The fact that one amoeba can split into two amoebas is not an argument that what was there before the split was not an amoeba. Throughout Western history and in contemporary debates, the word dignity has played a prominent role in ethical discussions. However, a different set of considerations arises in examining the morality of cloning to bring babies to birth. All duties to build up or to create conditions conducive to a patient's possibilities for inflorescent dignity depend upon respect for intrinsic dignity. One defines attributed and inflorescent dignity in terms of intrinsic dignity. It is the notion of dignity that drove the U.S. civil rights movement. Cloning blurs the line between the value one discovers in the human as a natural kind (i.e., intrinsic dignity) and the value that is merely conferred upon artifacts by human attribution. As Wiggins puts it, [The] determination of a natural kind stands or falls with the existence of law-like principles that will collect together the actual extension of the kind around an arbitrary good specimen of it; and these law-like principles will also determine the characteristic development and typical history of members of this extension. At the same time, one attraction of the dignity concept is that it lacks a settled interpretation. With this letter I am pleased to send you Human Dignity and Bioethics: Essays Commissioned by the President’s Council on Bioethics. Ruth Macklin has noted this lack of conceptual clarity surrounding the use of the word "dignity" in the bioethics literature and has concluded that dignity is a "useless concept," reducible to respect for autonomy, and adds nothing to the conversation.2 This hasty conclusion, casting aside thousands of years of philosophical writing, ignoring the contemporary bioethical discourse of continental Europeans, and sweeping away a whole body of international law, can be justified only by begging the question. It is not a different kind of thing (say a slug or a porpoise). In this essay, I outlined three ways the word "dignity" has been understood in the history of Western thought and explained how these three senses of dignity-the attributed, the intrinsic, and the inflorescent-are still at play in contemporary bioethical debates. Despite her rhetorical fervor, Thompson has it backwards. Basing morality squarely on a balance between pleasure and pain has seemed, since the time of Aristotle, to be an anemic account of morality and human dignity, and one that most people would reject.22. [5] Of all creation, humankind alone was granted that significance by creation in the image of God. That is because such arguments are based solely on an attributed sense of dignity. Such patients have not become some other kind of thing. It is in recognition of that worth that we have established the healing professions as our moral response to those of our kind who are suffering from disease and injury. 23. and Bioethics 25 (2004): 3-20. One would have to hold that those who have lost control of certain human functions, or have lost or never had the freedom to make choices, have lost or have never had dignity. [1] R. Kendall Soulen and Linda Woodhead, “Introduction, ” in God and Human Dignity, R. Kendall Soulen and Linda Woodhead, eds. For example, those who claim that death with dignity requires that euthanasia be permissible seem to be using the word "dignity" in an attributed sense,13 while those who claim that euthanasia is a direct offense against human dignity appear to be using the word in an intrinsic sense.14 Still others who oppose euthanasia appear to argue from an inflorescent sense of dignity, suggesting that the practice represents less than the most noble and excellent response a human being can make in the face of death.15 Merely noticing these distinctions can help us clarify arguments and understand points of disagreement. If what is in the dish is a mole, then it does not. Given the way in which the individual came into being, however, the real and acute worry would be that this individual's intrinsic dignity would be open to question, because the individual might be considered an artifact and not a member of a natural kind, and might therefore be considered to have only attributed and not intrinsic value. A currently vexatious issue facing biomedical science is the morality of using human embryonic stem cells for research. 35. Cicero and Seneca, especially, used the word to designate important concepts in their moral philosophies. The Stoic use of the term, however, is not the only historical conception of dignity. There is a correct answer to the question, is this a mole or an embryo? The concept of human dignity is increasingly invoked in bioethical debate and, indeed, in international instruments concerned with biotechnology and biomedicine. Even the name of the condition has become a matter of controversy. Terence Irwin (Indianapolis, Indiana: Hackett, 1985), p. 7. One might be tempted to say that flourishing is intrinsically good, but the goodness of flourishing is always dependent upon the kind of thing that is said to be flourishing, and thus that state of affairs is not, strictly speaking, intrinsically valuable. Neither was dignity an important concept for all Western moral philosophers. The publique worth of a man, which is the Value set on him by the Commonwealth, is that which men commonly call dignity.7. Thus, such an individual would be a member of the human natural kind and would still have intrinsic dignity. H. Tristram Englehardt, Jr., The Foundations of Bioethics (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), p. 213. Before we can attribute any additional values to human beings, whether sick or well, and call those values "dignities," we must first recognize and respect them as bearers of intrinsic dignity. A conception of dignity with the explanatory power to understand the basis for arguments on both sides of the debate about euthanasia as well as the normative power to settle that argument in favor of prohibiting the practice seems much more than a "useless" concept. and "Naming and Necessity," in Semantics of Natural Language , ed. It is what every human being is (or was) at 0-28 days of development. The term may also be used … Suffice it to say that "person" is not a phasesortal, like "fetus" or "adolescent." [12] Nussbaum, “Human Dignity and Political Entitlements,” 351. 18, 2003, available online at This, in turn, leads to what its proponents call a "modest essentialism"-that the essence of something is that by which one picks it out from the rest of reality as anything at all-its being a member of a kind. [8] Jurgen Moltmann, On Human Dignity: Political Theology and Ethics, Introduction and trans. Christian anthropology has much to contribute to this conversation, for it rests on the centrality of the imago Dei and of divine giving as the ground of human dignity and well-being. Hobbes writes clearly and bluntly. So, if there is such a thing as intrinsic value in the world, then intrinsic dignity is the name we give to the value of all the individual members of any and all kinds that, as kinds, share the properties we think essential to the special value we recognize in the human. "29 No matter what value others may attribute to persons because of properties such as skin color, or how free they are to do as they would like, they have dignity because they are somebodies-human beings. ed. While the classic notion of dignity as “worth” in an aristocratic and comparative sense still exists, it has been largely supplanted in the Western world by dignity as egalitarian and non-comparative; this change in meaning is attributable to the importance of Christian theological anthropology and the doctrine of the incarnation on Western thought. A theory of dignity that can provide such explanations and guidance in moral decision-making about the treatment of human embryos would not seem useless. But even hedonists might not want to promote the pleasure/pain calculus as a theory of human dignity. The conception of dignity presented here provides a strong basis for preventing discrimination against the disabled and for supporting claims of equality of access to health care for the disabled. Thus the intrinsic dignity of the human inheres in embryonic members of the human natural kind every bit as much as it does in adult members of the human natural kind. The argument from inflorescent dignity suggests, however, that the value of the human is expressed most fully (i.e., flourishes) in the ability to stand up to such assaults with courage, humble acceptance of the finitude of the human, nobility, and even love. There is a third logical possibility that I will not discuss, although some nihilists accept it-namely, that human beings have no dignity. At a descriptive level, asking what advocates of a position mean when they refer to human dignity will reveal what aspects of being human they deem to be most valuable. No one wishes to be in such a state. [4] For each of us was given infinite significance, as a gift, by a personal Creator, which is the foundation of our human dignity. If one is to show respect for a dynamic, developing, living natural kind as an intrinsically valuable thing, then it follows that one ought to show that respect by concrete actions that help to establish the conditions by which that thing can flourish as the kind of thing that it is. Health is critical for the flourishing of any member of any living natural kind. Certain advocates of the position that dignity means the capacity to exercise rational choice (at least above a certain threshold level) do not believe their argument is thus refuted. Intrinsic values, as intrinsic and objective, must be recognized by an intelligent valuer. 63-64. Attributed values depend completely on the purposes, beliefs, desires, interests, or expectations of a valuer or group of valuers. In terms of concrete medical practice this can mean either cure, or assistance with the activities of daily living, or amelioration of pain or other symptoms if this is possible. These are characteristic features of the human natural kind. I will call the first the Axiological Argument and the second the Argument from Consistency. If there are other kinds of entities in the universe besides human beings that have, as a kind, these capacities, they would also have intrinsic dignity-whether angels, extra-terrestrials, or (arguably) other known animal kinds. The very notion of natural kinds entails acceptance of this "modest" essentialism. And any epistemic doubts I might have about what stirs-in the woods, the womb, or the Petri dish-do not suffice to change the ontological status of the thing that stirs. Cicero, De Officiis I.106, trans. These include, for example, the rights not to be killed, not to be treated disrespectfully, and not to be experimented upon without one's consent. The derivation of dignity is contingent upon the kind to which one is referring—whether of … It is critically important to add, however, that any criterion for deciding upon limits must not be based on the disability in itself, since this would constitute a judgment regarding the worth of the person and violate the principle of equal respect for intrinsic dignity. Recognition, of course, requires attribution, and thus an intelligent valuer must attribute intrinsic value to whatever does have intrinsic value in order to be correct in his or her evaluation. 32. The scientist would stare the clone in the eye and say, "I have created you." An artifact's value is purely instrumental and attributed. By attributed dignity, I mean that worth or value that human beings confer upon others by acts of attribution. If there is a 99.9% chance that what I see stirring in the woods is a fellow hunter, and a 0.1% chance that it might be a deer, prudence suggests not shooting. 12. As David Velleman has argued, from an ethical point of view, there must be something more fundamental to ethics than interests-i.e., a reason to respect a fellow human being's interests in the first place. Does the conception of human dignity presented in this essay shed any light on these arguments? Likewise, any perceived duty to build up diminished attributed dignity also depends upon respect for intrinsic dignity. The French jurist Noëlle Lenoir says that the aim of bioethics and biolaw is to protect what is human, i.e. Immanuel Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals , Ak 434, trans. Press, 1980), pp. The bare fact that value has been attributed does not allow us to conclude whether the value at stake is attributed or intrinsic. Intrinsic dignity is the name we give to the intrinsic value of members of the human natural kind. Predominant among the terminological ambiguities that plague contemporary bioethics is confusion attending the meaning of the term "human dignity," particularly as it applies to so-called end-of-life discussions. The short answer would seem to be "yes." (4) and at least some individuals of whom (or which) this class of states of affairs can be predicated are, by virtue of that state, inhibited from flourishing as Xs. As has been suggested here, people most commonly invoke human dignity in situations in which the worth of human beings is brought into question when they are used, forced, or injured. (San Francisco, California: Encounter Books, 2002), pp. By definition, then, intrinsic dignity is the fundamental notion of dignity. 30. Attributed dignity is, in a sense, created. The book begins with essays by David Schiedermayer, Arlene Miller, and Gregory Waybright that root the book in the experience of dying itself. Thus, the human natural kind (at least) has intrinsic dignity. Those suffering from PCU may represent a limiting case. They apply to the degree that they can be instituted in various circumstances. Respect begins with recognition, and recognition does require an act of attribution, yet this attribution does not create the value. There has yet to be, however, an entirely compelling explanation of exactly why this might be so. Sons, 1973), pp. Opinions regarding the source of dignity vary widely, ranging from the notion that it is one of many human capabilities to that it is an inalienable gift of the God in whose image we were created. All members of a natural kind that has intrinsic dignity (and are individually capable of exercising the moral agency that is distinctive of their natural kind) have moral obligations to themselves, to any other entities that have intrinsic dignity, and to the rest of what exists. Intrinsic dignity, as elaborated in this essay, can be understood as the foundation of all human rights. The procurement of human plasma as a potential therapy for Covid-19 is one of the latest examples of bioethics nationalism, defined by Jonathan Moreno in this blog as “distinct bioethics standards [which] are formally proclaimed as a matter of right by a sovereign state.” In other words, inflorescent dignity is used to refer to individuals who are flourishing as human beings-living lives that are consistent with and expressive of the intrinsic dignity of the human.12 Thus, dignity is sometimes used to refer to a state of virtue-a state of affairs in which a human being habitually acts in ways that expresses the intrinsic value of the human. Thus, defining the most fundamental human good as the exercise of free choice results in a moral system that simply cannot account for the great human questions, among them: existence, biological relationship, love, and death. 7. Rolston, Environmental Ethics , p. 116. That is, based on the inefficacy of the intervention, on absolute scarcity, or on the individual's own judgments about burdens and benefits. The ground of our duties towards our fellow human beings is not merely that they have interests. [5] Peter Augustine Lawler, “Commentary on Meilaender and Dennett” in President’s Council on Bioethics, Human Dignity and Bioethics: Essays Commissioned by the President’s Council on Bioethics (Washington, D.C.: President’s Council on Bioethics, 2008), 279. In reality, the term “human dignity” is not as ambiguous as it is complex because the human component of the term is a multidimensional being defying definition, a creature of in-betweenness, who exists somewhere between the beasts and God. Such an individual would still obey most of the law-like generalizations that characterize the human natural kind. R especting human dignity is a central moral and social aim when it comes to either health policy or everyday medical care. 20. This concept, once foundational to ethical reflection in such diverse areas of engagement as social ethics and human rights on to the clinical bedside and bioethics, has come under increasing criticism. ed. In recent years, the concept of human dignity has become an important resource for debates in bioethics. While born out of the natural course, perhaps suffering from genetic disorders associated with that manner of coming into being, the clone would still be a member of the human natural kind. 231-256. The phase "attributed dignities" refers to several non-instrumental values that are attributed to members of any natural kind that has intrinsic dignity. Intrinsic dignity, then, is the intrinsic value of entities that are members of a natural kind that is, as a kind, capable of language, rationality, love, free will, moral agency, creativity, aesthetic sensibility, and an ability to grasp the finite and the infinite. 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