Dignity: A History

Front Cover
Remy Debes
Oxford University Press, 2017 M06 1 - 352 pages
In everything from philosophical ethics to legal argument to public activism, it has become commonplace to appeal to the idea of human dignity. In such contexts, the concept of dignity typically signifies something like the fundamental moral status belonging to all humans. Remarkably, however, it is only in the last century that this meaning of the term has become standardized. Before this, dignity was instead a concept associated with social status. Unfortunately, this transformation remains something of a mystery in existing scholarship. Exactly when and why did "dignity" change its meaning? And before this change, was it truly the case that we lacked a conception of human worth akin to the one that "dignity" now represents? In this volume, leading scholars across a range of disciplines attempt to answer such questions by clarifying the presently murky history of "dignity," from classical Greek thought through the Middle Ages and Enlightenment to the present day.

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About the author (2017)

Remy Debes is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Memphis. He has published on a wide variety of areas in moral theory, including human dignity, respect, metaethics, moral psychology, empathy, and understanding. He has also published a variety of articles and chapters in the history of ethics, especially on the work of David Hume and Adam Smith. He is the co-editor of Ethical Sentimentalism, forthcoming from Cambridge University Press.

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