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Human dignity: useless rhetoric or substantive concept?

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posted on 2022-03-28, 15:03 authored by Elke Laura Pierce
Human dignity is typically understood as the intrinsic worth or value of all human beings, the possession of which entitles them to respect and fundamental rights. It is widely referenced in a variety of fields including human rights, international and constitutional law, bioethics, and political science. This thesis examines the question of whether human dignity is a substantive concept, with clear content and the ability to provide normative guidance, or merely useless rhetoric. The focus is primarily on the relationship between the state and the individual vis-à-vis human dignity and aims to answer the following questions: What does human dignity actually encompass, and what implications does this have for states' treatment of individuals? The historical and contemporary understandings of human dignity and their connection to one another are analysed, and the criticism that human dignity is too vague a notion to direct legal rulings and political legislation is challenged. Christopher McCrudden's 'core' idea of human dignity is expanded and utilised in regard to the German Aviation Security Case to demonstrate how human dignity is capable of informing such decision-making. The aim of this thesis is to show that human dignity is a substantive concept by responding to criticisms, elaborating on the core idea of human dignity and showing how this 'core' is robust enough to provide practical, normative guidance.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction to human dignity -- Chapter 2. Responding to the critics -- Chapter 3. The minimum core of human dignity -- Chapter 4. The aviation security case -- Chapter 5. Conclusion.


Bibliography: pages 91-99 Theoretical thesis.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


MRes, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations

Department, Centre or School

Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Lloyd Cox


Copyright Elke Laura Pierce 2015. Copyright disclaimer:




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