Thursday, August 28, 2008
"I suspect that human dignity is not a metaphysical property of individual humans, but rather a property of relationships between humans -- between, so to speak, the dignifier and the dignified. To put it another way, 'human dignity' designates a way of being human, not a property of being human."
Interesting. I'd want to be able to say that even a human being whose relationships are all lousy and dysfunctional still has, as a human person, "dignity" and worth. That said, there's something to this "relationships" idea, it seems. I was reminded by David's claim of Nicholas Wolterstorff's new book, "Justice: Rights and Wrongs" (my review is forthcoming in First Things). Wolterstorff contends that only a theistic account -- and not a secular account -- of "human dignity adequate for grounding human rights" is possible. In his view, the key is "bestowed worth" (think of "The Velveteen Rabbit"): "What we need, for a theistic grounding of human rights", he writes," is some worth-imparting relation of human beings to God that does not in any way involve a reference to human capacities. I will argue that being loved by God is such a relation; being loved by God gives a human being great worth."