The Corporate Professor   /   Spring 2012   /    Book Reviews

In Search of Human Dignity

Christopher J. Eberle

Mural in Los Angeles by Midnight Believer; flickr.

Affirmation of human dignity need not be incompatible with due humility, nor need it legitimate despoliation of nature.

George Kateb’s Human Dignity explores the commonly affirmed claim that human beings possess some elevated normative status—a worth, excellence, or sacredness surpassed by no other natural species. His aim is to articulate the content of that claim, to specify its central normative implications, and to defend it from criticism. It is therefore an exceedingly ambitious effort, for the notion of human dignity is difficult to pin down, its normative implications are not immediately apparent, and it has received withering criticism from a great variety of normative perspectives. Human Dignity has a very popular tone, does not engage in detail with the vast literature on human dignity, and reads less like a learned treatise than a personal manifesto. In my judgment, it is for the occasional insight, felicitous turn of phrase, philosophical nugget, or inspiring assertion that the reader should engage this book, not for the power of argument or careful explication of competing views.

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