Why is dignity in the Charter of the United Nations?

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Given the current fascination with”human dignity” — which I have canvassed elsewhere – a number of people are interested in why it became canonized in the first place.

It percolates around Western intellectual history from the Greeks (or more accurately Romans) on, and scholars like Michael Rosen and Jeremy Waldron have recently tried to interpret its historical trajectory, and puzzle through its theoretical implications. Christopher McCrudden has devoted a massive edited volume to it, and I have written about its role in recent American constitutional law on this blog.

But it could be that without Virginia Gildersleeve, no one would be talking about it today.

After all, even though it appeared early in the Irish Constitution of 1937, and a series of mainly West European constitutions after World War II, if “dignity” hadn’t been in the United Nations Charter (1945), I seriously doubt it would have been eligible for the current meditation and promotion it is undergoing. Continue reading