English: Human dignity is the key foundational value of the South African Constitution. As
constitutional value it informs constitutional interpretation at a range of levels. It is
therefore important that the concept should be given a concrete content that is juridically
applicable. This article examines the ethical content that courts are giving
to human dignity and compares it with a reformed biblical view of human dignity.
It concludes that the courts are mainly relying on the classical-liberal notion of dignity
as an inherent inalienable characteristic of man to define human dignity. The main
problem with the classical-liberal concept is that it is an abstract notion which is not
based on empirical evidence. This makes it difficult to concretise the concept. It also
overemphasises individual rights at the expense of social responsibility, which complicates
the balancing of individual and social rights and leads to moral degeneration.
The Reformed Christian view defines human dignity as a relational concept and not
an inherent possession. It closely links right and responsibility, as well as individual and
social rights. Although the Christian concept of human dignity is not juridically
applicable in all of its dimensions it can help to contextualise and broaden the concept
of human dignity within a South African context.