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Is dignity a useless concept?

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Eleni Kalokairinou


In this paper I undertake to examine Ruth Macklin’s claim that dignity is a useless concept. I explain her contention by the fact that dignity, as a concept, has a long history and has been presented differently at different times. I shed some light
on certain different conceptions of dignity in ancient times and in our contemporary
era. And I end up with the suggestion that the term “dignified”, like “good”, is a primarily evaluative term, unlike what some philosophers have thought.

Λέξεις κλειδιά

Dignity; autonomy; human rights; primarily and secondarily evaluative terms

Πλήρες Κείμενο:



Macklin, Ruth. “Dignity is a useless concept." The British Medical Journal, vol. 327 (2003): 1419-1420.

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Andorno, Roberto. “Human Dignity and Human Rights.” Ιn Handbook of Global Bioethics, edited by Henk ten Have and Bert Gordijn, 45-57. Dordrecht: Springer, 2014.

Mirandola, Giovanni Pico Della. Oratio Elegantissima de Dignitate Hominis. Translated in English by Charles Glenn Wallis. Annapolis: The St. John’s Bookstore, 1940.

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Andorno, Roberto. “Human Dignity and Human Rights as a Common Ground for a Global Bioethics." In the Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, vol. 34 (2009) 223-240, 227.

Kant, Immanuel. Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Ashcroft, Richard E. “Making sense of dignity.” In Journal of Medical Ethics, vol. 31 (2005): 679-682.

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