#114 Mathias Risse – What is special about dignity?

In our new CONVOCO! Podcast Corinne M. Flick speaks with Mathias Risse, Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights, Global Affairs and Philosophy as well as Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, about: 

What is special about dignity?

Here’s what he said:

Dignity used to be reserved for either an elite status or for performing in a hierarchy. But in the Enlightenment dignity gets democratized.

After WWII, the notion of dignity is something that is understood as the underlying choice capacities that we all have. These human choice capacities deserve certain protections and provisions. And the machinery for that is human rights.

I am sympathetic to ideas of breaking down barriers between humans and other forms of life. But dignity is a kind of moral vocabulary that I would like to reserve for humans.

One domain where European thinking about dignity really matters compared to the US is criminal justice. 25% of people in prison anywhere in the world are in a US prison. Sentencing guidelines in the US are obscene compared to the German practice.

When we think about the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine, Gaza, and lots of other places in the world, those of us who live in peace have an obligation to weigh in with the perspective that everybody involved there has dignity.

Previous #113 Ottmar Edenhofer – Warum am CO2-Preis kein Weg vorbei führt


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