Dignity Is Here to Stay: Revisiting Understandings of Human Dignity at Oxford

It is a splendid sunday in Paris, and I am just back to the continent from an exciting conference at Oxford, organized by Christopher McCrudden and Jeremy Waldron. For three days, an impressive line-up of more than 40 speakers gathered at Rhodes House to discuss the meaning and scope of Human Dignity in an interdisciplinary (I would rather label it as “transdisciplinary”, but more on that below) conversation. Among the participants of “Understanding Human Dignity” were a great number of actual and former judges: Lady Hale of Richmond from the UK Supreme Court, South African Supreme Court Judge Edwin Cameron, ECHR judge András Sajó, former Israeli Supreme Court President Aharon Barak, former president of the ECHR Jean-Paul Costa, and former German Constitutional Cort Justice Dieter Grimm. From the ECJ, Advocate General Eleanor Sharpston had joined the meeting.

“Dignity is here to stay!” Samantha Besson made that confident statement in her general comments at the end of a conference on Human Dignity that we held last november at the Wissenschaftskolleg – and the Oxford event has definitely proven her right. The event itself took place under the Chatham House Rule, so the following will not say anything about positions taken by participants and merely highlight some of my observations that were also part of my statement as one of the general commentators of the conference. For the more interested readers, there shall be a publication to follow, at some later point. And there shall be a radio broadcast by BBC’s Radio 4 later this summer, for which some of the speakers were interviewed.

The Oxford conference brought together scholars from law, theology and philosophy. Its obvious catholic leaning was no coincidence, as the event was sponsored by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales ...

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