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Dworkin’s Dignity Under the Lens of the Magician of Könisberg

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

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Dworkin discusses his view on dignity in the context of providing an interpretive construction that integrates our moral and ethical responsibilities. 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 judgements or with what we ought to do categorically. Personal projects, values and commitments are subject to conditions, e.g. 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 realise 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. They are contingent on our psychological make-up, i.e. on our inclinations, desires, judgements of value and circumstances. They do not apply universally and we cannot demand categorically their realisation. By contrast, moral values do not depend on our desires or inclinations, socio-economic status, talents or intelligence. Consequently, every human being can realise and participate in a moral life. Our personal tragedy as human beings arises from the awareness that a successful life, which entails the realisation of our personal projects, values and commitments, does not necessarilymean 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, i.e 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’. The independent view cannot integrate morality and ethics because our moral responsibilities are presented as being fixed. 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, i.e. personal projects, values and commitments, within certain limiting conditions. However, these limiting conditions cannot be formulated in terms of our duties to others. The 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 recognise 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 : 01 Sep 2017 10:17

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