Humanity without Dignity: Moral Equality, Respect, and Human Rights

Humanity without Dignity: Moral Equality, Respect, and Human Rights

by Andrea Sangiovanni


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Name any valued human trait—intelligence, wit, charm, grace, strength—and you will find an inexhaustible variety and complexity in its expression among individuals. Yet we insist that such diversity does not provide grounds for differential treatment at the most basic level. Whatever merit, blame, praise, love, or hate we receive as beings with a particular past and a particular constitution, we are always and everywhere due equal respect merely as persons.

But why? Most who attempt to answer this question appeal to the idea that all human beings possess an intrinsic dignity and worth—grounded in our capacities, for example, to reason, reflect, or love—that raises us up in the order of nature. Andrea Sangiovanni rejects this predominant view and offers a radical alternative.

To understand our commitment to basic equality, Humanity without Dignity argues that we must begin with a consideration not of equality but of inequality. Rather than search for a chimerical value-bestowing capacity possessed to an equal extent by each one of us, we ought to ask: Why and when is it wrong to treat others as inferior? Sangiovanni comes to the conclusion that our commitment to moral equality is best explained by a rejection of cruelty rather than a celebration of rational capacity. He traces the impact of this fundamental shift for our understanding of human rights and the norms of anti-discrimination that underlie it.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674049215
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 06/26/2017
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 749,677
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

Andrea Sangiovanni is Reader in Philosophy at King’s College London.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Introduction 1

Guide for the Reader 6

A Note on Methodology 7

Part I Foundations

1 Against Dignity 13

Desiderata 14

The Aristocratic Tradition 16

The Christian Tradition 27

The Kantian Tradition 36

The Regress Reading 37

The Address Reading 50

The Distinction between Basic Moral Status and Equal Moral Status 60

2 Moral Equality, Respect, and Cruelty 72

Treating as Inferior 73

Cruelty 75

Respect 86

Consent 99

Variation and Status 100

Punishment 110

Conclusion 112

3 When and Why Is Discrimination Wrong? 113

The Concept of Discrimination 116

Discrimination and Social Meanings 120

Demeaning and Disrespecting 129

A Fresh Start: The Expressive Harm Account 131

Stigma and Dehumanization in Racial Discrimination 133

Reverse Discrimination 138

Infantilization, Objectification, and Instrumentalization in Sex Discrimination 139

Infantilization 140

Objectification and Instrumentalization 149

Indirect Discrimination 160

Part II Human Rights

4 The Concept of Human Rights: The Broad View 177

Desiderata 178

Against Orthodox Views 180

Against Political Views 186

A Merely Verbal Disagreement 190

The Broad View 191

The Concept 191

The Diversity That Stands between Concept and Conception 194

Avoiding Merely Verbal Disagreement 200

How Does the CSBV Help to Satisfy the Four Desiderata? 203

The Subclass Desideratum 203

The Fidelity Desideratum 203

The Normativity and Determinacy Desiderata 205

Conclusion 205

5 International Legal Human Rights and Equal Moral Status 207

A Defense of the Grounding View 212

The Obligation to Establish and Maintain an International Legal Human Rights System 220

The Duty of Reciprocal Protection and International Legal Human Rights 229

Looking Ahead 233

6 Fundamental Rights, Indivisibility, and Hierarchy among Human Rights 235

Basic Rights 235

Fundamental Rights 240

Indivisibility and Hierarchy among Human Rights 246

Notes 257

References 289

Index 303

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