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Understanding Human Dignity$
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Christopher McCrudden

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780197265642

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197265642.001.0001

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In Defence of Human Dignity:Comments on Kant and Rosen

In Defence of Human Dignity:Comments on Kant and Rosen

(p.313) 17 In Defence of Human Dignity:Comments on Kant and Rosen
Understanding Human Dignity

Thomas E. Hill, Jr.

British Academy

This response to Michael Rosen addresses several of the objections that he raises: (1) The alleged neglect of dignity among contemporary philosophers. (2) The indeterminacy of the idea of dignity and consequently its liability to abuse. (3) The apparently disconnected strands of thought commonly associated with dignity, (4) The alleged inadequacy of Kant’s conception of human dignity for practical applications (e.g. vagueness and absolutism). The most important objection, however, concerns Kant’s basis for affirming the dignity of every human person. That is, (5) Kant’s apparent attempt to ground human dignity on the premise that there is in each person an awesome ‘transcendental kernel’ of a noumenal we-know-not-what. The problem is that this would mean that Kant derives his ethical belief from unsupportable, non-empirical metaphysics, but not even in his so-called ‘metaphysics of morals’ does Kant actually try to base morals on metaphysics (as traditionally conceived).

Keywords:   human dignity, Kant, Michael Rosen, intrinsic value, respect, practical reason, metaphysics of morals, conflicts of duty

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