2011 年 1 巻 p. 40-49
In this paper the meaning of "dignity" – Japanese "songen", German "Würde" – is discussed. These words have changed in their meaning with the passing of the years. Japanese "songen" is equivalent of dignity. The meaning of this Japanese word is ambiguous. Originally this word had the meaning of "what is precious, majestic, and inviolable". These adjectives were mainly used for the quality of noble people or royal persons. Likewise the Latin word "dignitas" had the meanings of "greatness, majesty, dignity, etc." in the classical usage. In fact, in this sense of dignity we can hardly understand the meaning of "death with dignity". But in after years the meaning of "dignity", or the German word "Würde", has changed under the influence of Kantian ethics. In this context "dignity" means the absolute value that any person has. Kant asserted that we must treat human being as an end in itself rather than merely as a means to other ends. There is Christian ethics behind this Kantian absolute value of a person. The doctrine of neighborly love is the precept that we should love our neighbors without reason of loving. One of the reasons people accepted the absolute value of a person of Kantian ethics is that they had already accepted the doctrine of neighborly love. But in the rise of Bioethics Kantian word "dignity" has been secularized. In Bioethics the sanctity of life is negatively dealt with, and human dignity is expelled from medical ethics. Therefore today dignity has had another meaning. Namely it is also used in the sense of "self-respect"