Homo dignus: human dignity in economics

Research project
Ard Jan Biemond

What is man? What is his place on earth? And what is his role in the economy? These are the fundamental questions which we investigated in this research project. Our colleague dr. Ard Jan Biemond promoted on his dissertation Homo dignus: menselijke waardigheid in de economie, which presents the results from this research. 

Labour constitutes the human being. It is therefore essential that someone’s labour corresponds to human dignity: only then can one truly realize one’s potential, only then can one truly fulfill one’s vocation. Only then can one fully be homo dignus, a worthy human being. Although a humane economy is of great importance, human dignity is not in the foreground in economics. This thesis attempts to change that.

To this end, this dissertation opens with an exploration of the meaning of 'dignity' through the ages. Different interpretations of human dignity are then characterized according to their views on the scope, origin and interpretation of dignity. The role of the view of human nature in environmental economics is then examined. Next to that, various views of human nature are translated into mathematical formulas to clarify their substance and the differences between them. The theoretical part concludes with a consideration of what the view of the worthy human being, the homo dignus, and the human vocation, means for economics.

In the empirical part, the practical implications of human dignity are examined: firstly, what conceptions of dignity exist in Dutch society, and secondly, the role that human dignity plays in the (healthcare) organization. In summary, it can be stated that human dignity plays an important role in society and organization, but that not all forces contribute to respecting and realizing that dignity. 

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