Project

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Human Dignity and Moral Rights

English title Human Dignity and Moral Rights
Applicant Schaber Peter
Number 137970
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Ethik-Zentrum Universität Zürich
Institution of higher education University of Zurich - ZH
Main discipline Philosophy
Start/End 01.11.2011 - 31.10.2014
Approved amount 155'704.00
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Keywords (4)

Human Dignity; Moral Rights; Menschenwürde; Moralische Rechte

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary

The concept of human dignity plays a prominent role in many ethical discussions and legal documents. In contrast to its widely accepted relevance, however, comparatively little research has been done on a systematic analysis of the concept of human dignity. In consequence, discussions have often suffered from unspoken assumptions and a certain kind of disorientation, because important questions are left unanswered, or are not even raised: How should we conceive of the role of human dignity in morality? Can it be employed within any comprehensive theory of morality, or only within specific (e.g. rights-based) theories? What should we expect from an adequate conception of human dignity? Which considerations should guide us in determining the specific content of human dignity?

By asking for the relationship between human dignity and moral rights, the proposed research project attempts to provide a distinct and systematic perspective that helps to adress general questions as these in a focused way. It starts from two claims about the relationship between human dignity and moral rights: (1) The concept of human dignity should be conceptualized within a rights approach. (2) The concept of human dignity is a distinct and indispensable element of a rights approach. Both claims, and especially the first one, have often been taken for granted in what might be called the 'mainstream discourse' about human dignity. However, it has seldom been explicitly justified why we should conceptualize human dignity in this way. Furthermore, it has not been examined how exactly the relationship between human dignity and moral rights should be conceived of.

The proposed research project attempts to explicitly address these questions, with the overall aim of clarifying the concept of human dignity. It is argued that the perspective is of great relevance to the debate about human dignity for three reasons: Firstly, it helps to organize different conceptions of human dignity in a systematic way: human dignity has been conceived of as (i) separate from moral rights, (ii) substitutable with moral rights, (iii) presupposed by moral rights, or as (iv) being the justificatory basis of moral rights. Secondly, classifying different conceptions of human dignity in the proposed way directs the attention to general features of specific conceptions, and their respective motivations. Thirdly, this allows for a systematic discussion of the merits and shortcomings of specific conceptions of human dignity in a new and distinct way.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Die Bedeutung von Instrumentalisierung und Demütigung als Würdeverletzung
Schaber Peter (2015), Die Bedeutung von Instrumentalisierung und Demütigung als Würdeverletzung, in Archiv für Rechts- und Sozialphilosophie, Beihefte 142, 159-168.
Human Dignity and Human Rights: A Reply to Schroeder
Schaber Peter (2014), Human Dignity and Human Rights: A Reply to Schroeder, in Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, January 2014(17), 155-161.
Menschenwürde
Schaber Peter, Menschenwürde.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Institut für Philosophie, Otto-von-Guericke Universität Magdeburg, Prof. Dr. Georg Lohmann Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Philosophische Fakultät, Universität Potdam, Prof. Dr. Ralf Stöcker Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Winter School in Ethical Theory and Applied Ethics Talk given at a conference Human Dignity and Moral Rights 10.03.2014 Barchem, Netherlands Gebremariam Kebadu Mekonnen;
„Human Dignity and Moral Rights“ Individual talk „Human Dignity and Moral Rights“ 10.10.2013 Addis Abeba, Ethiopia Gebremariam Kebadu Mekonnen;
Human Dignity and Moral Rights Individual talk Human Dignity and Moral Rights 10.10.2013 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Gebremariam Kebadu Mekonnen;
Conference of Human Dignity and Humilitation Studies Talk given at a conference Human Dignity and Humiliation 27.08.2012 Oslo, Norway Gebremariam Kebadu Mekonnen;


Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
135124 Menschenwürde und Autonomie - Grenzen der Selbstverfügung 01.08.2011 Project funding (Div. I-III)
159890 Paternalismus und der moralische Status von Kindern 01.01.2016 Project funding (Div. I-III)
163111 Würde als Wert 01.04.2016 Project funding (Div. I-III)

Abstract

The concept of human dignity plays a prominent role in many ethical discussions and legal documents. In contrast to its widely accepted relevance, however, comparatively little research has been done on a systematic analysis of the concept of human dignity. In consequence, discussions have often suffered from unspoken assumptions and a certain kind of disorientation, because important questions are left unanswered, or are not even raised: How should we conceive of the role of human dignity in morality? Can it be employed within any comprehensive theory of morality, or only within specific (e.g. rights-based) theories? What should we expect from an adequate conception of human dignity? Which considerations should guide us in determining the specific content of human dignity? By asking for the relationship between human dignity and moral rights, the proposed research project attempts to provide a distinct and systematic perspective that helps to adress general questions as these in a focused way. It starts from two claims about the relationship between human dignity and moral rights: (1) The concept of human dignity should be conceptualized within a rights approach. (2) The concept of human dignity is a distinct and indispensable element of a rights approach. Both claims, and especially the first one, have often been taken for granted in what might be called the 'mainstream discourse' about human dignity. However, it has seldom been explicitly justified why we should conceptualize human dignity in this way. Furthermore, it has not been examined how exactly the relationship between human dignity and moral rights should be conceived of.The proposed research project attempts to explicitly address these questions, with the overall aim of clarifying the concept of human dignity. It is argued that this perspective is of great relevance to the debate about human dignity for three reasons: Firstly, it helps to organize different conceptions of human dignity in a systematic way: human dignity has been conceived of as (i) separate from moral rights, (ii) substitutable with moral rights, (iii) presupposed by moral rights, or as (iv) being the justificatory basis of moral rights. Secondly, classifying different conceptions of human dignity in the proposed way directs the attention to general features of specific conceptions, and their respective motivations. Thirdly, this allows for a systematic discussion of the merits and shortcomings of specific conceptions of human dignity in a new and distinct way.
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