The Universal Declaration on Human Rights was pivotal in popularizing the use of "human dignity" in human rights discourse; human rights are increasingly seen as based on the concept of "human dignity." But what does the concept of "human dignity" mean? In the legal context, it has become increasingly clear that "human dignity" is a vital yet increasingly contested term. Apparently rival conceptions of the human person and the common good of society are emerging from this concept. This seminar will study the use of "human dignity" in modern constitutional and human rights law, in the U.S. and elsewhere, and consider its historical and philosophical background. We shall consider whether "human dignity" possesses a basic minimum core, and whether it provides a universalistic, principled basis for judicial decision-making in the human rights context, or whether the meaning of dignity is context specific, varying significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and over time within particular jurisdictions. Potential students may prepare for this class by reviewing Professor McCrudden's article "Human Dignity in Human Rights Interpretation," 19 EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW 655 (2008), available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1162024.
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