Deciphering Dignity

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American Journal of Bioethics, Vol. 10, No. 7, pp. 59-61, July 2010

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Leslie Meltzer Henry
Dignity; Bioethics; Fabrice Jotterand
paper description
This commentary draws on dignity’s usage in law, ethics, and public policy to contemplate a narrow question about what the concept of dignity means in debates about human enhancement technologies. In particular, it considers arguments made by Fabrice Jotterand and other bioethicists who aim to repudiate the transhumanist claim that individuals can enhance their dignity through technological modification. The trouble with the positions on both sides of this debate is that it is extremely difficult to make normative comparisons about human and post-human dignity without first infusing dignity with particular metaphysical assumptions. To that end, the commentary offers a brief taxonomy of dignity to illustrate the various meanings of dignity that animate the debate between Jotterand and the transhumanists, and it demonstrates how the taxonomy can clarify and lend moral salience to the issues at hand.