Waldron delivers Tanner Lectures on Human Values at Berkeley

University Professor Jeremy Waldron delivered this year’s Tanner Lectures on Human Values at the University of California, Berkeley. Appointment as a Tanner lecturer is recognition for uncommon achievement and outstanding abilities in the field of human values.

The lecturers may be elicited from philosophy, religion, the humanities, the sciences, the creative arts, and learned professions, or from leadership in public or private affairs. The Tanner Lectures are presented annually at one of nine universities including Cambridge, Harvard, Michigan, Oxford, Princeton, Stanford, Utah, Yale, and Berkeley.

The purpose of the Tanner Lectures is to advance and reflect upon the scholarly and scientific learning related to human values. A series of books based on the Berkeley Tanner Lectures is published by the Oxford University Press.

Waldron, a distinguished legal and political theorist trained in philosophy, delivered lectures titled Dignity and Rank and Law, Dignity, and Self-Control, in which he explored the idea that “dignity” is a term used to indicate a high-ranking legal, political, and social status, and that the notion of human dignity is the idea of the assignment of such a high-ranking status to everyone. He argued that “we should consider ways in which the idea of human dignity keeps faith with the old hierarchical system of dignity as noble or official rank, and we should view it in its modern form as an equalization of high status rather than as something that eschews talk of status altogether.” He went on to consider the ways in which law vindicates dignity in this sense.

As part of the custom of the Tanner Lectures, professors were invited to share their comments. Michael Rosen, a professor of government at Harvard University and a leading scholar in European philosophy and political theory, provided commentary on Waldron’s first lecture. Don Herzog, Edson R. Sunderland Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School, and Wai Chee Dimock, William Lampson Professor of English and American Studies at Yale University, commented on the second lecture.