Human Dignity, Self-Worth and Humiliation: A Comparative Legal-Psychological Approach

Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, Vol. 18, No. 1, 2012

71 Pages Posted: 28 Nov 2011 Last revised: 15 Apr 2015

Doron Shultziner

Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Faculty of Law; Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Political Science Department

Itai Rabinovici

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: 2011

Abstract

The concept of human dignity is a central concept in many legal systems. Yet the increasing and sometimes excessive use of this concept has generated a number of serious problems which have only recently become clear in empirical research and court rulings showing that the meanings of dignity have become contradictory and can no longer advance human rights protections. This paper offers a way out of the deadlock. We offer an approach which is anchored in the psychology of the self, specifically in the human need for maintaining positive self-worth. We elaborate on what this conceptualization means in terms of violations of dignity, emphasizing dignity’s antonym, humiliation, as well as other closely related aspects of social exclusion, lowering of social status, and denials of recognition more generally. We then demonstrate that this approach has in fact been applied in a range of important legal cases, often establishing constitutional precedents. We illustrate this through a comparative review and analysis of judgments from the United States Supreme Court, the European Court of Human Rights, and the Supreme Court of Israel. We argue that this psychological approach to human dignity can bring logic and consistency back into its meaning and usages.

Keywords: human dignity, self-worth, humiliation, legal interpretation, human rights, therapeutic jurisprudence

Suggested Citation

Shultziner, Doron and Rabinovici, Itai, Human Dignity, Self-Worth and Humiliation: A Comparative Legal-Psychological Approach (2011). Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, Vol. 18, No. 1, 2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1964371 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1964371

Doron Shultziner (Contact Author)

Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Faculty of Law ( email )

Mount Scopus, 91905
Israel

Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Political Science Department ( email )

Mount Scopus
Jerusalem
Israel

Itai Rabinovici

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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