Human Dignity and Political Criticism

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2022.08.03 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews

Colin Bird, Human Dignity and Political Criticism, Cambridge University Press, 2021, 276pp., $99.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781108832021.

Reviewed by Ariel Zylberman, University at Albany, SUNY

The concept of human dignity encapsulates three powerful ideals: all human beings, rather than those belonging to some socioeconomic elite, are supposed to have the same dignity (Universality and Equality); such dignity generates a duty of respect owed to the individual (Direction); and the duty of respect is particularly exigent, presumptively blocking the aggregative calculations favored by classical utilitarians (Grip). The ideal of human dignity, roughly so understood, has arguably become a dominant conceptual device for expressing the distinct kind of value enjoyed by individuals. As a result, the ideal of dignity informs a wide range of moral and political forms of criticism, from efforts to reform legal systems to make them conform more perfectly to the principle of equal dignity to social…

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