Tuesday, November 4, 2014


In response to the previous post, Monash Jonas writes:

Dignity, I take it, is a form of self-worth. And, it seems to me, has for the most nothing to do with what others think...Take Ms. Brittany. Her sense of self-worth is diminished...why? Perhaps because she can no longer function without the aid of someone else. 
Dignity or self-worth concerns my own bearing, in the first instance. It has, again, little to do with anyone else (excepting God, of course). I hold to certain principles, say, and I judge myself on how well I apply those principles to my life - such dignity has nothing to do with anyone else. So I guess I'm unclear as to why you think appealing to anyone else (in terms of their feelings or thoughts or whatever) has any bearing on what I think of myself. 
JS, adds "it also seems to me that dignity has almost nothing to do with what others think. "

I am not sure if I understand what Monash means by self-worth.  It sounds as if Monash means to be saying with his example of "Ms. Brittany" is that dignity=self-worth and self-worth is the worth that someone has in virtue of valuing herself.  Dignity just is valuing oneself; the more one values oneself, the more dignity one has; the less one values oneself, the less dignity one has.

On the one hand, this view is not so different than mine.  I think that some worth can be attained by valuing--treating someone as if one has worth can indeed add value.  Someone who does not value himself just has less goodness; such a person is worse off than someone who values himself.  But I don't think that I am the only one who can add worth to myself.  God's loving me, for instance, can make me more worthy and dignified.  (At the same time, as I expressed before, I can have intrinsic value, say, just from having the nature that I have.  Not all value is extrinsic).  When I have time I'll give an illustration to motivate that claim but it will have to be in a separate post.

I disagree that dignity consists only or even for the most part in my valuing myself.  For I can be mistaken about my own worth and about my dignity.  We all know people who think of themselves far too highly and treat themselves as far too dignified than they really are.  Their thinking or treating themselves as having excess worth, in fact, contributes to them actually being less dignified.

I do think a man on an island would have less dignity than a virtuous person in a society.  The man on the island has the dignity which comes from being a human and has the dignity of being loved by God, but the man has no dignity which comes from being in certain relationships with other people.

Suppose (per impossible) that there was only one man in the universe and no other minds.  Would that man have much dignity?  I don't think that he would.

I realize there's not much by way of argument here.  Perhaps I'll have time for that in a bit.


  1. Okay, you made me do it...and so here it is: there is NO dignity that is conferred upon one by anyone else. Your example concerning persons who think of themselves as having more self-worth than they deserve cuts both ways; others can summarily confer too much esteem upon a person whether they so deserve it.

    I am framed for committing murder. I know that I did not do it, and I know that I hold murder as the most loathsome of crimes. I serve my sentence even though everyone else thinks of me as a murderer. I serve without remorse or vengeful feelings toward anyone else. I.e., I serve my sentence with dignity.

    Dignity is often defined in one of two ways: either (1) as self-respect [which is the manner in which I typically understand it] or (2) as being _worthy_ of respect from others. Notice that in neither case is such that dignity is _conferred_ upon one by other people, i.e., other people do _not_ make one more or less dignified. It is one's standing on one's own that makes one worthy or not.

    Perhaps we are talking about different concepts, but no, I don't think of a person on a desert island as having "less" dignity than one that lives socially. In fact, I'm not sure I even know what it means to say that one is conferred or granted dignity by someone else. To me, whatever it is that is conferred is not dignity, nor is it integrity. Perhaps it's a form of other-regarding honor. But no, dignity it is not.

  2. And no, dignity is not about "valuing oneself." Instead, it is about valuing one's commitments and/or principles...it is about (odd as it may seem to put it like this) valuing one's values, holding them dear to oneself, remaining stable in the holding of said values. [And "my values" is not identical with "myself."]