Human Dignity (chr.)

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(Turk. İnsan Onuru)

The notion that an inviolable dignity accrues to every person regardless of external social or cultural factors, which is central to the Christian idea of humanity, found its first explicit articulation in the philosophy of the secular Enlightenment. According to Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), ‘whatever is above all price, and therefore admits of no equivalent, has a dignity’. It follows from this that it can never be used as mere ‘means to other ends’ but must always be recognised as ‘an end in itself’. This is only the case if a being can determine its own fate from a position of freedom. The aptitude for morality is predicated on the gift of reason. The result of this is that inviolable dignity accrues to human individuals alone, and to all persons possessed of the gift of reason. As an autonomous subject possessed of reason in his or her actions, according to Kant, the individual enjoys inviolable dignity on the basis of which he or she is entitled to inalienable human rights. Beyond Kant, the question remains whether human dignity can be justified based on the autonomous nature of human reason or whether it requires supplemental legitimation in the dimension of the unconditioned, meaning the transcendental and the absolute. In the Christian view, religion alone can, should, and must furnish this final and unconditioned argument. The inalienable dignity enjoyed by the human individual as a reasoning, autonomous subject can find its deeper and ultimate grounds in the fundamental Christian assumptions of faith: the human individual is in the image of the living God (Gen 1.26), and it is only this living God of the Christian faith that, through His Love, makes the dignity of every human individual inviolable to begin with. In Christianity, faith that every human being has been created by God as an individual and is called in personal dialogue with God to a future of communion beyond death makes human dignity explicitly applicable to the individual. While the Christian faith gives rise to the possibility of an absolute justification for human dignity, it does not follow from this that other religions are not similarly in a position, and called upon, to do so as well.

Martin Thurner

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