Human Dignity: Between the Existentialist and the Essentialist Approaches

  • Grzegorz Holub
Keywords: human person, dignity, existentialist stance, essentialist stance, personalism


Human dignity is an important part of Western culture, which has spread over the world, and theses on it can be considered in and applied to various spheres of human life and whole societies. In this paper, a selected aspect of dignity is undertaken, namely, how we get to know and understand dignity. This aspect is considered by personalists and other philosophers interested in shedding some light on human dignity. Two approaches to the matter are adopted and contrasted: existentialist and essentialist. The former stresses how dignity is discovered and how it exists in its very essence, via experience and phenomenological insight. The latter concentrates on the description of personal characteristics and other relevant factors, which result in a thesis on dignity. In the conclusions, the author points out that these two approaches should not be considered as alternatives contending with each other but rather narratives complementing one another.
Culture and Science