Philosophy professor discusses dignity at Northeast Modern Language Association

Philosophy professor Bryan Lueck has always been interested in the idea of dignity.

Philosophy professor Bryan Lueck

As such, that concept has been the focus for much of his research and the topic for his presentation last month at the Northeast Modern Language Association conference in Boston.

Lueck said he chose to study dignity because it is a central concern for philosopher Emmanuel Kant. He also said experiences in his life have made the issue “especially salient,” such as at nursing homes where patients are dealt with as if they are burdens or interchangeable, and the goal is to make the resident “be less burdensome.”

“[It] struck me [that there was] something extraordinarily wrong with this…,” Lueck said.

Lueck presented about translating dignity during the section of the conference that was “devoted to issues of translation generally.” One can better understand dignity by understanding it in terms of translation, according to Lueck.

“You have an experience of a person as a unique, singular individual, but in order to respond to a person’s dignity you have to translate that experience into action,” Lueck said. “And the action is always general.”

Lueck said the trick is that we experience an obligation to deal with each other as singulars, which is “almost impossible to do.”

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