THE CONCEPT OF HUMAN DIGNITY AND THE REALISTIC UTOPIA OF HUMAN RIGHTS
Human rights developed in response to specific violations of human dignity, and can therefore be conceived as specifications of human dignity, their moral source. This internal relationship explains the moral content and moreover the distinguishing feature of human rights: they are designed for an effective implementation of the core moral values of an egalitarian universalism in terms of coercive law. This essay is an attempt to explain this moral-legal Janus face of human rights through the mediating role of the concept of human dignity. This concept is due to a remarkable generalization of the particularistic meanings of those “dignities” that once were attached to specific honorific functions and memberships. In spite of its abstract meaning, “human dignity” still retains from its particularistic precursor concepts the connotation of depending on the social recognition of a status—in this case, the status of democratic citizenship. Only membership in a constitutional political community can protect, by granting equal rights, the equal human dignity of everybody.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, University of Frankfurt, Grüneburgplatz 1, 60323 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Publication date: July 1, 2010