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Dignity is humanity's most prized possession. We experience the loss of dignity as a terrible humiliation: when we lose our dignity we feel deprived of something without which life no longer seems worth living. But what exactly is this trait that we value so highly? In this important new book, distinguished philosopher Peter Bieri looks afresh at the notion of human dignity. In contrast to most traditional views, he argues that dignity is not an innate quality of human beings or a right that we possess by virtue of being human. Rather, dignity is a certain way to lead one's life. It is a…mehr
Dignity is humanity's most prized possession. We experience the loss of dignity as a terrible humiliation: when we lose our dignity we feel deprived of something without which life no longer seems worth living. But what exactly is this trait that we value so highly? In this important new book, distinguished philosopher Peter Bieri looks afresh at the notion of human dignity. In contrast to most traditional views, he argues that dignity is not an innate quality of human beings or a right that we possess by virtue of being human. Rather, dignity is a certain way to lead one's life. It is a pattern of thought, experience and action in other words, a way of living. In Bieri's account, there are three key dimensions to dignity as a way of living. The first is the way I am treated by others: they can treat me in a way that leaves my dignity intact or they can destroy my dignity. The second dimension concerns the way that I treat other people: do I treat them in a way that allows me to live a dignified life? The third dimension concerns the view that I have of myself: which ways of seeing and treating myself allow me to maintain a sense of dignity? In the actual flow of day-to-day life these three dimensions of dignity are often interwoven, and this accounts in part for the complexity of the situations and experiences in which our dignity is at stake. So, why did we invent dignity and what role does it play in our lives? As thinking and acting beings, our lives are fragile and constantly under threat. A dignified way of living, argues Bieri, is humanity's way of coping with this threat. In our constantly endangered lives, it is important to stand our ground with confidence. Thus a dignified way of living is not any way of living: it is a particular way of responding to the existential experience of being under threat. It is also a particular way of answering the question: What kind of life do we wish to live? This beautifully written reflection on our most cherished human value will be of interest to a wide readership.
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Peter Bieri was born in Bern in 1944. He studied philosophy and classical philology and was Professor of Philosophy at Bielefeld, Marburg and the Freie Universitat Berlin.
Introduction: Dignity as a way of living 1. Dignity as autonomy Being a subject Being an end in itself Slaughterhouses What if it is voluntary? Humiliation as demonstrated powerlessness Escaping to an inner fortress Having rights Being patronized Caring paternalism Respect for alterity and conviction Dependence: asking and begging Begging for feelings Inner autonomy: thought Inner autonomy: wanting and deciding Inner autonomy: emotions Inner autonomy: self-image and censorship Humiliation through serfdom Autonomy through self-knowledge Needing therapy Dignity through work Money 2. Dignity as encounter When subjects encounter each other Commitment and distancing Recognition Equal rights Putting someone on display Sex objects Human commodity Neglect Talk to me! Laughing at someone Denying explanation Manipulation Deception Seduction Overpowering Working with a therapist No pity, thank you! Encounters between autonomous individuals Leaving an open future to the other Dignified partings 3. Dignity as respect for intimacy The dual need for intimacy Feeling the other's gaze What is a defect? The logic of shame Shame as humiliation Dignity as conquered shame The intimate space The innermost zone Dignified disclosures Undignified disclosures Shared intimacy Betrayed intimacy as lost dignity A challenge: Intimacy as a lack of courage 4. Dignity as truthfulness Lying to others Lying to oneself Honesty and its limits Calling things by their proper name Saving one's face Bullshit 5. Dignity as self-respect Dignity through limits Fluid self-images Destroying self-respect Sacrificing self-respect Breaking self-respect Responsibility for oneself 6. Dignity as moral integrity Moral autonomy Moral dignity Dignity in guilt and forgiveness Punishment: Development instead of destruction Absolute moral boundaries? 7. Dignity as a sense for what matters Meaning of life One's own voice Equanimity as a sense of proportion The view from the end 8. Dignity as the acceptance of finitude When others lose themselves Escape Losing oneself: Resistance Losing oneself: Accepting the journey into darkness Dying Letting someone die Ending one's life Responsibility towards the dead References & Further Reading
"An elegant and subtle exploration of dignity and what it means to lose it."Nigel Warburton, author of A Little History of Philosophy"Human Dignity shows a rich and insightful exploration of the idea of human dignity from various angles and at several levels. Bieri carefully distinguishes dignity from other similar looking but really quite different concepts and deals with such important questions as how to live and die with dignity. This is an important book."Bhikhu Parekh, House of Lords"An important and beautiful book, thoroughly worth reading."Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
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