The Nature and Basis of Human Dignity

Ratio Juris 21 (2):173-193 (2008)
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Abstract

We argue that all human beings have a special type of dignity which is the basis for (1) the obligation all of us have not to kill them, (2) the obligation to take their well-being into account when we act, and (3) even the obligation to treat them as we would have them treat us, and indeed, that all human beings are equal in fundamental dignity. We give reasons to oppose the position that only some human beings, because of their possession of certain characteristics in addition to their humanity (for example, an immediately exercisable capacity for self-consciousness, or for rational deliberation), have full moral worth. What distinguishes human beings from other animals, what makes human beings persons rather than things, is their rational nature, and human beings are rational creatures by virtue of possessing natural capacities for conceptual thought, deliberation, and free choice, that is, the natural capacity to shape their own lives.

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Author Profiles

Robert George
Durham University
Patrick Lee
Franciscan University of Steubenville

Citations of this work

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References found in this work

Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility.Harry G. Frankfurt - 1969 - Journal of Philosophy 66 (23):829-839.
The Morality of Freedom.Joseph Raz - 1986 - Philosophy 63 (243):119-122.
Animal Liberation.Bill Puka & Peter Singer - 1977 - Philosophical Review 86 (4):557.
An essay on free will.Peter van Inwagen & A. Phillips Griffiths - 1985 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 175 (4):557-558.

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