Human dignity as a right

Frontiers of Philosophy in China 4 (3):370-384 (2009)
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Abstract

The concept of human dignity and the relationship between dignity and human rights have been important subjects in contemporary international academia. This article first analyzes the different understandings of the concept of dignity, which has left great influences in history (including the “theory of attribution-dignity”, the “theory of autonomy-dignity” or the “theory of moral completeness/achievement-dignity”, and the “theory of end-in-itself-dignity”); it then exposes the obvious defects of these modes of understanding; finally, it tries to define dignity as a moral right to be free from insult. Meanwhile, the relationship between human dignity and human rights is clarified as a result of this research: Rather than being the foundation of human rights, human dignity is one of human rights. The idea of dignity nevertheless has a particular status in ethics in that it embodies a kind of core moral concern, representing a basic demand rooted in the human self or individuality, and hence representing an important aspect of human rights. We may anticipate that sooner or later, the idea of human dignity will become, together with other human rights, the only intangible cultural heritage of human society.

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