philosophy, religion, science, and art. Eloquently and engagingly he delves into the canon of Western thought, drawing on figures from St. Augustine and John Rawls to Leonardo da Vinci and David Hume to Kenneth Burke and Mary Shelley. On the journey, Hyde expounds on the workings of daily existence, the development of reason, and the bounds of beauty. In the end, he ponders the consequences of the perfection-driven impulse of medical science and considers the implications of the bourgeoning rhetoric of “our posthuman future.” It is a triumphant examination of the human quest for significance.

To read a Q & A with Michael Hyde:  http://www2.journalnow.com/content/2010/feb/24/232100/perfect-author-writes-what-it-means/living/

Published by: Baylor University Press


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xviii

This book evolved from two earlier works (The Call of Conscience and The Life-Giving Gift of Acknowledgment) that, as they were researched and written, headed me in the direction of having to struggle with the issue of perfection.1 The first a “call of conscience,” and how this call is further facilitated ongoing debate in the United States over the justifiability and...

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1. Coming to Terms with Perfection

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pp. 1-17

Have you ever perceived perfection in yourself, in others, in human inventions and artistic creations, in the workings of nature? At the moment of discovery, some change in consciousness, in perception and thought, likely occurred that moved your attention away from its habitual and routine involvements in the everyday world and toward something else at work in this...

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2. God on a Good Day

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pp. 19-38

During the early stages of researching and writing this book, I had an experience that spoke directly to my interests. I was sitting in an auditorium listening to the chairman of the board of trustees of my university explain to students and faculty how the search was going for hiring a new university president. ...

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3. Interpreting the Call

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pp. 39-57

Socrates describes the call as a “prophetic voice” that first came to him in early childhood and remained his “constant companion.”1 The voice commanded his “service to God (23b), which he took to mean that his life’s calling must be that of “leading the philosophical life” (28e), of “elucidating the truth” for others (29d) and encouraging them “not to think more of practical...

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4. The Otherness All Around Us

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pp. 59-76

In both Judaism and Christianity, the issue of otherness is central to the hermeneutical, rhetorical, and moral enterprise of casuistry, which is specifically concerned with casus conscientiae or “cases of conscience.” These cases bring together the otherness of God’s truth, as expressed primarily in the Scriptures, and the...

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5. Reason

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pp. 77-106

Live life to the fullest! This well-known expression typically comes from people—parents, spouses, teachers, close friends, lovers—who care about our well-being. The expression speaks to the possibility and joy of reaching our full potential before it is too late. ...

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6. Beauty

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pp. 107-147

Professor of civil engineering and historian Henry Petroski tells the story of a person who shared with him on a public radio show her enthusiasm for an object “that she was not sure anyone else would appreciate but which she marveled at when she had a hot pizza delivered: the ‘thingy’ that keeps the top of the box from sagging and getting stuck to the melted cheese.” ...

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7. The Lived Body

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pp. 149-179

In his meditations on beauty and how its presence is related to the order and chaos of life, Crispin Sartwell offers the following observation. ...

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8. The Good Life, the Good Death

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pp. 181-210

Despite our many excellences, human beings are still animals, fallible creatures: at our best, we live lives that, at one and the same time, advance and forever fall short of the metaphysical goal of ever having it all together before we pass away. As noted in the introduction of this book, there appears to be a significant point: “the life of man is of no greater importance to the universe...

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9. The Biotechnology Debate

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pp. 211-241

In his award-winning book Redesigning Humans: Choosing Our Genes, Changing Our Future, Gregory Stock speaks to us of what in the literatures of computer science and biotechnology is termed a "transhumanist" or "posthumanist": ...

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10. On Being an Oxymoron

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pp. 243-279

The first essay in Human Dignity and Bioethics is titled “How to Protect Human Dignity from Science.” Its author is the debate. Dennett’s scholarly reputation and the title of his essay do not seem to go together. The clash here is somewhat oxymoronic, somewhat like a “perfect storm.” ...


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pp. 281-308


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pp. 309-322

E-ISBN-13: 9781602584990
E-ISBN-10: 1602584990
Print-ISBN-13: 9781602582446
Print-ISBN-10: 1602582440

Page Count: 325
Illustrations: 9
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: 1