Dignity as Perception: Recognition of the Human Individual and the Individual Animal in Legal Thought
Chapter 34 in Understanding Human Dignity, Proceedings of the British Academy 192, ed. Christopher McCrudden, Oxford: Oxford University Press for the British Academy, 2013.
18 Pages Posted: 6 Jun 2015
Date Written: 2013
Human dignity is natural, a normal state of affairs descriptively as well as normatively. It is a result of learning, learning to see the human individual. Perception of the individual begins to block calculation as a form of thought – looking for justification in relative numbers, thinking in terms of systems. If perception of the individual does not block calculation entirely, it acts as a pressure in the mind toward a different kind of thinking, facing the tragic in actions taken and moving into the world of remorse, forgiveness, and beginning again. Perception of the individual is as great a human achievement as the development of perception in physics and mathematics. It has been achieved not once but twice, as the human relationship with other sentient beings on earth has been brought into the world of human law. Understanding human dignity can be clarified and confirmed by turning to its analog where sentient creatures beyond the human are concerned.
Keywords: animal, dignity, individual, individuality, law, person, science, sentience, spirit, torture, bioethics, animal law, human rights, utilitarianism, cost-benefit analysis, slavery, human experimentation, animal experimentation, Nuremberg Trials
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