Human Dignity

A moral worth or status usually attributed to human persons. Persons are said to have dignity as well as to express it. Persons are typically thought to have (1) "human dignity" (an intrinsic moral worth, a basic moral status, or both, which is had equally by all persons); and (2) a "sense of dignity" (an awareness of one's dignity inclining toward the expression of one's dignity and the avoidance of humiliation). Persons can lack a sense of dignity without consequent loss of their human dignity.

In Kant's influential account of the equal dignity of all persons, human dignity is grounded in the capacity for practical rationality, especially the capacity for autonomous self-legislation under the categorical imperative. Kant holds that dignity contrasts with price and that there is nothing -- not pleasure nor communal welfare nor other good consequences -- for which it is morally acceptable to sacrifice human dignity. Kant's categorical rejection of the use of persons as mere means suggests a now-common link between the possession of human dignity and human rights (see, e.g., the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights). One now widespread discussion of dignity concerns "dying with dignity" and the right to conditions conducive thereto.

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The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy