What exactly is dignity?

It is non-negotiable - and yet it must be defended time and again: human dignity. If you ask different people what dignity means to them, almost everyone will say: "Human dignity is inviolable". But what exactly is dignity?

Robert Bosch Stiftung | August 2023

Dignity is that which is "above all price". This is how the 18th century philosopher Immanuel Kant put it. A price is subject to market events - dignity, on the other hand, is something absolute. You cannot bargain for dignity. People have dignity. Always. Without preconditions. Even if they are ill. No matter what they do or what colour, religion, nationality or gender they are.

"Dignity is non-negotiable."

Article 1 of our German Basic Law has guaranteed this right to human dignity for over 70 years. It obliges public authorities to respect and protect human dignity. Human beings may not be degraded to mere objects. This message of Article 1 stands as a general clause before all other fundamental rights. It is therefore the most important rule of the Basic Law and an obligation of the state.

Dignity was also a central concept for our founder Robert Bosch. "Be human and respect human dignity" is one of his most famous quotes, first published in his company's employee magazine in 1920. Robert Bosch was not formulating a mandate for the state, but rather an aspiration for every human being - including himself.

What does this mean for us as a foundation? Dignity is rarely explicitly mentioned as a goal for us. Nevertheless, almost all of our projects are concerned with protecting human rights and creating or improving the conditions for a dignified life.

Human dignity - a question of culture?

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Initiative "Deine Würde"

On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Basic Law, the initiative "Deine Würde" (Your Dignity), supported by the Robert Bosch Stiftung, offered various approaches to the topic with digital and interactive elements, addressing young people in particular. In addition to the social video #DeineWürde, there was a theatre performance that dealt with dignity in the age of artificial intelligence and eight YouTubers who dealt with the topic in the context of their own lives on their own video channels. The initiative kicked off at the beginning of May 2019 at TINCON, the festival for digital youth culture in Berlin, with the premiere of the social video of the same name and a discussion with young YouTubers about the protection of human dignity in the digital space.