Photo by Katarzyna Grabowska
Humanize From Discovery Institute's Center on Human Exceptionalism

Carter Snead on the Fundamental Disagreement of Our Time: What a Person Is

“The fundamental disagreement … is about what a person is — what human flourishing is, what is the nature of human identity, what is human nature, is there such a thing as human nature. And I think that it divides along, broadly, two polarities that you see play out in our public conversations and our private conversations…”

One view, as Professor Carter Snead of Notre Dame lays out in this rich five minutes, is that what defines a human being is that you have “will and desire”. The other and older view is what Alasdair MacIntyre calls “recipricol indebtedness”:

Professor Snead points to the question of telos; to whether human life has any concrete end or purpose outside of our fleeting autonomy.

One way to start thinking through the question of telos is to ask whether it makes more sense to wake up in the morning and view this new day — this latest page in the latest chapter of your life — as a right and as something due to you, or whether to view today as a gift.

Gratitude is the “glass half full” view of life. Gratitude is a great antidote to the wearying attitude that our happiness necessarily ends at the boundary lines of our autonomy, our ability to exercise our will out there in the world and upon others we encounter.

Ingratitude is the “glass half empty” view of life. Ingratitude is the anxious sense that we are not really achieving our potential if we’re not somehow imposing ourselves upon others, or upon the world itself. Ingratitude is wearying because it is loveless.

Inexplicably, and against all the odds, we are here together. What do we finally make of that?

Tom Shakely

Research Fellow, Center on Human Exceptionalism
Tom Shakely is a Research Fellow with Discovery Institute's Center on Human Exceptionalism where he focuses on human dignity, human rights, and law and policy. Tom has spoken on human rights issues at the United Nations, testified to the District of Columbia City Council on conscience rights, and advised on testimony before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and U.S. House of Representatives.