Not gods but animals : human dignity and vulnerable subjecthood

Neal, Mary (2012) Not gods but animals : human dignity and vulnerable subjecthood. Liverpool Law Review, 23 (3). pp. 177-200. ISSN 0144-932X (

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Drawing on earlier work on the conceptual structure of dignity, this paper will suggest a particular type of connectedness between vulnerability and human dignity; namely, that the ‘‘organizing idea’’ of human dignity is the idea of a particular sort of ethical response to universal human vulnerability. It is common ground among many, if not all, approaches to ethics that vulnerability requires us to respond ethically. Here, I argue that human dignity is distinctive among ethical values in that it values us because of, rather than in spite of, or regardless of, our universal vulnerability. The term ‘‘dignity’’ is used synonymously with ‘‘human dignity’’ here, since an investigation of the dignity of non-human entities forms no part of the present examination.


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