Human dignity as a non-disposable characteristic
Date: 5 – 6 December 2018
Convenors: Christoph Horn (Bonn, GER), Dietmar von der Pfordten (Göttingen, GER)
The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (Dec 10, 1948) contains a remarkable claim to "the recog-nition of inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family (Preamble). Likewise, in article 1.1 of the German constitution (Grundgesetz: May 23, 1949), we find the appeal to human dignity which is characterized as 'untouchable'. These formulations can be traced back to the historical experience of the genocide and of heaviest war crimes in World War II. Since then, there has been a widely shared consensus about 'human dignity' as expressing an absolute, inalienable, innate, and unforfeitable value of human beings. We call this the 'thesis of non-disposability'. This idea, however, seems difficult to be theoretically reconstructed in philosophy, law, political science, theology, and medical ethics. And so, unsurprisingly, during the last years a number of approaches, especially in philosophy, try to explain 'human dignity' in terms of a contingent value, particularly based on self-esteem and social recognition. Some of these attempts are well-formulated and possess a high degree of elaboration. Nevertheless, they seem to give up the core of what historically was meant by the concept. In the colloquium which we are planning to discuss different strategies to interpret non-contingent, absolute human dignity, and we are intending to do so in an interdisciplinary way, involving all the disciplines that have to do with this basic normative idea. Our intention is not only to conceptualize the theoretical fundaments of human dignity, but also to discuss the applicability of a non-contingent value in different practical fields.
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