“Dignity in the Legal and Political Philosophy of Ronald Dworkin” (Khurshid et al., eds.)

“Dignity” has become an increasingly important legal value in recent decades. It has Dworkintaken up a central position in the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence of substantive due process, where values including privacy and autonomy occupied the limelight in prior decades. Dignity has become, in these discussions, a right that the state can and/or must confer to particular individuals and groups for identitarian reasons. Dignity has a much longer and richer heritage in European legal systems as the source of rights in, for example, the European Convention on Human Rights and caselaw from the European Court of Human Rights.

The path of dignity in Anglophone legal philosophy is a complex one as well. Human dignity was not particularly emphasized by the great figures of legal positivism (Hart and Raz, for example, the latter of whom has focused primarily on autonomy). But recent studies by philosophers including Jeremy Waldron have also placed it in a more central position. Here is a new volume of essays concerning the place of dignity in the work of the eminent philosopher of law and political philosopher, Ronald Dworkin: Dignity in the Legal and Political Philosophy of Ronald Dworkin (OUP), edited by Salman Khurshid, Lokendra Malik, and Veronica Rodriguez-Blanco.

Well-known for his contribution to the juristic world, Professor Ronald Dworkin was an outstanding legal philosopher of his generation. This volume celebrates the thoughts of Ronald Dworkin on dignity. The contributors have critically engaged with different perspectives of Dworkin’s thoughts on dignity. The aim is to shed light on juridical and moral contemporary conundrums such as the role of dignity in constitutional contexts in India, and the understanding of dignity as either a foundation of human rights or as a supra value that illuminates other values and rights.

The volume is divided into four parts. The first part ‘Integrity, Values, Interpretation, and Objectivity’ focuses on Dworkin’s interpretive methodology and examines the way his value holism relies on his interpretative methodology. The second part ‘Dignity, Responsibility, and Free Will’ concentrates on elucidating the complex relationship between dignity, human will, and responsibility in Dworkin’s moral, legal, and political philosophy. In the third part ‘Freedom of Speech, Right to Privacy, and Rights’, the authors use Dworkin’s philosophical moral framework and the interpretative methodology to shed light on his own views on freedom of speech and the language of rights, including human rights. The fourth part ‘Dignity, Constitutions, and Legal Systems’ critically discusses Dworkin’s interpretative methodology to understand dignity in the context of constitutions, state, and law beyond the state. With contributions from eminent scholars across the world, the present volume will help in disseminating Dworkin’s rich jurisprudential thoughts.

2 responses

  1. I offer a question: Should the State “confer” dignity, as I read today, or should the State recognize the dignity inherent in all persons? I come from a tradition that maintains a person has dignity by the very fact that one is a persony. No one waits for a political agent to bestow that dignity.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s very interesting, Fr. Gouldrick. Yes, I think this is a major difference in, for example, the Obergefell decision, between the opinions of Justice Kennedy for the Court and Justice Thomas in dissent. You are taking the view of Justice Thomas.

    Liked by 1 person

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