Abstract: The concept of human dignity plays an important role in ordinary conversations and legal and political theories. It also occupies a prominent place in numerous national constitutions and international conventions. Yet, it is not always clear what the concept means or entails. The author, in an earlier work, argued that in a world of plural values and ethical commitments a topdown 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, this article 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 the phrase that could be appropriated as a standard of measurement in intercultural and intersystem conversations and critiques. Focusing on references to human dignity in national constitutions, the article shows that there are in fact patterns of usage that suggest the existence of a consensus on specifi c understandings of dignity.
Keywords: human dignity; constitutions; equality; human rights; jurisprudence; physical integrity
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