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Human Dignity Hardcover – February 2, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-0674048379 ISBN-10: 0674048377

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press (February 2, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674048377
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674048379
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 6.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #764,737 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Kateb, like J.S. Mill, asks what objects of secular faith may candidly be used to supplant religious belief. Humanity is the answer he suggests—but humanity regarded not as the collective hero of progress or enlightenment, but as the most interesting part of nature for better and for worse: the part that holds up a mirror to the rest, even though the rest cannot recognize itself in the mirror. This is a disturbing, adventurous, and original-minded work. (David Bromwich, Yale University)

[Kateb] is the last—that is, the first and only—thoroughgoing Emersonian in American political thought. (Cornel West, Princeton University)

[A] powerful and ambitious book. [Kateb] provides a sterling example of one of the most challenging of genres, the philosophic essay. He writes not just for other scholars but for anyone who loves to think. I won't mislead you by pretending that Human Dignity is easy and pleasant. It is demanding and pleasant, the pleasures being those of an argument that illuminates an important subject...No brief review could do justice to its bold amplitude, its intriguing twists, its problems and provocations. (Clifford Orwin Globe and Mail 2011-03-11)

[Kateb] suggests that the idea of dignity is essential to the idea of human rights. By this he means that human rights are in fact derived from human dignity, which is not some spurious moral precept but an integral part of the human condition. For Kateb, dignity is not, at root, a moral phenomenon but an existential one...It is refreshing to read a work of philosophy that tries to restore some pride to our rather jaded species...Human Dignity...attempts to give human beings their due, not in any spirit of self-congratulation but so that we may build a better life for all. (Richard King The Australian 2011-03-26)

In this lucid and highly readable "defense of human dignity" and rights, Kateb explicitly avoids the use of theological insights, preferring the autonomous individual and human reason as his guides...Kateb's critique of many prominent thinkers, including Peter Singer and J. S. Mill, and his provocative application of a theory of human dignity and rights to contemporary politics, are significant accomplishments. (H. L. Cheek Jr. Choice 2011-08-01)

About the Author

George Kateb is William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Politics, Emeritus, Princeton University.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By H. Lee Cheek, Jr., Ph.D. on January 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover
In this lucid and highly readable "defense of human dignity" (xii) and rights, Kateb (Princeton University) explicitly avoids the use of theological insights (156), preferring the autonomous individual and human reason as his guides. For Kateb, the equal status of persons and the dignity of the person are not synonymous with the dignity of the species. Human "stature" is viewed as individual achievement, whereas a complete theory of human dignity must include "equal individual status" and the "status of the species" (9). The study predictably values the individual over the community, often discounting communitarian achievements to the promotion of human dignity. While exhibiting much perceptiveness, this study approaches human dignity with what some readers will view as overly modest expectations, perhaps not unrelated to the author's refusal to fully assess the contribution of religious thinking on the topic.
In defending the "inviolability" (31) of human rights on moral and existential grounds, the "golden rule" is offered as the best guide for private morality, while a humane constitution is presented as the "best public morality" (52). Kateb's critique of many prominent thinkers, including Peter Singer, J. S. Mill, and others, and his provocative application of a theory of human dignity and rights to contemporary politics, are significant accomplishments of the book.

H. Lee Cheek, Jr., Ph.D.
Assoc. Vice President of Academic Affairs
and Professor of Political Science
Athens State University
lee.cheek@athens.edu
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Pellerine on November 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The book presents itself as a classic philosophical essay indulging into societal matters, perhaps the most important matter: Dignity.

From ancient thoughts extended in antiquity asking "what is dignity" to more modern day texting and the creation and self-absorption of one self's digital identify Kateb (2011) looks at concepts, such as; egocentrism, humanity, status, uniqueness, and morality associated with human rights.

The genre of writing and field (philosophy) is quite new to me. The read was therefore a new experience and took more time than usual, but it was enjoyable. A reflective read. I found myself stopping a lot. Questioning a lot. Underlining more than normal. It is better this way, like a movie you walk away with with a message - not just entertainment: both.

So admittedly not as a philosopher I found the essay quite enjoyable. If you are a philosopher, and have such background, I would advise a flip through the pages (look inside) to get a better impression. I cannot judge the quality of the philosophy, nor an essay on dignity, but I can say the literature itself was splendid.

If in the area for such literature I also found Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (Issues of Our Time) quite enjoyable.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are some very important aspects to this book but it also was somewhat disappointing. Kateb writes effectively about human rights and moral values with a foundation in human dignity, and he correctly asserts that human dignity, while crucially important in these topical areas, often is neglected. The argument, vastly simplified, is that every individual is unique and is of equal worth: human rights are based on these two facts. Moral values, which are not treated as subjective or relative, are based on interpretation of human, social reality. He distinguishes human "status"--the equal worth of every person--from the "stature" of individuals, which is related to actual achievements in life. His critiques of moral relativism and such schools of thought as Utilitarianism are effective and move us away from some of the less acute recent discussions in moral, political, and legal thinking. And again a recognition of the crucial reality of human dignity is the basis for all such discussion.

There are six fundamental human rights based on the equal status and worth of persons: the right of life; the right of liberty; the rights of mind ("free speech and press, and association"); the right of religion; the right of property; and "the right to due process of law". (p. 89) Kateb argues that constitutional democracies are the only political forms that adequately support these rights, and he expresses serious misgivings about the possible negative effects of capitalism on rights, dominantly because it promotes inequality when not restrained. He does not, however, argue against the effectiveness of capitalism in the creation of human goods.

Where this all goes very wrong, from my perspective, is in Kateb's evaluation of human worth in comparison to that of non-human beings.
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By Norbert Arnold on October 20, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Very Interesting. Look at this cover. The author is also Baha'i

http://www.amazon.de/Die-Entwicklung-Kollektiven-Bewusstseins-Gesellschaft/dp/3831617015/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1381341803&sr=1-1&keywords=Die+Entwicklung+des+Kollektiven+Bewusstseins+der+Gesellschaft
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Donald Antaky on August 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An interesting view on the way we treat and should treat each other. It is unique,extensive and thought provoking.It seeks to provide ethical parameters
and to question some traditional approaches.
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