|Does this make any sense?|
Why do we say such things? I think it is because we know that responding to some comments (or other actions) does indeed add dignity to the comments and to the person offering them. But of course some things that are said by people do not rise to the level worth dignifying, and we are to refrain from doing things which would add dignity to what has been said or to the person saying them.
Other comments on Monash's comments:
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 agree. But I don't see how that counts against what I am saying.
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.That someone is dignified by virtue of being honest, taking one's lumps, etc. is consistent with the truth of the proposition that some dignity can be bestowed on one by another.
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.I think (2) is closer to the truth. I don't think (1) is right because I can be mistaken about my worth and dignity and not give myself enough respect or give myself too much. If I can be mistaken about my worth and dignity then my worth/dignity is (at least in part) metaphysically distinct from my action or attitude of respect towards myself. But suppose that my having the proper amount of respect for myself does add some dignity. If that is right then the relation I have to myself of respecting myself adds dignity. But then why not think that a relation that another has to me can also add dignity? Why not think that my respect for x adds dignity? Why not think of being dignified as being worth of respect from another (where one can respect oneself qua other)?
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.Integrity is a virtue inclining one to follow through with one's promises (where the promises are not about actions which are ultimately unjust). That is at least the paradigm case of integrity as I see it. One with integrity has some dignity. But one with some dignity may not have integrity.
I've lost everything. I am living on the street. A Samaritan walks by, sees a fellow human stripped to the bare bones of dignity, stops and befriends me, gives me some money, and takes me to a medical clinic. He loves me. I am still free to spit on him and return his charity with scorn and refuse to be dignified. Instead I enter into a union of friendship with him. He dignifies me with his time and concern. He raises me up a notch--at least for a moment.
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."]I disagree. What you say here sounds more like integrity than dignity. To have dignity is to have worth such that appraisal or positive approbation often taking the form of respect is the appropriate or right response. Are you denying that there is any dignity in being a human (having a human nature)? Are you denying there is dignity in personhood? Are you denying there is any dignity in having a capacity of autonomy, in having a capacity to love others, etc.?
Suppose one lives by false principles and "sticks to his guns." There might be some dignity in that but it ain't worth much! Again, it sounds like you're thinking of a person with integrity ("holding dear" "remaining stable"). Even still, there are presumably deformed senses of integrity. You tell all your friends "I promise I'll be at the game." Your child gets hurt on the day of the game. You stick to your principle of always doing what you've said you'll do and don't take your kids to the doctor. You have some form of integrity, but it's a defective type of integrity (if integrity it be at all). There is no virtue in always doing what you say you are going to do regardless of unforeseen circumstances. And you are less dignified for being a moron who sticks to stupid principles.