Utrecht Law Review (Jul 2015)

Human Dignity and the Rule of Law

  • Stephen Riley

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 11, no. 2
pp. 91 – 105


Read online

The rule of law denotes an expectation of non-arbitrary governance. It also invokes law’s distinctive characteristics: formality, institutional independence, and authority. Taken together with a basic conception of the person, the rule of law can be treated as ‘good governance consistent with human rationality or agency’ and is often associated with human dignity. On the view defended here human dignity in conjunction with the rule of law makes additional, specific, demands on legal systems, namely the reconciliation of the ‘normative holism’ of law (its regulatory reach) with permissive, ‘anthropological’, demands. This line of enquiry provides us with both a distinctive understanding of human dignity and an understanding of law that is normative but still closely related to the formal virtues implied by the rule of law.