Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

What does the Christian belief in human dignity owe to Kant?

In his essay, Made in the Image of God: The Christian View of Human Dignity and Poltical Order, Colgate poli sci prof Robert Kraynak writes that Kantian philosophy

seems to match most closely the contemporary Christian concern for the rights and dignity of the person and to account most precisely for the terminology of personhood and personality that Christians now employ.  The change can be seen in the new understanding of the image of God, which no longer reflects the traditional hierarchy of being and perfection with its sometimes harsh implications of judging according to created, natural, conventional, and ecclesiastical hierarchies.  Instead, the image of God now means the infinite worth of every human being as a ‘person’ – and as a moral agent claiming respect as a matter of right and capable of determining his or her own identity.  Consequently, the Imago Dei now includes a moral imperative to establish democratic political structures where the rights of persons are fully recognized and where all share equally in the goods of the world and indeed in the blessings of the afterlife . . . . If this account is accurate, then contemporary Christianity is essentially Kantian Christianity.

So is Kant driving the contemporary Christian understanding of human dignity?  If so, does that represent a potentially dangerous corruption of Christianity, or a welcome example of the fruits of Christianity's engagement with the surrounding culture?  E.g., was Maritain's genius his ability to mesh Thomism with the language and insights of Kant?  Thoughts?


Vischer, Rob | Permalink

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