Dekoninck v. Eschmann, the basic argument


1.) All sides agree that personal dignity is a crucial concern in modern thought.

2.) Dignity is a sort of good.

3.) Common goods are higher than peculiar, proper goods.

4.) Therefore, the dignity we have from the highest common good, sc. God and the universe, are higher than any good we have as the peculiar, proper individuals we are. Various strains of modern thought are perverse for not recognizing this.


1.) All sides agree that personal dignity is a crucial concern in modern thought.

2.) A person is a unique sort of existence, distinct from all other things in the universe, and not just in a way that a part is distinct from a whole.

3.) Therefore personal dignity is the sort of thing that needs to be understood apart from all other things in the universe.

Notice that, if this way of putting it is right, CDK and Eschmann both start with an idea of personal dignity, but CDK wants to understand this through the notion of dignity whereas E. wants to understand it though the notion of a person. E’s problem is that STA doesn’t say much about his second premise, and even argues that the crucial notion that sets person apart from nature (sc. “individual”) is a logical term that names something unknown to us (see ad 3 here).


  1. Joel said,

    June 15, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    Does Eschmann’s 3 follow from his 2? Note that CDK is explicit that “dignity cannot be a proper attribute of the person envisaged as such, but of the nature of persons.”

    It seems to me (off the top of my head) that this is less about how to begin or how to frame the argument–though in a certain sense all philosophical dispute might be thought of in that way–then it is about the meaning of the terms of the argument. That is, CDK doesn’t just approach the problem from a different angle, he positively denies that Eschmann’s approach is valid.

    • June 16, 2015 at 9:43 pm

      I was going more for brevity than for strict rigor in the summaries. CDK might deny the approach is valid, but neither he nor STA have much to offer in the way of the account of person that E is looking for. I think what E wants is Buber’s account of I-thou or Heidegger’s Dasein, or even some kind of Idealism. This sort of stuff was big at the time, and Catholics wanted a Thomist version of it; but for various reasons I don’t think there can be one. CDK is right that STA is better seen as a critic of this sort of approach than a proponent of it.

      • Joel said,

        June 17, 2015 at 8:43 am

        Right. That makes a lot of sense. I myself find E’s argument to be a bit hard to follow, since he throws in a lot of misplaced fluff and put-downs as well.

%d bloggers like this: