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In the 20th century, the concept of human dignity has become a much-cited reference point in the justification of norms. Based on its inclusion in numerous constitutions and in universal human rights conventions, for example in the "Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany" and in the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" of the General Assembly of the United Nations, it is both the subject of legal philosophy and the ethical debate about the Problems that the development of modern societies and sciences (technology, medicine, genetics) brings with it. Human dignity is related to the formulation of human rights, since its function is to precede them in a well-founded manner. However, there is by no means consensus on their more detailed definition of content. The discussion is dominated by different points of view on the requirements of the justification, the content of the term and its relevance to application.

(1) On the history of the term: In Roman usage, "dignitas" refers first of all to tradition or office and above all to individual political performance and moral integrity. In Cicero's case, the decisive change to the concept of W. is evident, which is based on human nature, i.e. in the special position it is given due to its spirit. There are also two other conceptual moments that are momentous for history: The relation of W. to the moral determination of man in the community and its foundation in the essential similarity between God and man. - The latter thought can be found again in the Christian conception of man as Imago Dei. Being in the image of God is the decisive foundation of the Christian justification of dignity from patristicism to the present day, whereby the question of the relationship between archetypal image and image must be clarified and how an impairment of the human being through the fall of man is to be thought. The medieval Christian tradition crystallized with Thomas Aquinas. He sees the likeness in the gift of reason, freedom of choice and self-power through which man becomes the author of his works. The idea of ​​dignitas is closely connected with the concept of person, insofar as it is the carrier of the W.. Person is determined with Boëthius as the indivisible substance of rational nature. It is independent, because it "exists per se," and thus within the participation in human nature something that is for itself; in addition, as a sign of their freedom, there is the aspect of "per se agere". But Thomas also emphasizes the togetherness of soul and body, which is why the W. belongs to the whole person and not just to their spiritual aspect. The Dignitas hominis literature of the early modern period represents a new approach to the question of man, but at the same time shows the continuation of the tradition of the Imago Dei justification. In Picos della Mirandola Oratio de hominis dignitate the idea of ​​autonomy gains a central position. The reason for his special nature is the creative self-power of man, which is rooted in his ontic placelessness and forces him to self-determination. It is significant that Pico does not see the actual core of the specifically human dignity in the mental constitution of the human being, but in the fact that he is not fixed by any given form and has to decide for himself what he wants to shape himself into. This is possible because man not only participates in the world in a knowing way, but also contains in himself substantially everything that is world. The creative aspect is an essential feature of the Renaissance reasoning. The human spirit not only reflects the conditions of the world as they exist, rather it completes the world by virtue of its own creative activity and creates it anew, as it were. - In the further modern development, the concept of human dignity can be found primarily in the context of natural law and human rights issues. The relevant aspect of the context of the justification of human dignity and human rights, which is relevant for current legal philosophy, emerges, and the term gains its political-legal dimension (among others in Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Pufendorf).

With Kant, human dignity finally takes on its classic place within ethics. The basis of the W. is the autonomy, the self-rule of the will. W. comes to man as a being capable of morality. As such, it is subject to the condition under which something alone can be an end in itself and thus has not a relative value (price) but an intrinsic value (W.). The inner attitude corresponding to W. is respect. Respect as a subjective determinant of the will means the exclusion of inclinations and self-love as sensual affections of the will, or, as Kant puts it, the "humiliation" of the sensual nature of man under the moral law. To the extent that W. belongs to humanity in each individual, contempt for another implies self-contempt.

In the 19th century, some critical voices were heard about the concept of dignity. Schopenhauer, for example, criticizes the indeterminacy of the content of the Kantian formula as an end in itself and points to the problem of its applicability. For Marx, W. is something that can only be produced by changing social conditions, and with Nietzsche it falls victim to the criticism of Western Christian values. - The discussion of the 20th century therefore also raises the question of how W. can be determinable without referring to theological, metaphysical or axiomatic assumptions. Sartre wants to free man from any prior teleological claim. The special distinction and W. of the human being lies in the fact that they only develop themselves in a series of decisions. With this, however, each of these self-designs becomes a unique event and in its appearance an irreplaceable existence. Respect for people's W. then lies in wanting the conditions under which everyone can freely set and pursue goals, taking into account, however, that each choice implies the other and thus limits his freedom. - With Camus, through the experience of the absurd, man sees himself thrown back on himself in his striving for meaning and arrives at the first certainty: the absurd only has a meaning when one feels Not agreed with him, and the first attitude: the rebellion. In the transition from the absurd to the rebellion, a meaning and value of life takes place. Revolt is man's rebellion against the conditions of his existence. The no to the rebellion stands against the background of the affirmation of a value that the existential conditions violate. Camus describes this value, on the basis of which the revolt arose, as dignité. For him it is a fundamental, not traceable quantity of experience with regard to collective practice. In the rebellion, the person learns that it is not a matter of a private value, but of a common value to all, insofar as the violation causes the other person to be affected in solidarity. - For N. Luhmann, W. and freedom are complementary. Freedom relates to the external, W. to the internal conditions of the self-presentation of man as an individual personality. The latter is the result of complex representational performances that take place in a social context. For Luhmann, W. is the ideal term for successful self-expression and state respect for W. means protecting the space in which the constitution of the personality becomes possible. - According to H. Jonas, respect for a being's own status must not only refer to human beings. Everything organic and nature in its entirety is a self that belongs to W. and which must therefore not be subjected to arbitrary treatment.

(2) From a systematic point of view, there is the problem of how human dignity can be justified ontologically or anthropologically and how the transition to ethical-normative statements can take place from such a justification. - The ontological justification follows the main stream of the history of philosophy. Humans occupy a prominent position in the whole of being because of their rationality and freedom. This justification is closely related to the Christian understanding of man as Imago Dei. Insofar as God bestows the human W., its inviolability can be justified from the transcendent anchoring. Within the ontological approach, the concept of human dignity is mostly linked to that of the person. In the classic sense, a person is characterized by independence, unity, self-reference and agency. It is sometimes disputed whether being a person is linked to an actualization of certain characteristics and whether W. is therefore linked to a certain "achievement of dignity". If it is understood as an integral part of the human being, the question arises as to how one can speak of a loss or vulnerability of dignity in the moral and legal sense. The ontological foundation thus further refers to the ethical question and the determination of the human being as a moral being. - The anthropological justification approach in the narrower sense tries to derive from the fundamental foundations of human existence the concept of W. as inviolability of the conditions for realizing this human existence. With Gehlen, for example, man can be understood as a being who, in order to live, first has to act and shape his world and himself. His possibility of self-determination, within the framework of that of all, is one of the fundamental and therefore to be protected conditions of his human ability. This approach intends to do without recourse to metaphysical or theological assumptions and thus to keep the concept of dignity neutral from an ideological perspective. - The ethical-normative approaches emphasize the function of the concept of dignity within the justification of norms. Insofar as the appeal to human dignity is aimed at showing that a certain behavior (towards oneself and towards others) is morally required due to certain essential characteristics of the human being, on the one hand the principles according to which such a conclusion is possible must be clarified (ought to be Transition) and, on the other hand, which application criteria are to be applied in the specific case. This subheading also includes studies that examine the viability of the argument of dignity within the framework of certain reference fields, such as psychiatry, genetic engineering, today's world of work. W. refers to a certain relationship between the properties of the gift of reason, freedom of choice or self-determination and the attitude and action affecting these and thus expresses an adequacy relationship between being and obligation. Inviolability means the deprivation of the other's self-being from any power to act. Any violation of dignity is a breach of solidarity between people. Your respect recognizes that being human in each individual is represented in an irreplaceable, because individual way, and thus self-determination, within the limits of self-determination for all, is a fundamental condition of human development. - The legal-philosophical tradition of the dignity argument in the German-speaking area is based primarily on Article 1 of the Basic Law. Human dignity is unanimously seen as a fundamental norm, which is the "yardstick for all individual provisions of fundamental rights and their interpretation" and the "center of the constitutional value system" (Federal Constitutional Court). This contrasts with the need for interpretation of the term. According to the current interpretation of the constitution, human dignity is based on the gift of reason and free will, which is why humans must never be treated as a mere means, but always as an inaccessible end in themselves. Kant's concept of dignity forms the basis for this interpretation. However, this principle itself is problematic in its application. The freedom of self-determination, for example, is in a community-related context and must be limited by the freedom of others. Another problem arises with regard to international human rights conventions, insofar as an interculturally valid justification is necessary.

Literature:

  • A. Auer: G. Manetti and Pico della Mirandola. De hominis dignitate. In: Vitae et Veritati. Festival for Karl Adam. Düsseldorf 1956. pp. 83-102
  • H. Bielefeldt et al. (Ed.): Human dignity and rights. Wuerzburg 1992
  • U. Eibach: Medicine and human dignity. Wuppertal 1976
  • T. Geddert-Steinacher: Human dignity as a constitutional concept. Berlin 1990
  • B. Giese: The concept of dignity. Berlin 1975
  • R. Gotesky / E. Laszlo (ed.): Human Dignity. New York 1970
  • W. Maihofer: Rule of law and human dignity. Frankfurt 1968
  • H.-C. Nipperdey: Human dignity. In: Neumann / Nipperdey / Scheuner: Die Grundrechte, Vol. 2. Berlin 1954
  • V. Pöschl: The concept of dignity in ancient Rome and later. Heidelberg 1989
  • J. Santeler: The foundation of human dignity in Kant. Innsbruck 1962
  • Ch. Trinkaus: In Our Image and Likeness. 2 vols. London 1970
  • W. Breach of values: Basic law and human dignity. Cologne / Berlin 1958
  • W. Wolbert: Man as a means and an end. Münster 1987.