Wednesday, November 5, 2014

I Dignify Monash's Comments with a Post

Does this make any sense?
I don't dignify just any old comment of Monash's.  Some comments do not rise to the level worth dignifying. In such cases we say thing like "I will not dignify your comment with a response," or "Do NOT answer him!  That remark should not be dignified with a response!"

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 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.


  1. You continue to talk about how a person can be wrong about their own self-worth. Fine. But my point stands (that you say "doesn't count against what you're saying"): exactly the same point can be made in reference to what OTHER people say about YOU. And so, wrongness/rightness of attribution is neither here nor is it there.

    Further comments on your comments:

    Neither words nor expressions are "dignified." When we speak casually, we say that we are not "dignifying" certain words or expressions. Such colloquial expressions are just that - colloquial. What we _mean_ is that it is beneath our dignity to respond.

    Your original post asserted that the lady who was dying was "given dignity" by those who loved her. Fine. My point was that such cases are, if anything, the exception rather than the rule of dignity. Your response was such that I took the hard-line, that dignity is not given in any cases. And so I have no clue why you would say something like this: "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."

    The whole point of the exchange was to challenge your ORIGINAL claim that a person has dignity PRIMARILY because of other people. I give you a counter-example. To which...?

    Even if you think (2) is closer to the truth [both, by the way, are lexicographically correct in terms of USE], that means very little. It says _worthy_ of respect. And worthiness of respect is neither here nor there with regard to the epistemic situation of any other person. I can be WORTHY of respect whether I get such respect or not; one _might_ think the fact whether I do or do not get said respect (my prison example) is irrelevant. What matters is the worthiness!

    And so, again, your continued harping on whether I can be mistaken MAKES NO SENSE. Why? Because OTHERS can be mistaken as well!

  2. By and large, dignity comes from within. And you've at least admitted that one can have such dignity (e.g., the prison example) absent thoughts or well-wishes from others. In which case: I ask you to revisit what you said in reference to euthanasia. Do you still think you're correct? THAT is what is at issue here, seems to me. My only point was that you were being (to my mind, extremely) cavalier...and so I'm wondering: are YOU sticking to your guns (with your faulty principles)? ;)

  3. Monash,

    I don't see that I said anything false in that first post on euthanasia. You interpreted me (it seems from various things you've said) as saying either that (a) dignity is ONLY conferred by others and/or (b) dignity attains primarily by being conferred by others. I said no such things nor does anything that I said entail such things. It seems to me that you were being (to my mind, extremely) cavalier...and so I'm wondering: are YOU sticking to your guns (with your faulty principles)? ;)

    Back to the original post...

    It was claimed that "being able to choose to go with dignity [to go by suicide] is less terrifying."

    That statement seems to imply some of the following:
    (a) dignity is solely a matter of having certain intrinsic goods such as certain abilities
    (b) if those abilities are damaged or incapacitated then all (or nearly all) dignity goes with it
    (c) someone with sever brain damage has no dignity

    I objected in part by saying that having a human nature confers dignity. Even with damaged or no capacities one can still have dignity by being an exemplar of an excellent blue print.

    I added the more controversial claim that one can still have dignity extrinsically---one can have virtue bestowed on one by God or others (perhaps I should've mentioned that dignity could also perhaps be PRESERVED by others). I stick to that claim.

    What I have not done is to give an ACCOUNT of what the extrinsic bestowing of dignity relationship consists in--I have mostly just given a couple intuition pumps. Perhaps that is why you keep saying things like "others can be mistaken, and "that cuts both ways."

    Not any old relation--not any old act of love or respect is dignity conferring. But I don't have an account of the dignity conferring relationship ready to hand. It has something to do with a type of love, I suspect, that is closely akin to respect. It is worth conferring and by that, dignity conferring.

    1. Here is what you said in your original post: "Yet one can retain dignity--dignity which goes beyond merely being a human--even in the face of great suffering and bodily affliction. For one can have worth bestowed upon one from others."

      Now, one may very well take this to be saying that EITHER one has dignity in virtue of being a human being OR one can have dignity bestowed by others.

      I am not making a claim about logical entailment. But from what you said, it's a fairly natural consequence that dignity can be one or the other. Your point about euthanasia is an empty point if what I have said is true. And so you have YET to make any sort of satisfactory response in that regard.

    2. I said that you can retain dignity which goes beyond merely being a human. Implied by that is that there is dignity in being a human. An either/or is not implied. Both/and is implied. Moreover I say "one CAN have dignity bestowed." If I thought that all or most was bestowed that would be a terribly vague way to put things.

  4. MJ: Neither words nor expressions are "dignified." When we speak casually, we say that we are not "dignifying" certain words or expressions. Such colloquial expressions are just that - colloquial. What we _mean_ is that it is beneath our dignity to respond.

    TB: When I say "I will not dignify that response with a comment" I mean to be saying that your response is not worthy of the respect I would be giving it by commenting. I am saying NOTHING about my own dignity.

    1. You are wrong. A comment cannot be dignified or undignified. Dignity is a virtue, and as far as I am aware, comments/responses are neither virtuous nor vicious, as AGENTS are virtuous or vicious.

    2. Justice is a virtue. Justice is primarily said of agents. Nonetheless actions can be just or unjust. If you want to cash that out in terms of the justice of the agent then I suppose we could say that an action is unjust insofar as it diminishes the justice of the agent and an action is just insofar as it preserves or increases the just disposition of the agent.

      But then perhaps a similar thing can be said about commenting which is a type of action. To dignify a comment is, strictly speaking, to dignify the agent-commenting.