The concept of human dignity and the realistic utopia of human rights

Metaphilosophy 41 (4):464-480 (2010)
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Abstract

Abstract: Human rights developed in response to specific violations of human dignity, and can therefore be conceived as specifications of human dignity, their moral source. This internal relationship explains the moral content and moreover the distinguishing feature of human rights: they are designed for an effective implementation of the core moral values of an egalitarian universalism in terms of coercive law. This essay is an attempt to explain this moral-legal Janus face of human rights through the mediating role of the concept of human dignity. This concept is due to a remarkable generalization of the particularistic meanings of those "dignities" that once were attached to specific honorific functions and memberships. In spite of its abstract meaning, "human dignity" still retains from its particularistic precursor concepts the connotation of depending on the social recognition of a status—in this case, the status of democratic citizenship. Only membership in a constitutional political community can protect, by granting equal rights, the equal human dignity of everybody.

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Jürgen Habermas
Heidelberg University

Citations of this work

Human rights without human supremacism.Will Kymlicka - 2018 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 48 (6):763-792.
Kantian Ethics, Dignity and Perfection.Paul Formosa - 2017 - Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Human Dignity in the Theory of Human Rights: Nothing But a Phrase?Charles R. Beitz - 2013 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 41 (3):259-290.
Dignity, Esteem, and Social Contribution: A Recognition-Theoretical View.Timo Jütten - 2017 - Journal of Political Philosophy 25 (3):259-280.

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References found in this work

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The metaphysics of morals.Immanuel Kant - 1797/1996 - New York: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Mary J. Gregor.
Groundwork of the metaphysics of morals.Immanuel Kant - 1785 - In Elizabeth Schmidt Radcliffe, Richard McCarty, Fritz Allhoff & Anand Vaidya (eds.), Late Modern Philosophy: Essential Readings with Commentary. Blackwell.
Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals.Immanuel Kant - 1785/2002 - In Practical Philosophy. Cambridge University Press. pp. 37-108.

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