News & Events

The NLS Public Lecture Series | Human Dignity as a Legal Concept – Vacuous, Redundant, and Stupid?


Room 101, New Academic Block (NAB)


Friday, April 12, 2024, 5:00 pm

NLSIU will host a public lecture by Prof. Matthias Mahlmann on the topic ‘Human dignity as a legal concept – vacuous, redundant, and stupid?’. The lecture will take place on Friday, April 12th, 2024, at 5 PM. The discussant for this lecture will be Prof. Arun Thiruvengadam, Professor of Law, NLSIU.

About the Speaker

Matthias Mahlmann is University Professor, and Chair of Philosophy and Theory of Law, Legal Sociology and International Public Law at the Faculty of Law, University of Zurich, Switzerland.  He completed his studies at Freiburg, Berlin and the London School of Economics.  He has held a number of Visiting Professorship positions including at the Central European University, Budapest, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Georgetown University Law Centre, Washington DC, University of Pennsylvania School of Law, Philadelphia; German-Turkish University, Istanbul, and was a Visiting Researcher, Bonavero Institute of Human Rights, Oxford University and Fellow of Mansfield College. He is currently a Visiting Professor at the National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bangalore.



Human Dignity has become a central element of the architecture of contemporary constitutionalism, democracy and national and international human rights law. It is a cornerstone of the edifice of a legal culture that takes humans as seriously as they deserve. It is at the same time an emancipatory political and ethical aspiration that is the well spring of critique from below of unjustified – not least colonial and post-colonial – power and privilege. At the same time, it is the object of withering critique that argues that the concept of dignity is devoid of normative content, that it is serving no legal end which are better served by other concepts like freedom or equality, and that it is ultimately a piece of mindless dogmatism. The talk will investigate this critique and the content and justification of dignity in philosophy and law to critically assess whether the promise of dignity is doing more than fostering hollow illusions.