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Basic readings to understand human dignity

  • Hershel Clay Baker. "Dignity of Man: studies in the persistence of an idea in classical antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance"
    This book, published in 1947, is by far the best work I have ever read concerning human dignity but unfortunately, it is not available online, and not even in the browser of the Harvard University Press.
  • Charles Taylor. "Sources of the Self: the making of modern identity"
    "In general, one might try to single out three axes of what can be called, in the most general sense, moral thinking. As well as the two just mentioned - our sense of respect for and obligations to others, and our understandings of what makes a full life - there is also the range of notions concerned with dignity. By this I mean the characteristics by which we think ourselves as commanding (or failing to command) the respect of those around us" (p. 15)
  • Steven Lukes. "Individualism"
    "The first unit-idea of individualism has become to pervade modern ethical and social though in the West, as Tocqueville predicted when he maintained that the norms of democracy were irresistible in the modern world (...)" (p.52) The idea of human dignity or respect for persons lies at the heart of the idea of equality, while autonomy, privacy and self-development represents the three faces of liberty or freedom" (p. 105).
  • Alfred North Whitehead. "Adventures of Ideas"
    "The great classical civilization is remarkable for two facts. First, it constituted the culmination of slavery, especially at the height of the Roman Empire (...). We know come to the second fact for which the classical period was remarkable. It was the first period which introduced moral principles forming an effective criticism of the whole system" (p. 14)
  • Michel Foucault. "The Hermeneutics of the Subject: Lectures at the College de France 1981-1982"
    " "The gnôthi seauton" (know yourself) appears quite clearly and again in a number of significant texts, within the general framework of the "epimeleia heautou" (care of oneself) as one of the forms, one of the consequences, as a sort of concrete, precise and particular application of a general rule: You must attend to yourself, you must not forget yourself, you must take of yourself". (pages 4 & 5)

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