Human Dignity, and the Transformation of Moral Rights into Legal Rights

Iris. European Journal of Philosophy and Public Debate 2 (4):349-362 (2010)
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“Human dignity is inviolable. It must be respected and protected.” What is the status of this proposition? Is human dignity inviolable? Statements on human dignity are closely intertwined with philosophical, anthropological and legal issues – and with the obligations, possibilities and limits of philosophy. Why a plea for human dignity? There are two reasons at least: (i) human dignity is violated, (ii) there are heated debates on exactly what “human dignity“ means. Accordingly, the elements of a normative theory of the state and legal rights are discussed in order to explain what rights and the state should be and can be. After an exposition of the plurality of competing definitions and a short archeology of the concept of human dignity, the author defends the following thesis: Only the conceptualization of human dignity as a principle, concept and norm of positive law allows an appropriate understanding of what should be protected by the guarantee of dignity: i.e. the freedom and equality of everyone who is a human being



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