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Hannah Arendt and Human Dignity: Theoretical Foundations and Constitutional Protection of Human Rights

Author(s): John Helis

Journal: Journal of Politics and Law
ISSN 1913-9047

Volume: 1;
Issue: 3;
Date: 2009;
Original page

This article considers how Hannah Arendt’s understanding of human dignity comes to terms with two of the most significant controversies in contemporary human rights discourse, while also providing a sound basis for the application of the term. By focusing on the right to membership in a political community, Arendt’s understanding of human dignity realizes the importance of maintaining the tension in the dichotomy present in two controversies: universalism and cultural specificity; natural law and positive law. The practicality of Arendt’s approach will be demonstrated thought a review of a number of domestic and international human rights instruments with specific focus on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which thus far have failed to provide a universally accepted definition of the term.
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