A human dignitas? : remnants of the ancient legal concept in contemporary dignity jurisprudence
Title: A human dignitas? : remnants of the ancient legal concept in contemporary dignity jurisprudence
Author: HENNETTE-VAUCHEZ, Stéphanie
Citation: International journal of constitutional law, 2011, Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 32-57
ISSN: 1474-2659; 1474-2640
This paper suggests that the contemporary principle of human dignity in some of its “dignitarian” uses (in such landmark cases as those concerning dwarf-throwing, as well as when it is employed to oppose prostitution, certain sexual conducts, or the right to refuse medical treatment) does not have much in common with the human dignity principle that came into prominence after World War II. Instead, it shares many resemblances with the ancient legal concept of dignitas, for it has the same function (as a ground for obligations rather than rights), structure (grounding obligations toward oneself), and regime (inalienability). The link between contemporary dignity and ancient dignitas is a crucial one, for it implies that the rationale as a foundation of human rights, very common to narratives about the human dignity, is deceptive at least so far as the concept's contemporary fashion is concerned.
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