Adeno Addis holds the W.R. Irby Chair and the William Ray Forrester Professorship of Public and Constitutional Law at Tulane University School of Law. He received his B.A., LL.B (Hons) from Macquarie University and LL.M. and J.S.D. from Yale University. He has published extensively in the areas of constitutional law, jurisprudence, human rights and public international law. Much of the debate in the political, social and legal domains is better understood as involving the issue of who belongs to what community and under what terms or conditions. Much of Professor Addis’ work has revolved around that basic question, whether the issue is constitutional design for severely fractured societies (, or the rationale for the idea of universal jurisdiction (, or the legal and political relationships between diasporas and homelands (

More recently, Professor Addis has engaged in a large scale study of the idea of dignity. The study is an attempt to develop a bottom-up (pragmatic) rather than a top-down (philosophical or religious) approach to what it means to dignify humans or conversely to subject them to indignities. In a world of plural values, a top-down approach is unlikely to provide us with a common standard for deciding what it means to dignify humans. Human dignity pragmatism seeks to develop a common standard from the choices communities and individuals across systems and cultures make in the name of human dignity.


In this article Professor Addis closely examines the concept of human dignity, an idea that has played an important role in ordinary conversations, in legal and political theories and occupies a prominent place in numerous national constitutions and international conventions. Yet, it is not always clear what the concept means or entails. In an earlier article, Professor Addis argued that in a world of plural values and ethical commitments a top-down approach, whether philosophical or religious, is unlikely to provide us with a common standard for deciding what it means to dignify humans or to subject them to indignities. Building on the earlier work, in this article Professor Addis argues that the best way to understand the scope and content of human dignity is to engage in a bottom-up inquiry, carefully describing the choices communities make in the name of human dignity. The purpose of such inquiry is to see whether there are patterns in the usage that suggest that there is a convergence of, an overlapping consensus on, an understanding of what it means to dignify humans. Focusing on references to and usages of human dignity in national constitutions and major international human rights documents, the article shows that there are in fact patterns of usage that suggest the existence of a consensus on specific understandings of dignity that we can use as common standards of measurement across cultures and systems.