Human dignity in concept and practice

Policy Sciences
By:  and 



Dignity seems to be something that virtually all people want. It is a seminal expression of the human experience that gains authority through the convergent demands of people worldwide. Even so, the human dignity concept is in unhelpful disarray. Dignity is variously viewed as an antecedent, a consequence, a value, a principle, and an experience, from philosophical, legal, pragmatic, psychological, behavioral, and cultural perspectives. We ask which if any of these human dignity concepts will likely serve our global common interests best, as both common ground and policy diagnostic? We examine four broad themes: dignity as (1) a metaphysical justification for human rights and duties, (2) virtuous comportment or behavior, (3) a perspective of “other,” and (4) a subjective experience of the individual, contingent on a broad and equitable sharing of values. We recommend viewing dignity as a commonwealth of individually assessed well-being, shaped by relationships with others, affected by the physical world, and framed in terms of values. Viewed this way, the idea of dignity accommodates the priorities of both individualistic and communitarian cultures. Conceiving of human dignity as a commonwealth of subjectively experienced value production and enjoyment has many practical policy implications.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Human dignity in concept and practice
Series title Policy Sciences
DOI 10.1007/s11077-010-9124-0
Volume 44
Issue 4
Year Published 2011
Language English
Publisher Springer Link
Description 17 p.
First page 303
Last page 319
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