For the Life of the World / Yale Center for Faith & Culture

What Is a Human Life Worth? / John Hare & Miroslav Volf

Episode Summary

How much is a human life worth? What price should society be willing to pay to save a single human life? Miroslav Volf and Yale philosopher John Hare discuss Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s most fundamental question behind reopening the economy from COVID-19 lockdown.

Episode Notes

Theologian Miroslav Volf and philosopher John Hare (Noah Porter Professor of Philosophical Theology at Yale Divinity School) discuss Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s fundamental question behind reopening the economy from COVID-19 lockdown, “How much is a human life worth?” Why we should go to such great lengths, sacrificing so much, to save a single human life? What about humans gives us dignity? How should we approach the dilemmas posed by incommensurable values, where there’s no agreed upon standard for comparison? How can we better frame the question of the value of human life by observing the life of Jesus?

“My conviction is that human life doesn't have a price. And I take this from the philosophy of Immanual Kant, who distinguishes between the dignity human life has, and price. And dignity is, he says, incommensurable worth."

"Jesus came to be with us: Emmanuel. And that's what we have lost. We can't be with each other. … I think what we've learned through this is: A good human life is one that has physical contiguity with other humans."

"I was for some years working on the staff of Congress, and public policy decisions often came down to this question of comparing goods. I think a Christian has has something to say about this, and it is, Miroslav, part of your work, that you've been thinking about what a good human life is like. One of the ways to look at that is to look at what the life of Jesus was like. And that gives us a sense of what's important, what matters. It doesn't answer all the questions, but it does give us a map as it were, of how we should think about what is more important and what is less."