[Milton-L] Human dignity

Richard Strier rastrier at uchicago.edu
Wed Jul 26 14:06:22 EDT 2006

I think we are now getting to the real heart of things.  As Jim 
Rovira's passionate and very intelligent response to my remarks 
suggests, there are apparently conflicting values here:  respect for 
human dignity versus radical forgiveness.  Let me say a few words 
about the respect issue.  First of all, I think it is a real one, and 
one that Milton cared about.  Both of my essays on Milton are about 
his commitment to classical values.  I do not think, however, that 
washing one's hands of someone is showing respect for them.  It is, 
as I said, a way of distancing oneself from them, and of giving 
oneself a reason to stop caring.  This can be phrased as if it were 
"respecting their choices," but I think that that is not what is at 
issue.  In my view, the way that one shows both respect and love for 
a rational creature that one thinks to be deeply erring is to 
continue relationship and engagement with that creature.  This is 
what I have (perhaps obscurely) been calling the "Habermasian" 
conception of redemption.  It is the failure of continued positive 
engagement that is the moral failure, in my view.  One would not 
treat one's children that way, if one thought they were acting badly. 
And certainly one's concern, in such a case, would not be (or should 
not be) in establishing one's own lack of responsibility for their 
bad actions.

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