What is dignity?

We explain what is the dignity and the different meanings of this term. In addition, some examples and phrases about dignity.

  1. What is dignity?

Dignity is a complex concept. On the one hand, we understand it as an intrinsic value of the human being , which is not granted by anyone but has by the mere fact of being, for being born, for being provided with rationality and freedom , without distinction of sex, race, religion , sexual orientation or other conditions.

This human dignity  goes hand in hand with universal human rights , that is, with those minimum conditions of existence that all human beings deserve automatically and are not subject to debate or discussion by any court.

This, of course, has not always been fulfilled and is a product of human modernity, since formerly there were laws that allowed slaves, people devoid of this ontological dignity (“of being”).

There is, however, another sense of dignity that is related to honor , honor, pride, that is, with belonging (real, symbolic or imaginary) to a human group that deserves and demands the respect of others. This notion comes from ancient times and was linked to decisions made, with fidelity to ideals or divine mandates, for which it was decent to die rather than retract or betray them.

Tragic heroes, for example, protagonists of ancient epics, were able to sacrifice themselves to safeguard honor, which amounted to “die with dignity” instead of living “dishonorably.” This concept was later universalized by Christianity, whose philosophy gave sin a conception more or less similar to ancient dishonor, with the difference that one could not “clean up” with death (as it did until recently Japanese culture, through ritual suicide or harakiri ) but would torment the soul on its way to the hereafter (hell, purgatory or paradise).

At present, however, thanks to Humanism and the philosophical schools of the Modern and Contemporary Era , the dignity of the human being is understood as something much more secular (secular) and linked to the conditions in which he lives his life. Decent ways of living imply a series of objective and subjective concepts , such as freedom, autonomy , belonging, identity, fullness of rights and self-determination.

  1. Examples of dignity

Human dignity can be evidenced in various fields and attitudes. For example:

  • It is said of a person who has dignity when he values ​​himself above the needs of the moment or the demands of others. In this case it can be considered synonymous with integrity or honor.
  • It is said that a person lives with dignity when he can provide himself with the satisfaction of his needs without the need to beg others, to submit to other people’s designs or to perform acts contrary to his morals in order to survive.
  • Commonly it can be considered a dignified attitude to respect others: take into consideration their rights, their worth, as well as their own. An unworthy person can be someone who does not respect himself or does not respect others, or both.
  • It is also said that a dignified person is one who honors the commitments made, who does not take refuge in lies or evasion to avoid facing their responsibilities .
  1. Phrases about dignity

  • “Dignity is not about having honors, but deserving them.”
    Aristotle (Greek philosopher, 384-322 BC).
  • “Where is the dignity unless there is honesty?”
    Marco Tulio Cicero (Roman philosopher, 106-43 BC)
  • “Through lies, man annihilates his dignity as a man.”
    Immanuel Kant (Prussian philosopher, 1724-1804).
  • “The dignity of human nature requires that we face the storms of life.”
    Mahatma Gandhi (Indian politician, 1869-1948).
  • “Only morality in our actions can give beauty and dignity to life.”
    Albert Einstein (Jewish-German physicist, 1879-1955).
  • “The day our dignity will be completely restored,
    is the day when our purpose ceases to be until the sun rises the next morning.”
    Thabo Mbeki (South African politician, 1942-).
  • “When we talk about human dignity, we cannot make concessions.”
    Angela Merkel (German politician, 1954-).

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