Human Dignity Lecture and Conference 2016

"The End of Human Dignity?: Recovering the Intellectual Appeal of Human Dignity for the Theological and Philosophical Imagination"

All events take place in McKenna Hall Auditorium

This interdisciplinary conference will be held in McKenna Hall Auditorium, Notre Dame on April 3-5, 2016 and will feature a range of scholars defending the concept of human dignity against recent philosophical attacks.

Cardinal Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria, will open the conference by delivering the 2016 Human Dignity Lecture at McKenna Hall on Sunday April 3 at 7:00p.m.. “The End of Human Dignity?” conference will feature noted philosophers and theologians including Cyril O’Regan, Leon Kass, Gustavo Gutiérrez and David Walsh, to name a few.

In recent years the concept of human dignity has come under intense scrutiny and has even been dismissed as “stupid” and “useless.” The erosion or outright dismissal of the concept of human dignity raises foundational questions, such as who is the human person and what kind of communities do we wish to inhabit? What would society look like if the language of human dignity were partly or entirely eliminated from public discourse? Such questions require that those who would assert the concept’s normativity must offer a philosophical and theological response that takes seriously the critique, renews the discourse, and offers new possibilities for how we may meaningfully engage the concept of human dignity.

The aim of this conference is threefold: 

  • to  clarify the philosophical and theological foundations of human dignity
  • to articulate a multivalent account of human dignity that is persuasive and appealing by considering the places and practices where the recognition of dignity of the human person cannot be so easily dismissed
  • to offer a vision of human dignity anchored in the logic of attending to weakness and vulnerability

Download the complete schedule here

Sunday April 3, 7:00pm - Human Dignity Lecture

"Human Dignity: From Human Race to Human Family"

John Cardinal Onaiyekan | Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria

Monday April 4

(Please note new start time).

10:00am: The Dignity of Human Persons
Gilbert Meilaender | Richard and Phyllis Duesenberg Chair in Theological Ethics, Valparaiso University

11:15am: Pilgrims of the Absolute: A Personalist Understanding of Human Dignity
Margie Pfeil | University of Notre Dame

1:30pm:  Human Dignities of Death and Responsibility: Gabriel Marcel and Emmanuel Levinas
Sr. Ann Astell | University of Notre Dame

2:45pm: Dignity as an Eschatological Concept
David Walsh | Catholic University of America

4:00pm: The Virtue of Semantic Temperance: The Concept of Human Dignity and Catholic Social Teaching
Clemens Sedmak | University of Notre Dame

7:00pm: Rev. Gustavo Gutierrez, O.P. | University of Notre Dame

Tuesday April 5

8:45am: The Dignity Wars: The Battle for 'Human Dignity' in Public Bioethics"
O. Carter Snead | University of Notre Dame

9:30am: Reasoning About Dignity from within the Practices of Human Rights and Human Development
Paolo Carozza | University of Notre Dame

10:30am: Are There Failed Persons?
John O'Callaghan | University of Notre Dame

11:15am: A Pro-Life Spirituality of Dignity: Gratitude and Wonder
John Cavadini | University of Notre Dame

1:45pm: Is the Human Mind Reducible to Physics?
Stephen M. Barr |  University of Delaware; Director of the Barthols Research Center

3:00pm: Dignity, Biological Nature, and Human Enhancement
Gerald McKenney | University of Notre Dame

4:15pm: Defending Human Dignity
Leon Kass | Madden-Jewett Chair, American Enterprise Institute; Addie Clark Harding Professor Emeritus in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago

7:00pm: Benedict XVI and the Theological Horizon of Human Dignity
Cyril O'Regan | University of Notre Dame


All conference events will be held in the Notre Dame Conference Center - McKenna Hall on the University of Notre Dame campus. The campus is about a ten minute ride from the South Bend Regional Airport, and taxis are generally waiting outside the airport to transport passengers.

South Bend is accessible by air, the South Shore train from Chicago, and buses from both O'Hare and Midway airports in Chicago.

A campus map is available at: .  Public parking is available near McKenna in either the Visitors' Lot or at the Notre Dame Bookstore.


Attendees are responsible for booking their own lodging for the conference.

On campus:

The Morris Inn

Other local hotels near the University include (but are not limited to):

Inn at Saint Mary's

Fairfield Inn and Suites

Ivy Court Inn & Suites

Staybridge Suites (slightly farther from campus, but brand-new suites at a reasonable price; 7-10 mins from ND)


Please see here for places to eat on campus.

For further information, please email Brett Robinson or 574.631.6109