A human dignitas? The contemporary principle of human dignity as a mere reappraisal of an ancient legal concept
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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This paper suggests that the contemporary principle of human dignity in so far as it is used as means of limiting the exercise of individual freedom (in such landmark cases as the dwarf-throwing ones, as well as when used against prostitution, certain sexual conducts or the right to refuse medical treatment), does not have much to do with the human dignity principle that was consecrated after WWII. Rather, it shares many a resemblance with the ancient concept of dignitas, for it has the same function (ground obligations -and not rights), structure (obligations towards oneself) and regime (inalienability). The bondage between contemporary and ancient dignity is a crucial one, for it implies that the foundation of human rights paradigm, very common to post WWII usages of human dignity, can no longer serve as a justification for the human dignity principle.
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