Jordan Walters

I am a third-year PhD student in the Department of Philosophy at McGill University. I hold an MA in philosophy from Concordia University and an Honours BA in philosophy from the University of Guelph. I am a Doctoral Fellow with GRIPP and RGCS. My research is supported by the Joseph-Armand Bombardier SSHRC Doctoral Scholarship and the SSHRC CGS to Honour Nelson Mandela.

I specialize in metaethics, normative ethics, and political philosophy/theory. I spend most of my time thinking about human dignity, equality, rights, normativity, and value.

My dissertation is about the metaphysical basis of human dignity and the value of humanity. We start with a platitude followed up with a question: It is often said that human dignity is the ground of human rights. But what grounds human dignity?

Philosophers commonly appeal to properties such as autonomy, normative agency, our evolving social practice of treating one another as equals, our distinctive capacity for language, our sense of justice, or a disjunctive list of valuable capacities.

While there is widespread disagreement over what particular property grounds human dignity, many assume from the outset that our bare humanity is not enough to ground human dignity: we need humanity plus some other special property to explain what makes it the case that we have human dignity.

But this assumption is false. I argue that we should be Dignity Essentialists and hold that we have human dignity simply in virtue of being human, and that this grounding fact holds because it is of the essence of being human that for any X, if X is human, then X has human dignity. Put less formally, we don’t have human dignity because we have some special property over and above our humanity: we have it because of what we are.


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