Dignity, Choice, and Circumstances
Christopher McCrudden ed., Understanding Human Dignity, Proceedings of the British Academy/Oxford University Press, 2013, Forthcoming
16 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2013
Date Written: 2013
Dignity is at least in part about choice, choices about the character and direction of one’s life. However, many do not enjoy autonomy-fostering circumstances and yet must still make choices. Such choices and the circumstances shaping them are often the context of social and economic rights contests in a wide array of concrete legal contexts. All too often, state actors, including judges, take the easy way out in resolving such contests — ratifying the choices made by desperate people as though they were autonomous and free. In doing so, they sometimes claim to be respecting the dignity of those whose choices they validate. This chapter offers a critique of simple invocations of choice in the name of dignity and argues for the need for a more complex understanding of the autonomy dimension of human dignity.
Keywords: Autonomy, Circumstances of Choice, Dignity and Choice
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