Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Christie Hartley

Second Advisor

Dr. Andrew Altman

Third Advisor

Dr. Peter Lindsay


As many scholars have noted, the concept of “dignity” has historically been defined in several ways, creating conflict and confusion when the concept is invoked in the present. The concept has also been historically exclusive of various groups of individuals; some contemporary accounts still do not understand certain individuals with disabilities as possessing dignity. I examine the strength of three strands of dignity definitions and determine whether any groups are unjustifiably excluded due to disability status. Eva Kittay puts forward a theory that purports to include all humans which, although promising, is vulnerable to critique. I offer revisions of Kittay’s account that address the charge of over-inclusion. However, I note the lingering issues with my revision, particularly that even the best version of Kittay’s account requires the acceptance of some sort of speciesism.