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A Human Dignitas? The Contemporary Principle of Human Dignity as a Mere Reappraisal of an Ancient Legal Concept

EUI Working Papers LAW No. 2008/18

30 Pages Posted: 20 Nov 2008  

Stéphanie Hennette-Vauchez

EUI / Robert Schuman Center

Date Written: July 2008

Abstract

This paper suggests that the contemporary principle of human dignity in so far as it is used as means of limiting the exercise of individual freedom (in such landmark cases as the dwarf-throwing ones, as well as when used against prostitution, certain sexual conducts or the right to refuse medical treatment), does not have much to do with the human dignity principle that was consecrated after WWII. Rather, it shares many a resemblance with the ancient concept of dignitas, for it has the same function (ground obligations -and not rights), structure (obligations towards oneself) and regime (inalienability). The bondage between contemporary and ancient dignity is a crucial one, for it implies that the foundation of human rights paradigm, very common to post WWII usages of human dignity, can no longer serve as a justification for the human dignity principle.

Keywords: human dignity, fundamental rights, obligations

Suggested Citation

Hennette-Vauchez, Stéphanie, A Human Dignitas? The Contemporary Principle of Human Dignity as a Mere Reappraisal of an Ancient Legal Concept (July 2008). EUI Working Papers LAW No. 2008/18. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1303427 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1303427

Stéphanie Hennette-Vauchez (Contact Author)

EUI / Robert Schuman Center ( email )

Villa La Fonte, via delle Fontanelle 18
50016 San Domenico di Fiesole
Florence, Florence 50014
Italy

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