An inquiry into the dignity of the human person is potentially the most crucial and radically foundational investigation relevant to the contemporary world. What we think of dignity has implications for almost all areas of life: family life, social and political order, education, justice and equality and human rights, the human good and culture. The aim of the course will be an historical-systematic-existential/personal retrieval and appropriation of the notion of human dignity. A course on the Catholic tradition on the dignity of the person will aim first of all at the retrieval of the high points of the emergence and development of the distinctive notion of dignity in the Catholic intellectual tradition. However, the Catholic position will be presented in dialogue with other traditions such as the secular thought of pre-Christian Greek philosophy and of classical and contemporary liberalism, as well as the ongoing discourse of human rights. The cultural dimensions of dignity must also be explored. Here the debates over multiculturalism as well as the African view of the human being will be examined. A complete enquiry will also engage contemporary developments in feminist thought, questions of gender, and the post-modern reflections on the deconstruction and reconstruction of the subject. Retrieving the important contributions to an authentic account of human dignity will enable us to identify situations where dignity is overlooked or where reductionary or distorted accounts of dignity need to be critiqued.
The content includes:
Questions of methodology; the phenomenology of dignity; the contemporary discourse on dignity;
Secular and religious points of departure: Aristotle on human worth and the theme of Imago Dei; the medieval developments in Augustine and Aquinas;
Renaissance secularism and individualism: Picco della Mirandola and Machiavelli;
The modern problematic: autonomy and respect in Hobbes, Rousseau, Kant, Herder, Hegel and contemporary liberalism (including issues of authenticity, respect and recognition, multiculturalism);
Two main contemporary contexts: human rights and Catholic Social Teaching;
Contemporary Catholic thinkers: Marcel, Karol Wojtyla, Lonergan, Crosby, Charles Taylor;
Contemporary issues: African notions of dignity; racism and dignity; feminism and dignity; consumerism and dignity;
Approaches towards an integral account of dignity.