Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Here, George Kateb asks what human dignity is and why it matters for the claim to rights. He proposes that dignity is an 'existential' value that pertains to the identity of a person as a human being.
pleasures. To think, however, that we exist to be happy is unworthy, or that we exist to experience as many pleasurable sensations as possible is childish or senescent, or fairly decadent. Harsh words about pleasure or happiness are necessary when we see that enjoyment or the prospect of enjoyment of some people makes life bad, or worse than bad, for others. I have already said that moral agents should put the pain and suffering of others at the center of their thinking and acting. Although a
be self-conscious.) A uniquely human trait, self-consciousness is potentially but not actually possessed by all human beings, whereas consciousness is actually possessed by all the living who function. To be a self-conscious person is to be conscious of oneself as a self, as a person who can think about many things, but also about himself or herself. A person can arrive at a self-conception. But the process is not automatic, and cultural conditions—say, tribal life or village life—may discourage
is crucial to human agency when action is set in a society of equal human status. Thinking in general is the greatest manifestation of the uniquely human ability to use language; it is essential to the status of the individual and the stature of the species. There is no human action without thinking, only movement. An account of the basis for rights cannot be devoid of some speculation about what it means to be a human being. In my discussion earlier of the defense of human rights, I made do with
or pity do not belong to the correct moral disposition; and intrinsic to the good will is the resolve to be indifferent to the effects of one’s moral action on human purposes. Second, Kant also thinks that we treat persons with the respect they deserve when we treat them as ends and not merely as means. They deserve respect as ends because as moral agents they are capable of respecting the moral law. To put the two thoughts together, we accord persons the respect they deserve as ends, when we
uneasy establishment. A selective list of commendable and uniquely human traits and attributes, characteristics, and capacities is now completed. Summary I have said that the purpose of this selective philosophical anthropology is to help provide a basis for the idea of human dignity, but also to look forward to highlighting the unique human capacity to serve as the steward of nature. We began with the proposal that the idea of human dignity has two components and both are existential, not