read online pdf Dignity: Its History and MeaningAuthor Michael Rosen –

In this short, thoughtful work, Michael Rosen attempts to show that dignity is a philosophically coherent and useful concept Rosen identifies several strands in dignity s historic and current meaning as social status as inherent value as behavior that is dignified and as a constraint placed on behavior to ensure that it respects another person whether as a duty to that person, or a duty by the actor The author discusses German legal cases interpreting dignity as a fundamental right, and compares them to Kantian and Catholic theories He concludes with an analysis on dignity as duty to humanity , offering a specific interpretation of Kant as a guide to what we should mean when we speak of dignity today The writing is admirably clear, good hud, and free of cant Rosen s touchstones here Kant and Catholic ethics are quite different from mine Humean empiricism, utilitarians,and pragmatists , so as I read, I kept needing to suppress a tendency to say, incredulously, why would a person think that If you can follow Rosen s lead, and accept his foundational assumptions which he articulates cleanly , he does an excellent job of explaining how a Kantian could work through any of several different conceptions of dignity Because of where it s coming from, this is a different book than I hoped it would be but it s a fine, intelligent read, and I m grateful for it A few steps in Rosen s arguments still lost me For example, he rejects the argument, made by philosopher Ruth Macklin and psychologist Steven Pinker, that dignity is just a muddier word for autonomy To make his point, Rosen examines Catholic and Kantian arguments against suicide as a response to painful, debilitating disease After noting that supporters of a right to suicide often speak of death with dignity , Rosen examines the alternate view t he Catechism of the Catholic Church makes it very clear that, on the Catholic view, human beings have no right to choose to end their own lives We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for God s honor and the salvation of our souls We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us It is not ours to dispose of Clearly, this is a substantive ethical dispute involving different senses of dignity, Rosen concludes, not an argument about autonomy But it s not clear to me that this is true, judging from the text Rosen quotes A Catholic who believes our lives belong to God might just as well view suicide as an autonomy issue, while insisting that the autonomy to continue or end our lives is God s In fact, that appears to me to be exactly what the quoted passage of the catechism says I d like for Rosen to be right here and I don t think it threatens the value of the rest of his analysis if he s not but I don t see that he s really shown that, at least in Catholic ethics, dignity must be interpreted as something other than autonomy In the scheme of Rosen s book, it s a minor point, and one that might fade on another re reading. Excellent discussion of the topic of dignity I feel like it was a bit biases in its beginning discussion of Schopenhauer, maybe for some rhetorical effect, but I thought the Kantian, Duty, Utilitarian analysis was really useful for me as I am just beginning to understand the system of thought that is Kant while work my head around pieces I don t so much agree with He raises a number of good examples which I feel explicate his points well Nice short read full of stuff, and, I think, a nice perspective on Kant, duty, and dignity. One of the merits of this book is its brevity It is 160 pages, and the pages are quite small 4 1 2 x 7 1 2 Rosen does an excellent job of reviewing the history of the concept of dignity, and in particular, how Kant has influenced our thinking on this subject He teases apart the distinct meanings of dignity as 1 the status or rank proper to human beings just as human beings, 2 intrinsic worth, 3 measured and self possessed behavior, and the claim that 4 people should be treated with dignity, that is, respectfully Having distinguished these different meanings in Chapter 1, Rosen seems to ignore these distinctions in Chapter 2 After presenting a French case in which the issue was whether legislation banning dwarf throwing violates human dignity, Rosen acknowledges that the behavior is undignified However, undignified behavior comes under the third meaning, whereas the French case clearly has to do with 1 , 2 , and 4 That dwarf tossing might be undignified in the way that much behavior that goes on in bars and clubs late at night is undignified is scarcely relevant to dignity as a matter of status, intrinsic worth, or respectful treatment Moreover, Rosen s characterization of dignity in sense 3 strikes me as a clich He thinks that the character trait rules out acting on occasion in playful and non stuffy ways Yet President Obama is regarded by most people as an exemplar of dignity, despite the fact that he sometimes gets down on the floor to play with children Despite these quibbles, Rosen has written a valuable book It is well worth reading not only for those interested in dignity, but also in the foundation of morality itself. Rosen, a political philosopher at Harvard with whom I edited The Oxford Handbook of Continental Philosophy a number of years ago, traces the history of the idea of dignity from its origins in aristocratic cultures through its re appropriation and re invention in the work of the philosopher Immanuel Kant and the tradition of Catholic social thought, to its central role in domestic and international law today He demonstrates that the concept, despite its varied history, has coherence and significance than some writers have supposed Rosen writes extremely well and the book is full of interesting examples, drawn from the law and from European history most memorably, a French lawsuit by a dwarf contesting a ban on dwarf tossing Brian Leiter Dignity Plays A Central Role In Current Thinking About Law And Human Rights, But There Is Sharp Disagreement About Its Meaning Combining Conceptual Precision With A Broad Historical Background, Michael Rosen Puts These Controversies In Context And Offers A Novel, Constructive ProposalDrawing On Law, Politics, Religion, And Culture, As Well As Philosophy, Rosen Shows How Modern Conceptions Of Dignity Inherit Several Distinct Strands Of Meaning This Is Why Users Of The Word Nowadays Often Talk Past One Another The Idea Of Dignity As The Foundation For The Universal Entitlement To Human Rights Represented The Coming Together After The Second World War Of Two Extremely Powerful Traditions Christian Theology And Kantian Philosophy Not Only Is This Idea Of Dignity As An Inner Transcendental Kernel Behind Human Rights Problematic, Rosen Argues, It Has Drawn Attention Away From A Different, Very Important, Sense Of Dignity The Right To Be Treated With Dignity,that Is, With Proper RespectAt The Heart Of The Argument Stands The Giant Figure Of Immanuel Kant Challenging Current Orthodoxy, Rosen S Interpretation Presents Kant As A Philosopher Whose Ethical Thought Is Governed, Above All, By The Requirement Of Showing Respect Toward A Kernel Of Value That Each Of Us Carries, Indestructibly, Within Ourselves Finally, Rosen Asks And Answers A Surprisingly Puzzling Question Why Do We Still Have A Duty To Treat The Dead With Dignity If They Will Not Benefit From Our Respect In ethics and political life, issues of philosophical principle press on us whether we like it or not Many appeals to dignity are either vague restatements of other, precise notions or mere slogans that add nothing to the understanding of the topic this text adds plenty Dignity originated as a concept that denoted high social status and the honors and respectful treatment that are due to someone who occupied that position However its use and interpretation now varies widely. From a political theorist, an exploration of the concept of dignity, with lively examples as broadly ranging as dwarf tossing and Rerum Novarum, the UN Declaration of Human Rights and Brazilian short skirts, subversive humor and lese majeste, the precise situations in which the German police can knock you down in the name of public good and fatwas against political cartoons, with mandatory visits to Kant and Pico della Mirandola. Essentially a long essay, beautifully composed, on dignity, its meaning, and how it affects different aspects of our lives. Expanded my relationship to with dignity should be read by all who think there is any justification regarding torture or abortion Expanded my relationship to with dignity should be read by all who think there is any justification regarding torture or abortion