Human Dignity in Context. An Introduction
Forthcoming in: Dieter Grimm / Alexandra Kemmerer / Christoph Möllers (eds), Human Dignity in Context. Explorations of a Contested Concept, Nomos, Baden- Baden / Hart Publishing, Oxford 2018 (Recht im Kontext 5).
10 Pages Posted: 22 Dec 2017
Date Written: December 19, 2017
Human dignity is a complex topic. It is a philosophical, a theological as well as a legal concept and refers to a long and manifold intellectual history – a history it brought to the human rights context, to which it has been applied only rather recently. Within the legal world, it remains a gateway for ethical arguments. And as such it has received increased attention in recent years. Equally when the prohibition of torture was called into question during the so-called war on terror or when the ethical limits of biotechnology became more relevant in the face of disappearing practical boundaries, these issues were debated in dignity-based language in and outside the legal world. Human dignity arguments thus transcend disciplinary boundaries.
To confront this phenomenon, and as the title suggests, we attempt to put human dignity in context. On the one hand, bringing context to universal concepts is an ambivalent undertaking. As our arguments claim to be universal when we evoke human dignity, they defy the very idea of context. On the other hand, given the abstractness of the concept and its application to various fields, we run the risk of missing something if we ignore the different contexts. In fact, it may often be easier to agree on the violation of human dignity in a specific context than on the abstract meaning of the notion. It is no coincidence therefore that German constitutional lawyers, following Günter Dürig, approach dignity cases not by abstractly conceptualizing what is protected under art. 1 Basic Law but by determining acts of infringement instead.
This volume is the result of two conferences on human dignity convened by the editors and held at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (Institute for Advanced Study Berlin) on 16-18 November 2011 and 19-21 June 2013. As exercises in comparative constitutional law in context, both events brought together a wide array of scholars from various disciplinary and regional backgrounds.
Keywords: Human Dignity, Comparative Constitutional Law, Human Rights, Ethics, Legal Philosophy
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