Saturday, April 30, 2011
In the latest issue of First Things, Mary Ann Glendon has this as-per-usual thoughtful essay, "The Bearable Lightness of Dignity", in which she reflects on the fact "human dignity" is a concept "necessary to human decency but notoriously resistant to precise definition." A taste:
. . . [I]t seems fair to say that the challenge of supplying the concept of dignity with philosophical foundations that are intelligible to believers and nonbelievers alike is still a work in progress. That does not mean, however, that, as Miosz feared, it rests on an “abyss.” For, as Pope John Paul II pointed out in his essay On the Dignity of the Human Person, the recognition of human dignity is rooted in the experience of living with and interacting with other human beings: “The community is the vehicle through which we experience our own dignity and the dignity of others, and the connectedness of persons and the value of persons are discovered through their interdependence.”
Through experiencing and reflecting on experience (historical experience as well as our own), we accumulate a body of knowledge about right and wrong. The impressive multinational consensus reached on documents like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is testimony to the fact that some things are so terrible in practice that virtually no one will approve them—or openly admit they approve them—and that some things are so good in practice that virtually no one will oppose them, or admit they oppose them. . . .