The American Dream   /   Summer 2013   /    Book Reviews

Michael Rosen’s Dignity: Its History and Meaning

Erica Holberg

Michael Rosen begins his thoughtful, provocative explo- ration of the concept of dignity by posing a question that concerns us all: given the importance of the concept of dignity for modern human rights discourse, which is, Rosen asserts, “the closest that we have to an internationally accepted framework for the normative regulation of political life” (1), and recognizing that the philo- sophical underpinnings and our uses of the concept of dignity are often in con ict, can dignity bear the weight we want to give it in our political, legal, and moral systems? Rosen hopes to convince the reader that yes, in fact, dignity should rightfully occupy a central place in polit- ical and moral thinking. While Rosen writes for a general audi- ence, he resists simplifying the difficulties involved in using dignity to generate political rights or moral duties. It is this sensitivity to and lively engage- ment with the limitations of the concept of dignity that consti- tute one of the chief virtues of this book. Rosen surveys the conceptual landscape of dignity, especially the fault-lines; much of the fun and insights of this book arise in journeying along- side him as he pulls apart and queries different strands of meaning interwoven in our uses of the concept of dignity.

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