References and Further Reading 1. Introduction There are a number of competing conceptions of human dignity taking their meaning from the cosmological, anthropological, or political context in which human dignity is used.
The word "dignity" has become something of a slogan in bioethics, often invoked by both sides of debates about a variety of scientific and clinical issues, supporting contradictory conclusions.
For instance, in arguments Human dignity and bioethics essays assisted suicide, those who favor the legalization of the practice base their conclusion on a moral imperative to provide "death with dignity," while those who oppose legalization do so because they see intentionally rendering a human being dead, even out of mercy, as a direct assault on human dignity.
Ruth Macklin has noted this lack of conceptual clarity surrounding the use of the word "dignity" in the bioethics literature and has concluded that dignity is a "useless concept," reducible to respect for autonomy, and adds nothing to the conversation.
A more careful treatment of the topic is in order. In this essay I will, first, describe three ways the word "dignity" has been used in moral discourse, both in the history of Western thought and in contemporary bioethics.
I call these the attributed, the intrinsic, and the inflorescent uses of the word.
Second, I will argue that, while all three senses have moral relevance, the intrinsic sense of dignity is the most fundamental from a moral perspective. I will advance this argument in two ways. I will call the first the Axiological Argument and the second the Argument from Consistency.
Third, I will outline some of the general norms that follow from accepting the moral primacy of the intrinsic sense of human dignity. Finally, I will show how this vigorous understanding of dignity helps to give shape to arguments in bioethics.
As examples, I will show briefly how it applies to questions about justice and access to health care resources, the care of the disabled, embryonic stem cell research, cloning, euthanasia, and the care of patients in the so-called permanent vegetative state.
I will conclude that a notion robust enough to supply answers to all of these questions is not useless. Three Senses of Dignity Throughout Western history and in contemporary debates, the word dignity has played a prominent role in ethical discussions.
It may be surprising to both religious and non-religious persons to know, however, that dignity is not a word that entered the Western moral vocabulary through the Judeo-Christian heritage.
Dignity is not an important word in either the Hebrew or Christian scriptures. For almost two millennia, it was not an important theological term.
Until very recently, dignity was almost never invoked by moral theologians in making arguments about abortion, euthanasia, or economic justice. For instance, dignity was not an important word for Plato or Aristotle.
The first Western philosophers for whom dignity was an important philosophical term were the Roman Stoics. Cicero and Seneca, especially, used the word to designate important concepts in their moral philosophies.
Cicero defined dignity as "the honorable authority of a person, which merits attention and honor and worthy respect" dignitas est alicuius honesta et cultu et honore et verecundia digna auctoritas. For example, in De Officiis, Cicero writes, If we wish to reflect on the excellence and dignity of our nature, we shall realize how dishonorable it is to sink into luxury and to live a dainty and soft lifestyle, but how honorable to live thriftily, strictly, with self-restraint, and soberly.
Atque etiam, si considerare volumus, quae sit in natura excel lentia et dignitas, intellegemus, quam sit turpe diffluere luxuria et delicate ac molliter vivere, quamque honestum parce, continenter, severe, sobrie.
The Stoic use of the term, however, is not the only historical conception of dignity. Hobbes, for instance, defined dignity in a very different way. He eliminated any necessary connection to true human excellence and took the meaning of dignity to depend solely upon the inter-subjective judgments of the market.
In the Leviathan he writes: The Value or worth of a man, is, as of other things, his price; that is to say, so much as would be given for the use of his Power; and therefore it is not absolute; but a thing dependent on the need and judgment of another.
The publique worth of a man, which is the Value set on him by the Commonwealth, is that which men commonly call dignity. Kant never explicitly cites Hobbes, but in presenting yet a third view of dignity, he seems to be writing in direct reaction to Hobbes.
Kant wrote, The respect I bear others or which another can claim from me osservantia aliis praestanda is the acknowledgement of the dignity dignitas of another man, i. In the Grundlagen, he writes, ". These three historical uses of the word "dignity" are illustrative of three senses of the word that are still active in philosophical discourse and in ordinary language today.
These three general senses of dignity can be understood according to the following names and descriptions. By attributed dignity, I mean that worth or value that human beings confer upon others by acts of attribution.
The act of conferring this worth or value may be accomplished individually or communally, but it always involves a choice. Attributed dignity is, in a sense, created. It constitutes a conventional form of value.
Thus, we attribute worth or value to those we consider to be dignitaries, those we admire, those who carry themselves in a particular way, or those who have certain talents, skills, or powers. We can even attribute worth or value to ourselves using this word.
The Hobbesian notion of dignity is attributed.Human Dignity and Bioethics: Essays Commissioned by the President’s Council on Bioethics.
rather than attempt to reach a single consensus position.” 1 Human Dignity and Bioethics is an excellent response to that charge and looks deeply into the human and Human Dignity and Bioethics: Essays Commissioned by the President’s Council. Human Dignity and Bioethics: Essays Commissioned by the President's Council on Bioethics The President's Council on Bioethics Washington, D.C.
such as the essays in this volume. As the essays illustrate, writers may examine the meaning of dignity from a variety of vantage points. Human Dignity in Bioethics and Biolaw (Oxford: Oxford. Medical ethics, human rights and law. Circumcision is more than a medical or health issue.
Bodily integrity is recognized as a fundamental human right, basic to the autonomy of the individual and guaranteed by law.
Albert Camus (—) Albert Camus was a French-Algerian journalist, playwright, novelist, philosophical essayist, and Nobel laureate. Though he was neither by advanced training nor profession a philosopher, he nevertheless made important, forceful contributions to a wide range of issues in moral philosophy in his novels, reviews, articles, essays, and speeches—from terrorism and.
Human Dignity and Bioethics: Essays Commissioned by the President's Council on Bioethics, by Adam Schulman, F. Daniel Davis, and Daniel C. Dennett, Et. Al Meltzer, Leslie A.
(). Human Dignity and Bioethics: Essays Commissioned by the President's Council on Bioethics The President's Council on Bioethics Washington, D.C.