Understanding Human Dignity
Universidad Carlos III de Madrid
June 1, 2010
Human dignity represents one of the the main conquest of western humanism, recognizing an absolute and intrinsic value in each individual. It is also considered as he grounding of human rights (e.g. article 1 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights) and the rule of law. Moreover, several contemporary issues, such as cloning, gender equality, euthanasia, torture, the free disposal of the body, are related to this value. Nonetheless, the importance of human dignity contrasts with the fact that very few studies try to analyze this notion correctly. Indeed, a vast majority of academic works consist in criticizing this idea because of its ambiguities, vagueness and ethnocentrism. Also, many writings are just interested in understanding this value from theological and religious perspectives. Those approaches are relevant but can not be exclusive. Indeed, they do not take into account other parameters that might help to understand human dignity, such as philosophy, anthropology and history. Thus, this brief paper considers that human dignity should be understood through the historical process of Modernity and the particular notion of individualism. Human dignity represents the base and the horizon of the political and legal orders of the modern western societies. This reality comes from a general rupture due to Modernity: it consists in the fact that ontology is now preceded by axiology.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 10
Keywords: Human dignity, human rights, values, European identity
JEL Classification: B31, K14
Date posted: June 1, 2010 ; Last revised: June 7, 2010