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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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The Secret History of Constitutional Dignity

The Secret History of Constitutional Dignity

(p.95) 4 The Secret History of Constitutional Dignity
Understanding Human Dignity

Samuel Moyn

British Academy

Recent histories of human dignity have focused on long-range intellectual and social contexts that provide very little explanation of the presence of the concept in politics and law today. This chapter revisits the very brief historical window through which, between the late 1930 and late 1940s, dignity made its prominent entry into modern constitutionalism, largely under the auspices of Catholic social thought and with highly local political implications. As the evidence shows, the sources of this entry are to be found neither in Kantian cosmopolitanism, the democratization of high status, nor post-Holocaust recoil. The point is not to restrict the possible meanings of dignity in recent liberal philosophy or legal tactics to its predominant context of origin. It is to show that such later creativity arose not against the background of long traditions and promiscuous uses of the concept of dignity, but in concrete and sometimes necessarily polemical relation to mid-century Catholic transnational political ventures.

Keywords:   Ireland, dignity, Éamon de Valera, Catholicism, constitutionalism

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