Studia Philosophica 63:107-120 (2004)

Ralf Stoecker
Bielefeld University
Is self-respect a necessary condition for human dignity ? On the one hand, if it were a necessary condition, we could neither respect nor violate the human dignity of small children, severely mentally disabled and unconscious persons, which would certainly be an absurd consequence. On the other hand, it seems to be characteristic for violations of human dignity that they are humiliating for the victim, and humiliation usually is construed as a violation of self-respect. The dilemma is solved when we realize that self-respect is a disposition to take care of one’s personal dignity, and that human dignity basically consists in having the opportunity of maintaining one’s personal dignity. Since personal dignity does not disappear when a person looses her ability to take care of it, respecting human dignity may consist in taking care of someone’s personal dignity who has lost self-respect. Therefore, self-respect is not necessary for human dignity
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