Dignity

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  • 1. The quality of being worthy or honourable; worthiness, worth, nobleness, excellence.
b. The quality of being worthy of something; desert, merit. Obs. rare.
  • 2. Honourable or high estate, position, or estimation; honour; degree of estimation, rank.
b. collect. Persons of high estate or rank (cf. the quality).
  • 3. An honourable office, rank, or title; a high official or titular position.
b. transf. A person holding a high office or position; a dignitary.
  • 4. Nobility or befitting elevation of aspect, manner, or style; becoming or fit stateliness, gravity. (Cf. DIGNIFIED 2.)
  • 5. Astrol. A situation of a planet in which its influence is heightened, either by its position in the zodiac, or by its aspects with other planets.
  • 6. The term for a ‘company’ of canons. Obs.

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Description

Dignity is a term used in moral, ethical, and political discussions to signify that a being has an innate right to respect and ethical treatment. It is an extension of enlightenment-era beliefs that individuals have God-given, inviolable rights, and thus is closely related to concepts like virtue, respect, self-respect, autonomy, human rights, and enlightened reason. Dignity is generally proscriptive and cautionary: in politics it is usually synonymous to 'human dignity', and is used to critique the treatment of oppressed and vulnerable groups and peoples, though in some case has been extended to apply to cultures and sub-cultures, religious beliefs and ideals, animals used for food or research, and even plants. In more colloquial settings it is used to suggest that someone is not receiving a proper degree of respect, or even that they are failing to treat themselves with proper self-respect.

While dignity is a term with a long philosophical history, it is rarely defined outright in political, legal, and scientific discussions. International proclamations have thus far left dignity undefined,[1][2] and scientific commentators, such as those arguing against genetic research and algeny, cite dignity as a reason but are ambiguous about its application.[3]