Contemporary Political Theory 19 (3):404-429 (2020)

Dignity may just be the most promiscuous normative abstraction. This article, informed by dignity’s historical variability, political theoretic multipurpose, and conflicting jurisprudence, focuses on a particular but influential invocation of the term: dignity as the normative ground for the ‘capabilities approach’ model of social justice. We ask whether or not the CA, in particular the influential version propounded by philosopher Martha Nussbaum, requires dignity as its foundational premise, and whether or not dignity may be more costly than beneficial for the CA’s vision of a minimally just society. The first section of this article rehearses the warrants of and criticisms against the dignity-basis of Nussbaum’s CA. We canvass the relatively sparse scholarship on dignity within the CA to situate our contribution. The next two sections are case studies, demonstrating dignity’s shortcomings for assessing and regulating sex and abortion, respectively. The fourth section rebuts two possible objections to our criticisms of dignity. The fifth and final section gestures toward another normative abstraction, ‘minimum conditions of individuation’, less polysemic than dignity, which might alternatively ground the CA.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1057/s41296-019-00355-7
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 69,018
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

What is the Point of Equality.Elizabeth Anderson - 1999 - Ethics 109 (2):287-337.
Non-Relative Virtues: An Aristotelian Approach.Martha C. Nussbaum - 1988 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 13 (1):32-53.

View all 30 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Dignity, Capability, and Profound Disability.John Vorhaus - 2015 - Metaphilosophy 46 (3):462-478.
A Sketch of a Humane Education: A Capability Approach Perspective.Kevin Ross Nera - 2015 - Symposion: Theoretical and Applied Inquiries in Philosophy and Social Sciences 2 (3):311–321.
Undignified Bioethics.Alasdair Cochrane - 2010 - Bioethics 24 (5):234-241.
Sen is Not a Capability Theorist.Antoinette Baujard & Muriel Gilardone - 2017 - Journal of Economic Methodology 24 (1):1-19.
Nature of Dignity and Human Dignity.Vasil Gluchman - 2017 - Human Affairs 27 (2):131-144.
Selbstachtung und Menschenwürde.Ralf Stoecker - 2004 - Studia Philosophica 63:107-120.


Added to PP index

Total views
27 ( #420,413 of 2,498,401 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
5 ( #140,236 of 2,498,401 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes