In Pursuit of Human Dignity: An Introduction to Current Debates

Christopher McCrudden, University of Michigan - Ann Arbor


The discussion of human dignity raises such complex issues, and the issues that current scholarship now considers central to its understanding is so daunting, that we are in danger of not being able to see the forest for the trees. This Introduction forms the first chapter of a forthcoming book of essays (Christopher McCrudden (ed.), UNDERSTANDING HUMAN DIGNITY, Proceedings of the British Academy/Oxford University Press, in press) by a multi-disciplinary group of historians, legal academics, judges, political scientists, theologians, and philosophers, arising from a Conference held in Rhodes House, Oxford In June 2012. The Introduction aims to provide a guide, a map, through the thicket of current dignity scholarship. It situates the subsequent chapters of the book within an overview of the terrain that currently constitutes debates about the use of dignity in these fields. I have not attempted to put forward my own comprehensive account of dignity. Mostly based on the rich conversations that took place at the Conference, I have sought, rather, to probe the potential strengths and weaknesses of all of the principal positions identified, at least in some contexts taking on the role of a Devil’s Advocate.