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Deconstructing DignityA Critique of the Right-to-Die Debate$
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Scott Cutler Shershow

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780226088129

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226088266.001.0001

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Dignity and Sovereignty

Dignity and Sovereignty

(p.41) Chapter Three Dignity and Sovereignty
Deconstructing Dignity

Scott Cutler Shershow

University of Chicago Press

Across the modern discourse of human rights, “human dignity” serves as the rubric for an ideal of individual freedom in its potential or actual antagonism with sovereign power. Yet the history and genealogy of both “dignity” and “sovereignty” shows that the two terms are intimately linked, both semantically and conceptually. A hypothetical individual “right to die” is thus finally inseparable from a sovereign “right to death.” Via a close analysis of a few classical and scriptural passages, the chapter observes how the concept of dignity appears always in need of a kind of supplement. For example, in contemporary parlance, especially in the discourse of human rights, the word “dignity” is almost always paired with “worth,” as though the word dignity is either not quite sufficient to state the value and status of humanity, or refers to a value that is more or different than simple worth.

Keywords:   Dignity, Sovereignty, Human rights

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