Utrecht Conference on The Future of Human Dignity

Three ESRs attended a conference at the University of Utrecht on “The Future of Human Dignity.” Renze Klamer, Johannes Renders and Josh Roe returned to Johannes’ alma mater to partake in three intense days of discussing Human Dignity in a philosophical, juridical and human rights contexts. Click on the link to read a short impression.

2016.10.28

Utrecht Conference on The Future of Human Dignity

- Renze Klamer, Johannes Renders and Josh Roe

From October 11th through October 13th, three ESR’s in the HHFDWC project attended a conference in Utrecht on “The Future of Human Dignity.” Renze Klamer, Johannes Renders and Josh Roe returned to Johannes’ alma mater to partake in three intense days of discussing Human Dignity in a philosophical, juridical and human rights contexts.

The conference itself was the final conference of Vici-project on Human Dignity and Human Rights. This is a Dutch government grant, similar to an ITN, with several PhDs and Post-Docs working on one topic. It was interesting to hear about their students’ experiences with such a multi-disciplinary project.

Attending the conference provided us with a great introduction into many different ways of conceptualizing, grounding and applying human dignity, and was thus perfectly suited to this first phase of our respective studies. It also gave us a great opportunity to network with other scholars in various domains and learn about the current debates in this fascinating field.

Overall the conference highlighted the lack of agreement about the concept of human dignity; a disagreement that reaches into the fields of law, politics and philosophy. When the concept of human dignity was introduced into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, its lack of definition was useful because it allowed for a general agreement concerning respect for human dignity. However, such vagueness has the disadvantage that specific cases of violations of human dignity are not recognized even when the general concept of human dignity is accepted.

The continuing discord around the concept of human dignity affirmed the importance and relevance of examining the history of human dignity. Indeed, the concept of human dignity is often appealed to as an idea that has a long tradition (most often by referring back to Kant). As is reflected in the modern usage of human dignity, historical precursors of the concept bear the tension of how to combine plurality and unity. This tension has particular relevance for the study of the reception of Origen because he was at the forefront of a conflict of between Platonism (which broadly emphasized unity) and Christianity (which may be said to represent diversity in the sense of a community of both Jews and Gentiles). By tracing the reception of Origen, the History of Human Freedom and Dignity in Western Civilization project will show how the paradox of unity and diversity at the base of human dignity has developed historically.

Renze Klamer and Josh Roe

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