"Reconsidering Dignity Relationally"

Ethics and Social Welfare 11 (2):108-121 (2017)
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I reconsider the concept of dignity in several ways in this article. My primary aim is to move dignity in a more relational direction, drawing on care ethics to do so. After analyzing the power and perils of dignity and tracing its rhetorical, academic, and historical influence, I discuss three interventions that care ethics can make into the dignity discourse. The first intervention involves an understanding of the ways in which care can be dignifying. The second intervention examines whether the capacity to care should be considered a distinguishing moral power – as rationality often is – in light of which humans have dignity. In the third intervention, I cast dignity as a fundamentally relational concept and argue that relationality is constitutive not only of dignity but also of the wider enterprise of normativity. I understand relationality as the condition of connection in which all human beings stand with some other human beings. A thought experiment involving the last person on earth helps to reframe the normative significance of human relatedness. Dignity emerges as fundamentally grounded in relationality.
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