Dignity, contractualism and consequentialism

Utilitas 20 (4):383-408 (2008)
Abstract
Kantian respect for persons is based on the special status and dignity of humanity. There are, however, at least three distinct kinds of interpretation of the principle of respect for the dignity of persons: the contractualist conception, the substantive conception and the direct conception. Contractualist theories are the most common and familiar interpretation. The contractualist assumes that some form of consent or agreement is the crucial factor that is required by respect for persons. The substantive conceptions of dignity, on the other hand, treat the concept of dignity as a substantive value that justifies a deontological conception of respect for persons. A third conception of respect for the dignity of persons, the conception that I favor, focuses directly on the special value of our rational nature. According to this consequentialist conception, we respect the dignity of persons by promoting the flourishing of rational nature.
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