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Document Details :
Title: Become What You Are
Subtitle: On the Value of the Concept of Human Dignity as an Ethical Criterion in Light of Contemporary Critiques
Author(s): KIRCHHOFFER, David G.
Volume: 70 Issue: 1 Date: 2009
It has been said that human dignity is a vacuous concept that should, therefore, be dismissed as an ethical category. This article seeks to defend the concept of human dignity by suggesting, first, that the flaw in the logic of those who claim that human dignity is a vacuous concept lies in an unjustifiable reductionism that results from the hermeneutic of suspicion that such authors apply to the concept. Second, that human dignity is not an either/or concept, as these authors would suggest, but rather a both/and concept in which the contradictions that they would use for its dismissal are indeed where human dignity’s value as an ethical category lies. This is achieved by applying both a hermeneutic of suspicion and a hermeneutic of generosity to a reading of Gaudium et Spes. The result is a heuristic of human dignity in which dignity is shown to be something that all human beings all already have and, at the same time, still seek to acquire through morally good behaviour. The Component Dimensions of Dignity model addresses this tension in various aspects of the human condition: existential, behavioural, cognitive, and social. In so doing it provides a heuristic tool that can serve both a descriptive and a normative function in ethical discourse, because it can help us to see not only why people may engage in a particular course of action but also the extent to which this action really meets the proviso of the social component dimension of the model, namely, that my dignity is only ever fulfilled if the dignity of all others is brought to fulfilment.