Volume 27, Issue 2, Fall 2013
A Biophilosophical Model of Human Dignity
The Argument from Development in a Four-Dimensionalist Perspective
The notion of dignity is central in most international documents concerning bioethics and biolaw, but its significance and its philosophical foundation are a matter of incessant debate. I propose to define dignity as a unique property of human beings stemming from the developmental process of rationality and self-consciousness (R&SC) and conferring on them equal moral rights. A central claim of this essay is that dignity is not an ontological property but has a time-space dimension. It comes to be in the individuated embryo coincident with the beginning of an individuated development of R&SC and ends with irreversible damage of the brain support for R&SC. The philosophical foundation of the model is the argument from development (AFD). Development is the traceable and measurable biological process that assures continuity from the individuated embryo to adulthood. The metaphysical ground of development is also discussed within a four-dimensionalist framework.