Due to the notable devaluation and misbalance of the moral values, there is an active process of searching for the priorities of the social development, where the main place is attributed to a person. Dignity is the basis of any individual, a deep and internal value. It forms the basis for the independence and freedom, pride and honor; it influences the formation and a continuous development of a personality. Being the source of human rights and the evidence of the cultural level of society, the concept of dignity, its attributes, antecedents and consequences are thoroughly analyzed in the given paper.

Literature Review of the Concept

At present, the world undergoes the formation of the new socioeconomic relations, the foundation of the civil society and constitutional state - the mechanism of realization of the rights and freedoms. The ongoing transformational processes cause the need to reconsider many legal phenomena and values. The importance of the appeal to the moral, legal and political properties of a personality is confirmed by the fact that they can act as one of the major criteria for the justification of the legal policy characteristics, which belong to the concept of “human dignity”.

The appeal to the subject of human dignity is found in numerous documents of the international level, including “the UN Charter” (1945) and “Human Rights Declaration” (1948). The quality of dignity is admitted as the right for all people. Moreover, human dignity is also considered from the point of view of humanism. It is revealed in the ability to support personal dignity of a patient in difficult life situations provoked by a disease.

Dignity is a moral category meaning respect and self-esteem of a human being. It is an integral property of a person of a supreme value, belonging to him/her irrespective of how this individual and surrounding people perceive and estimate his/her personality. Dignity is one of the non-material benefits belonging to a person from the birth.

There are many philosophical definitions of dignity. Thus, Immanuel Kant comprehended the perspective of a human dignity. According to his definition, the things, existing as the purposes in themselves, are not relative. Morality is, thus, a basis of human dignity and each reasonable being.

Dignity is the concept of moral consciousness expressing the idea of the value of the personality, the category of ethics reflecting the moral attitude of a person towards oneself and society - to the individual. The understanding of own dignity is a form of self-checking of a personality; in this regard, the requirements of a society accept the form of the specific personal characteristics – to behave in a particular way not to humiliate own dignity. Thus, dignity is one of the ways of human consciousness in front of society. Dignity acts as an important part of social and moral personal freedom. The idealistic ethics looks for the source of dignity in certain extra social (divine, natural, “actually human”) essence of the personality and opposes human dignity to the laws, requirements and the rights of society. The moral ideas of human dignity directly correlate with the development of the sense of justice, a civil maturity of a society and a real security of human rights.

Human dignity is, probably, an absolute value of a person, first of all as the notion of biological individual with all its requirements is general to the whole human race. The physical abuse and oppression humiliate human dignity. Moreover, except the personal aspect, dignity has a public value. Being a moral category, dignity is the main value that allows a personality to respect oneself and people around. The society of the worthy people is the purpose of development of each state.

Dignity gives the confidence in own forces, affairs and deeds to a person. Therefore, a person achieves the harmony of an inner self with an external positive assessment of society. Such a harmony leads a person to the feeling of happiness and fullness of life. Dignity inspires a person, forces him or her to set the new purposes and achieve better results. Thus, dignity is the quality determining personal growth and development.

The modern space of the psychological judgment of the phenomenon “dignity” includes the numerous concepts reflecting its various valuable and semantic aspects: personal, human dignity, self-esteem, respect, self-assessment, consciousness, I-concept, personal and social identity, freedom, responsibility, etc. At the same time, the modern clinical sociology does not give the explanation of the concept “human dignity” as a full-scale personality (Schroeder, 2010). Moreover, health and life are considered to be of value only when they belong to the “useful” patient – financially and socially reliable. Having become a burden for a society, a biological individual is automatically excluded from the list of those people who have the right for dignity and life. A decent existence of a person in a society is not only the level of the physical comfort and well-being but also the comfort of a soul.


The Attributes of Dignity

The notion of dignity is closely connected with such properties of a personality as conscience, honor, and responsibility. According to Lee & George, human dignity can be considered in two aspects:

1) as a moral category reflecting the fact of the social importance of a personality (an objective assessment);

2) as internal awareness of the importance and value (subjective assessment) by a personality.

The problem of personal dignity is implanted in the idea of a person as integrity, aspirations of a personality to the positive identity. Being an attribute of dignity, integrity is the general aspiration to coherence, the projected ideal for a person achieved through the “positive identity”. The dignity of a person is a preservation of human integrity. The destruction of dignity means the violation of personal integrity. Integrity is a coherence of life and its completeness. It includes any human experience - spiritual, mental, social, personal, mental, corporal, psychophysiological, etc. The recognition of human dignity means the respect of human integrity.

Moreover, personal dignity is designed on the basis of positive identity. A positive identity is necessary as the indicator of valuable and semantic regulation and self-determination of a personality. In a broad sense, positive identity is a positive self-esteem; in a narrow sense, a positive identity is considered to be a positive personal, social, corporal, ethnic, etc. identity. Positive identity is an image of own self, which is generated by the need for self-justification, self-affirmation by means of the internal resources and at the expense of oneself.

Fig. 1. The attributes, antecedents and consequences of dignity.

According to the Figure 1, dignity is represented in such attributes as respect, advocacy, sensitive listening and individual care. The personal dispositions of dignity include aspiration to improvement (perfectionism) and assertiveness. Being a personal belief, an improvement assumes the movement towards oneself, “egoism”, identity and autonomy. Being an attribute of dignity, assertiveness is characterized as an autonomy, independence on the external influences and estimations, ability to regulate own behavior, form own opinion on life, self-confidence and trust. Assertiveness is an ability to be oneself, initiated by the requirement of growth, development, self-improvement and formation of dignity.

The psychological discourse of dignity explicates the personal and social strategy and those attributions of behavior, which are directed at self-correction, allowing to reconstruct the behavioral patterns in the projection of “image” of a worthy behavior. The psychological attributes of dignity are relevant to the concepts of self-respect, identity, self-esteem, self-assessment, consciousness, identity, trust to oneself, I-concept, freedom, and responsibility. These features initiate the sense of responsibility, duties, debt and the development of a personality.

Thus, summing all the attributes of dignity, it is possible to say that dignity is a maintenance of personal identity and the process of building of a trust to oneself and other people. It is the feeling of originality of a personality in a universe and the feeling of the freedom to remain oneself. The social and economic attributes of dignity compose the status of a person (a place in a social hierarchy), his or her public importance, origin, welfare, wealth, and property status.

The Antecedents and Consequences of Dignity

At the end the 20th - beginning of the 21st centuries, the attention to the phenomenon of “dignity” increased in connection with the ambiguous remote consequences of the impact of the biomedical technologies. The new century of biotechnologies, social practices of euthanasia, cloning, artificial interruption of pregnancy, research of embryonic stem cells most brightly show the antecedents of dignity and value of each personality.

The problem of personal dignity is implanted in human identity. It is the privilege of a personality. Dignity is a statement and a support of personal identity. At present, the antecedents of identity include identity crisis, instability and deformation of identity, deficiency and disintegration of identity. A human being is an organically integrated creature, possessing personal identity (self-definiteness) and group identity (social categorization, qualification, discrimination). Human identity is decoded into “egoism” as the consciousness of own indispensability and intuitive compliance to oneself.

Dignity is the most important parameter of human activity, having a social and economic connotation except the humanistic, moral and valuable meanings. The antecedents of the concept “dignity” include some values: first of all, the positive measurement belonging to an object, event and subject; secondly, understanding of own value - “to be capable of something”, “the best, and excellent”; thirdly, the status of a person, his or her public importance. It testifies to the multiple layers of this concept, its use for underlining of the value, virtue, superiority, advantage, price and cost. Thus, the basic dignity, understood as the integral, inalienable property of each person acting as the basis of the universality of human rights, composes the “I-concept”.

The modern life offers such negatives of modern existence as prostitution, violence, children’s homelessness, crime, poverty, etc., aggravating the problem of human dignity. To realize the concept, the authoritative sociocultural influences are necessary. Moreover, the modern consequences of dignity of a person with the positively expressed self-respect assume an image of a person who achieved the top of the personal self-realization and valid recognition of the results of own activity. Therefore, the formation of the mass ideal should emphasize the importance of human dignity.

The Borderline Case

The nursing practice is abundant with rampant violations of human dignity. Unfortunately, the nursing personnel often demonstrates a disrespect to the dignity of the patients. The following case of Helen is one of such examples. A 20-year-old Helen is a pregnant drug user. She lives with her boyfriend Peter, who is violent with her. Except him, she communicates neither with other people, nor her parents, nor relatives. Helen wanted to receive the anti-drug therapy in the Drug Treatment Center. However, the center does not accept the pregnant patients. As a consequence, close to the childbirth, Helen comes to the government hospital, where she is going to give birth.

The nurse Carol Travis was kind and attentive until she understood that Helen is a drug addict. She started to humiliate her, saying that drug users do not deserve a good attitude. Instead of treating Helen as a patient needing help the nurse wanted to call the police. Thus, the status of Helen as a drug user forms the basis for the refusal to the patient of the right for the same care and compassion that the nurse shows to the other patients. Such a treatment of the nurse is aimed to demonstrate the disapproving attitude to the patient. Thus, Helen feels shame and alienation.

Such a treatment of Helen by the nurse in a clinical context aggravates the marginal status of the patient. The medical care that offends and humiliates human dignity does not serve public interests and, therefore, cannot be approved. A similar practice is inherently incompatible with the human rights.


To sum up, dignity is a mode of the existence absolutely necessary for a person. It is the presentation of his or her consciousness, expression of the value of egoism and, at the same time, personal identity. Dignity is the assessment that allows a person to identify oneself as a personality that fills his or her existence with the pathos and emphasizes the scale of the mission of the mankind on the earth. Dignity and the related concepts of justice and respect are obligatory for the developed person. If to speak of the optimistic scenarios of the modern development, all social events have to include the concept of human dignity to the greatest value. Moreover, a common cultural tendency on the valuable human life is interfaced to the rights for the preservation of honor and dignity. This tendency can promote the transition to the qualitatively other existence of our contemporaries, higher world outlook level, which will be reflected in communication, training, education, and culture, in general.


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