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Brooke Scheer

Dignitas 008
Human Dignity

Instinct is something all humans are born with. Crying, blushing, and breathing are all
things we as humans do in a response to a stimuli. As time goes by, people can develop their
instincts. As humans, we learn to react differently to various situations, which can be in
correspondence with our instincts. The instincts people have are similar to the human dignity.
Dignity is somewhat of a trait that people are born with, all people have some sort of intrinsic
value, which I assume to be their dignity. However, dignity is also similar to instinct because the
dignity of a person can also be enhanced over time.
The moment a human is born, people argue that it is a life, while others believe life
begins at conception or when a fetus’s heart begins to beat. Whatever the case, when someone is
viewed as having a life, they have some form of basic human dignity attached to their life. The
dignity people possess isn’t a physical thing or something people can measure, it is an innate
form of worth that people have created and given to people. Concepts of society often shape
people’s view within their own culture and spread across others, dignity is one of these socially
constructed ideas. If people across the world didn’t view other people as humans with worth or
some form of value, what would be the point of dignity?
It hasn’t always been this way. For example, sub-Saharan Africans during the slave trade
were seen merely as the possession of white men from a Western view. In recent years, for the
most part, society has come a long way and people of all races have equal rights and the meaning
of humanity that comes along with it. As society has changed, so have the views of the people.

Those who used to be seen as means are today given the same form of respect, or dignity, that
everyone should have. If dignity wasn’t a socially constructed phenomenon, as societies have
changed and evolved, the worth of some people would have been left behind. On the flip side of
the coin, those living in places that were taken for the slave trade likely viewed foreigners as the
monsters lacking dignity.
Dignity is a concept that is used to bring worth to people, and like instinct, it can evolve
with people. It is not something that is a constant and will be the same for all people, experiences
and the relationships we have with people can heavily influence dignity. In some cultures elderly
people are viewed as wise and are heavily respected. Other, especially western, cultures devalue
the lives elderly have lived, often times they are seen as week and senile. So, what does this
mean? By adding value to these people and viewing their life as a kingdom of knowledge and
history, we are giving them more dignity. While at the same time, seeing people as worthless or
less than can take away their dignity.
Dignity is an ever-changing socially constructed concept. All people are given basic
human dignity, almost as if it is an intrinsic value. However, the amount of dignity people
possess is heavily influenced by society and personal views. As a result, dignity is ever-changing
and always will be.