By Robert Hanna
This long essay, “A Theory of Human Dignity,” presents and defends a general theory of human dignity, with special attention paid to spelling out its background metaphysics, formulating and justifying a basic set of dignitarian moral principles, and critically addressing hard cases for the theory.
“A Theory of Human Dignity” is being made available here in serial format, but you can also download, read, and/or share a .pdf of the complete text of this essay HERE.
This twenty-fifth and final installment contains section VII.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
One of the epigraphs for [Adam] Etinson’s recent would-be dignity-debunking essay[i] is a quotation from a book by a survivor of Auschwitz, who writes that “I must confess that I don’t know exactly what that is: human dignity.”[ii] In view of that epigraph, Etinson’s general idea, clearly, is that for individual “human, all-too-human” animals living, suffering, and dying on the ground in this thoroughly nonideal natural and social world, the prima facie concept of human dignity is excessively abstract, merely stipulative, ultimately irrelevant, and eminently debunkable.
But sharply contrariwise, my close reading of, for example, diaries from the siege of Leningrad,[iii] is that virtually all individual “human, all-too-human” animals living, suffering, and dying on the ground in this thoroughly nonideal natural and social world are in fact, at least implicitly, broadly Kantian dignitarians through-and-through — it’s just that in order philosophically to capture and clearly-and-distinctly represent their “human, all-too-human” experiences and lives in a broadly Kantian realistic, non-naturalistic, and non-social-constructionist theory of human dignity, we also need a resolutely nonideal moral and sociopolitical theory of human dignity. I’ve done all that in this long-ish essay. What remains to be done, most urgently, is to enact human dignity according to that theory.
[i] [A. Etinson, “What’s So Special About Human Dignity?” Philosophy and Public Affairs 48 (2020): 353–381.]
[ii] J. Améry, At the Mind’s Limits: Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and Its Realities (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1980), p. 27, as quoted in Etinson, “What’s So Special About Human Dignity?,” p. 353.
[iii] See, e.g., A. Peri, The War Within: Diaries from the Siege of Leningrad (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 2017).
AGAINST PROFESSIONAL PHILOSOPHY REDUX 628
Mr Nemo, W, X, Y, & Z, Monday 31 January 2022
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