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Dignity: Its History and Meaning
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Dignity: Its History and Meaning

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  47 Ratings  ·  11 Reviews
Dignity plays a central role in current thinking about law and human rights, but there is sharp disagreement about its meaning. Combining conceptual precision with a broad historical background, Michael Rosen puts these controversies in context and offers a novel, constructive proposal.

Drawing on law, politics, religion, and culture, as well as philosophy, Rosen shows how
Hardcover, 200 pages
Published March 20th 2012 by Harvard University Press
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Grady McCallie
Jan 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
In this short, thoughtful work, Michael Rosen attempts to show that 'dignity' is a philosophically coherent and useful concept. Rosen identifies several strands in dignity's historic and current meaning -- as social status; as inherent value; as behavior that is dignified; and as a constraint placed on behavior to ensure that it respects another person (whether as a duty to that person, or a duty by the actor). The author discusses German legal cases interpreting dignity as a fundamental right, ...more
Jan 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
One of the merits of this book is its brevity. It is 160 pages, and the pages are quite small (4 1/2" x 7 1/2"). Rosen does an excellent job of reviewing the history of the concept of dignity, and in particular, how Kant has influenced our thinking on this subject. He teases apart the distinct meanings of dignity as (1) the status or rank proper to human beings just as human beings, (2) intrinsic worth, (3) measured and self-possessed behavior, and the claim that (4) people should be treated wit ...more
"Rosen, a political philosopher at Harvard with whom I edited The Oxford Handbook of Continental Philosophy a number of years ago, traces the history of the idea of “dignity” from its origins in aristocratic cultures through its re-appropriation and re-invention in the work of the philosopher Immanuel Kant and the tradition of Catholic social thought, to its central role in domestic and international law today. He demonstrates that the concept, despite its varied history, has more coherence and ...more
Excellent discussion of the topic of dignity; I feel like it was a bit biases in its beginning discussion of Schopenhauer, maybe for some rhetorical effect, but I thought the Kantian, Duty, Utilitarian analysis was really useful for me as I am just beginning to understand the system of thought that is Kant while work my head around pieces I don't so much agree with. He raises a number of good examples which I feel explicate his points well. Nice short read full of stuff, and, I think, a nice per ...more
Braxton Lewis
Mar 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
In ethics and political life, issues of philosophical principle press on us whether we like it or not. Many appeals to dignity are either vague restatements of other, more precise notions or mere slogans that add nothing to the understanding of the topic; this text adds plenty. Dignity originated as a concept that denoted high social status and the honors and respectful treatment that are due to someone who occupied that position. However its use and interpretation now varies widely.
Margaret Sankey
Apr 25, 2012 rated it liked it
From a political theorist, an exploration of the concept of dignity, with lively examples as broadly ranging as dwarf-tossing and Rerum Novarum, the UN Declaration of Human Rights and Brazilian short skirts, subversive humor and lese-majeste, the precise situations in which the German police can knock you down in the name of public good and fatwas against political cartoons, with mandatory visits to Kant and Pico della Mirandola.
John P. Davidson
Aug 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Essentially a long essay, beautifully composed, on dignity, its meaning, and how it affects different aspects of our lives.
Dec 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: project-2014

Expanded my relationship to/with dignity…should be read by all who think there is any justification regarding torture…or abortion…

Jennings Peeler
Nov 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: project_2014

Expanded my relationship to/with dignity…should be read by all who think there is any justification regarding torture…or abortion…

Vicky Pinpin-Feinstein
Jul 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
I found this short book helpful when I was writing a piece related to the subject and therefore consider it a good reference.
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Michael E. Rosen is a British political philosopher who is active in the traditions of analytic philosophy and continental European intellectual thought. He is currently a professor at Harvard University.

Rosen holds a B.A. in philosophy, awarded in 1974, and a D.Phil. awarded in 1980, both from Balliol College, Oxford. Prior to joining Lincoln College, Oxford, he served as a lecturer in politics a
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