Dignity is the right of a person to be valued and respected for their own sake, and to be treated ethically. It is of significance in morality, ethics, law
and politics as an extension of the Enlightenment-era concepts of inherent, inalienable rights. The term may also be used to describe personal conduct, as in "behaving with dignity".A philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment (18th century), Immanuel Kant held that there were things that should not be discussed in terms of value, and that these things could be said to have dignity. 'Value' is necessarily relative, because the value of something depends on a particular observer's judgment of that thing. Things that are not relative – that are "ends in themselves", in Kant's terminology – are by extension beyond all value, and a thing is an end in itself only if it has a moral dimension; if it represents a choice between right and wrong. In Kant's words: "Morality, and humanity
as capable of it, is that which alone has dignity." Specifically with respect to human dignity, which his writings brought from relative obscurity in Western philosophy into a focal point for philosophers, Kant held that "free will" is essential; human dignity
is related to human agency, the ability of humans to choose their own actions. Dan Egonsson, followed by Roger Wertheimer, argued that while it is conventional for people to equate dignity with 'being human' (Egonsson's 'Standard Attitude', Wertheimer's 'Standard Belief'), people generally also import something other than mere humanness to their idea of dignity. Egonsson suggested that an entity must be both human and alive to merit an ascription of dignity, while Wertheimer states "it is not a definitional truth that human beings have human status."
Human dignity is a central consideration of Christian philosophy.The Catechism of the Catholic Church insists the "dignity of the human person is rooted in his or her creation in the image and likeness of God." "All human beings," says the Church, "in as much as they are created in the image of God, have the dignity of a person." The catechism says, "The right to the exercise of freedom belongs to everyone because it is inseparable from his or her dignity as a human person." The Catholic Church's view of human dignity
is like Kant's insofar as it springs from human agency and free will, with the further understanding that free will in turn springs from human creation in the image of God.
Human dignity, or kevod ha-beriyot, is also a central consideration of Judaism. Talmud cautions against giving charity publicly rather than in private to avoid offending the dignity of the recipient. Medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides in his codification of Halakha cautioned judges to preserve the self-respect of people who came before them: "Let not human dignity
be light in his eyes; for the respect due to man supersedes a negative rabbinical command".
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