, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 370-384

Human dignity as a right

Abstract

The concept of human dignity and the relationship between dignity and human rights have been important subjects in contemporary international academia. This article first analyzes the different understandings of the concept of dignity, which has left great influences in history (including the “theory of attribution-dignity”, the “theory of autonomy-dignity” or the “theory of moral completeness/achievement-dignity”, and the “theory of end-in-itself-dignity”); it then exposes the obvious defects of these modes of understanding; finally, it tries to define dignity as a moral right to be free from insult. Meanwhile, the relationship between human dignity and human rights is clarified as a result of this research: Rather than being the foundation of human rights, human dignity is one of human rights. The idea of dignity nevertheless has a particular status in ethics in that it embodies a kind of core moral concern, representing a basic demand rooted in the human self or individuality, and hence representing an important aspect of human rights. We may anticipate that sooner or later, the idea of human dignity will become, together with other human rights, the only intangible cultural heritage of human society.

摘要

“尊严” 这一概念以及尊严与人权的关系已成为当今国际学术界的一项重要的前沿课题。 在历史上, 出现过几种有着重大影响的有关尊严概念的不同理解 (包括“属性—尊严说”、 “自主性—尊严说” 或 “道德自主性—尊严说” 以及 “自我目的—尊严说”, 这些理解模式在解释力上存在着明显缺陷。 人的尊严应当是一项道德权利, 即不被侮辱; 尊严是人权的一部分, 而不是人权的根基。 但尊严这个理念在伦理学中拥有一种特殊的地位, 因为它体现了一种核心的道德顾及, 代表着一种根植于人的自我或个体性的最基本的需求, 展示了人权的一个重要方面。 可以预期的是, 人的尊严这个理念或许会有一天同人权的其它内容一起, 成为人类社会仅存的非物质的文化遗产。

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Translated by Zhang Lin from Zhexue yanjiu 哲学研究 (Philosophical Researches), 2008, (6): 85–92