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Dworkin's Dignity Under the Lens of the Magician of Königsberg

Rodriguez-Blanco, Veronica (2018) Dworkin's Dignity Under the Lens of the Magician of Königsberg In: Dignity in Dworkin’s Legal and Moral Philosophy. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

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Ronald Dworkin discusses his view on dignity in the context of providing an interpretive construction that integrates our moral and ethical responsibilities. 1 In our ordinary lives, moral and ethical conceptions seem to pull us in opposite directions. We engage in personal projects, and have values and commitments that contradict and clash with our moral judgments or with what we ought to do categorically. Personal projects, values, and commitments are subject to conditions, for example, talents, wealth, intelligence, socio-economic status, and so on. By contrast, the demands of morality are unconditional. We cannot avoid acting according to a moral demand by excusing ourselves in terms of our circumstances. We can realize certain projects and participate in values if we are motivated to do them and if we have the talents, resources, or intelligence to be able to do them. Th ey are contingent on our psychological make-up, that is, on our inclinations, desires, judgments of value, and circumstances. Th ey do not apply universally and we cannot demand categorically their realization. By contrast, moral values do not depend on our desires or inclinations, socio-economic status, talents, or intelligence. Consequently, every human being can realize and participate in a moral life. Our personal tragedy as human beings arises from the Dworkin’s Dignity under the Lens of the Magician of Königsberg 201 awareness that a successful life, which entails the realization of our personal projects, values, and commitments, does not necessarily mean that we have led a moral life. We cannot show that morality is essential to having a good life. In other words, that having a good life is being moral, or perhaps vice versa, that a moral life will ensure a good life. Disintegration of the relationship between morality and ethics seems inevitable. In an attempt to swim against this current, Dworkin aims to show that integration between morality and ethics, that is, having a good life, is possible. According to him integration is possible if we seek moral responsibilities that will be construed in terms of, and therefore, determined by, our ethical responsibilities. As part of this endeavour Dworkin attacks what might be called ‘the independent view’. Th e independent view cannot integrate morality and ethics because our moral responsibilities are presented as being fi xed. According to this view, morality can only be determined by morality itself and therefore ethics is necessarily excluded. By contrast, Dworkin advances what we might call the ‘constructivist view’. According to the latter, morality is an interpretive concept and the correct interpretation of what it requires involves interpreting our ethical responsibilities, that is, personal projects, values, and commitments, within certain limiting conditions. However, these limiting conditions cannot be formulated in terms of our duties to others. Th e key concept that establishes the bridge between our moral and ethical responsibilities is living well. Living well ‘means striving to create a good life, but only subject to certain constraints essential to human dignity’. We search for personal projects, commitments, and values that will give us a good life; there are limiting conditions, however, for instance, authenticity and self-respect. Dworkin advances the view that the two principles of authenticity and self-respect give content to the idea of dignity . Authenticity entails that you lead a life that suits your situation and values and that you live your life according to them. Self-respect requires that you take yourself seriously; it requires engagement with the idea of ‘living well’ and that you recognize its importance.

Item Type: Book Section
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > School of Law
Authors :
Date : 2018
Copyright Disclaimer : © 2017 Oxford University Press
Depositing User : Clive Harris
Date Deposited : 01 Sep 2017 10:17
Last Modified : 05 Mar 2018 13:17

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