Synopses & Reviews
Writers on human dignity roughly divide between those who stress the social origins of this concept and its role in marking rank and hierarchy, and those who follow Kant in grounding dignity in an abstract and idealized philosophical conception of human beings. In these lectures, Jeremy Waldron contrives to combine attractive features of both strands. In the first lecture, Waldron presents a conception of dignity that preserves its ancient association with rank and station, thus allowing him to tap rich historical resources while avoiding what many perceive as the excessive abstraction and dubious metaphysics of the Kantian strand. At the same time he argues for a conception of human dignity that amounts to a generalization of high status across all human beings, and so attains the appealing universality of the Kantian position. The second lecture focuses particularly on the importance of dignity - understood in this way - as a status defining persons' relation to law: their presentation as persons capable of self-applying the law, capable of presenting and arguing a point of view, and capable of responding to law's demands without brute coercion. Together the two lectures illuminate the relation between dignity conceived as the ground of rights and dignity conceived as the content of rights; they also illuminate important ideas about dignity as noble bearing and dignity as the subject of a right against degrading treatment; and they help us understand the sense in which dignity is better conceived as a status than as a kind of value.
"I definitely recommend this book. Waldron has delivered a very important entry into the literature on human dignity. This book, which contains the revised version of his 2009 Berkeley Tanner Lectures, followed by commentaries from Michael Rosen, Don Herzog, and Wai Chee Dimock, succinctly maps crucial new conceptual space, which no one working on human dignity can ignore. And although kernels of these lectures are borrowed from some of Waldron's previous articles, this is his best and most general presentation of his view to date. Anyone working in the philosophy of law, ethics, or political philosophy will find Waldron's lectures an enriching read."--Remy Debes, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
About the Author
is University Professor of Law at New York University.
Meir Dan-Cohen is Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley.
Table of Contents
Dignity, Rank, and Rights
1. Dignity and Rank
2. Law, Dignity and Self-Control
Response to Jeremy Waldron
Wai Chee Dimock
Dignity, Rank and Rights
Reply to Commentators