Volume 61, Issue 1, March 2021
On the Grounds of a Person’s Dignity
A Response to Linda Zagzebski
What does it mean to say that a person has dignity, and what explains her dignity? Linda Zagzebski argues that personal dignity entails both infinite and irreplaceable value. Initially she grounds the former claim in the power of rationality and the latter in the uniqueness of one’s subjective lived experience. Later she grounds both in the power of rationality, understood in terms of reflective consciousness. I argue that the latter account is an improvement upon the former but that needless problems arise from both accounts because (1) she conflates properties considered in the abstract with properties instantiated in concrete persons and (2) she fails to recognize an ambiguity in the notion of incommunicability or uniqueness. I also argue that the more fundamental account of rationality should be given not in terms of reflective consciousness but in terms of the ability to understand particulars in light of universals.