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The enquiry whether human dignity as the translation of the biblical designation of the human person as imago Dei should continue to be the framework used to ground human rights and specify their realisation, is developed in five parts. The first identifies two understandings of dignity in the public realm, one inherent-transcendental, the other empirically verifiable. The second section compares the use of “dignity” in three traditions of Catholic Theological Ethics: virtue, natural law, and autonomy. In view of doubts whether theological anthropology should still be the primary location for expounding the meaning of imago Dei, the third section discusses attempts to absorb anthropology into ecclesiology. The modern history of reception of this biblical term by J.G. Herder is outlined in section four, before drawing conclusions from the previous enquiries for the question which language theological ethics should use in public discourse, imago Dei or dignity.

In: Interdisciplinary Journal for Religion and Transformation in Contemporary Society