Bioethics and the Demise of the Concept of Human Dignity

Human Reproduction and Genetic Ethics 17 (2):141-154 (2011)
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The rise of “dignity talk” has led to the concept of human dignity being criticized in recent years. Some critics argue that human dignity must either be something we have or something we acquire. Others argue that there is no such thing as human dignity and people really mean something else when they appeal to it. Both “dignity talk” and the criticisms arise from a problematic conception of medical ethics as a legalistic, procedural techne. A retrieval of hermeneutical ethics, by contrast, offers a way to overcome both the legalism of contemporary ethics and the abuses and criticisms of the concept of human dignity. Such an ethics affirms both the inherent dignity of a human being as a multi-dimensional, meaning-seeking, historically-situated, relational individual, who desires to live a good life, and the realized sense of his/her own dignity toward which s/he works. As such, human dignity cannot be reduced to one feature of the human, and instead functions as both a descriptive category that avoids moralism, and as a normative category that allows relativity whilst avoiding relativism. Content Type Journal Article Category Article Pages 141-154 DOI 10.1558/hrge.v17i2.141 Authors David G. Kirchhoffer, School of Theology, Australian Catholic University, PO Box 456, Virgina QLD, 4014 Australia Journal Human Reproduction & Genetic Ethics Online ISSN 2043-0469 Print ISSN 1028-7825 Journal Volume Volume 17 Journal Issue Volume 17, Number 2 / 2011



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David Kirchhoffer
Australian Catholic University

Citations of this work

Defining Dignity and Its Place in Human Rights.Lucy Michael - 2014 - The New Bioethics 20 (1):12-34.

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References found in this work

All Animals Are Equal.Peter Singer - 1989 - In Tom Regan & Peter Singer (eds.), Animal Rights and Human Obligations. Cambridge University Press. pp. 215--226.
Speciesism and moral status.Peter Singer - 2009 - Metaphilosophy 40 (3-4):567-581.
Defending human dignity.Leon R. Kass - 2008 - In Adam Schulman (ed.), Human dignity and bioethics: essays commissioned by the President's Council on Bioethics. Washington, D.C.: [President's Council on Bioethics.
The Moral Significance of our Biological Nature.Hub Zwart - 1994 - Ethical Perspectives 1 (2):71-78.

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