A brief history of human dignity

What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.

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Sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies
  • Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
  • That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
  • We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
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Cancel culture vs. toleration: The consequences of punishing dissent

When we limit the clash of ideas, we ultimately hinder progress for the entire society.

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Sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies
  • Pluralism is the idea that different people, traditions, and beliefs not only can coexist together in the same society but also should coexist together because society benefits from the vibrant workshopping of ideas.
  • Cancel culture is a threat to a liberal society because it seeks to shape the available information rather than seek truth.
  • Practicing toleration for those ideas does not mean merely putting up with them but actually acknowledging the ideas with an open spirit, as Chandran Kukathas, professor at Singapore Management University, says.
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Could price gouging during a crisis actually be moral?

Price gouging is prohibited in 34 US states and Washington D.C. But two scholars ask whether that's the way it should be.

Sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies
  • Paper products, hand sanitizer, masks, and cleaning wipes—all are in high demand and short supply during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Price gougers are viewed as villains in this crisis—but two scholars argue that price gouging is, in most cases, morally permissible.
  • Increased prices prevent unnecessary hoarding. Buyers purchase only what they need when they need it. Also, producers are incentivized to make more. When the supply rises, prices will fall.
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Two arguments for limited government and expanded civil society

The associations of civil society give us freedom to find systems that meet our needs.

Sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies
  • There are three subsets of civil society: primary, secondary, and tertiary associations.
  • Rochester Institute of Technology professor Lauren Hall says there are two arguments for expanding civil society and limiting the power of government, and they include elements of efficiency, morality, and coercion.
  • Ideally in civil society, secondary associations give you more freedom to meet your needs in various ways. If we relied more heavily on civil society rather than government, we'd have more wiggle room to find systems that work for us.
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