From Phenomenology to Metaphysics
Chapter 5: An Analysis of Human Dignity pace Stein
An Analysis of Human Dignity pace Stein
Human dignity is a term it is not easy to define, even though most of us will make use of the term now and then. Nor is it a reality that is easy to describe precisely, although it seems to be something of which we all have a keen intuition and which matters to us in a vital way. In what follows I shall propose a definition that allows us to describe the intuition of human dignity by means of Stein’s phenomenology.
Addressing the topic of human dignity according to the phenomenology of Edith Stein requires a preliminary comment about Stein’s own idea of human dignity and the relationship it bears with our present analysis. Stein did not explicitly write on human dignity, nor did it interest her specifically to give an account of what it is, although the reality probably mattered as much to her as to anyone of us. She lived and wrote before the expression found its lasting form in the human rights tradition, but had she survived the Second World War, it is likely she would have found this development of particular interest. However, Stein used the corresponding German expression Menschenwürde three times in her work. In her autobiography Life in a Jewish Family she explains her own life long abstention from alcohol by reference to human dignity.1 In Potency and Act she explains her own emphasis on the individuality...
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