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The four notions of dignity

Lennart Nordenfelt (Philosophy of Medicine and Health Care, Tema Health and Society, Linkoping)
Andrew Edgar (Cardiff University)

Quality in Ageing and Older Adults

ISSN: 1471-7794

Article publication date: 1 June 2005


This paper presents the theoretical model of dignity that has been created within the Dignity and Older Europeans (DOE) Project. The model consists of four kinds of dignity: the dignity of merit; the dignity of moral stature; the dignity of identity; and Menschenwurde.1) The dignity of merit depends on social rank and formal positions in life. There are many species of this kind of dignity and it is very unevenly distributed among human beings. The dignity of merit exists in degrees and it can come and go.2) The dignity of moral stature is the result of the moral deeds of the subject; likewise it can be reduced or lost through his or her immoral deeds. This kind of dignity is tied to the idea of a dignified character and of dignity as a virtue. The dignity of moral stature is a dignity of degree and it is also unevenly distributed among humans.3) The dignity of identity is tied to the integrity of the subject's body and mind, and in many instances, although not always, dependent on the subject's self‐image. This dignity can come and go as a result of the deeds of fellow human beings and also as a result of changes in the subject's body and mind.4) Menschenwurde is the universal dignity that pertains to all human beings to the same extent and cannot be lost as long as the person exists.



Nordenfelt, L. and Edgar, A. (2005), "The four notions of dignity", Quality in Ageing and Older Adults, Vol. 6 No. 1, pp. 17-21.



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