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Person and Human Dignity

A Dialogue with the Igbo (African) Thought and Culture

Augustine Ben Onwubiko

Human dignity as a shared heritage of humanity functions as an anthropological key to the understanding of the person. Historically it became the fundament for modern constitutions and rights. Although found almost on every lip the meaning of human dignity remains inexhaustible. The difference in the understanding of human person mirrored in the various cultural and traditional human images comes from the open ended nature of the concept. In this sense human dignity remains an interpretative open concept that creates a useful gap among cultures, which theology can fill through dialogue. Originally themes like human beings and history did not belong to the classical dogmas, but were later recognised in the late middle Ages as veritable sources of theological knowledge ( Loci theologici alieni). This book focuses on the problems of person and human dignity. It takes advantage of the Melchior Cano’s principles of theological knowledge to stage a dialogue with the Igbo (African) thought and culture.


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Chapter Three: Social Anthropological Survey of Igbo World View


3.1 Introduction Generally speaking, a concise articulation of human dignity as a subject of inquiry is no less a difficult venture. From the outset, Spielmann remarked that the word: “human dignity”, even though found virtually in the mouth of every one, no one cares much to say exactly what it is.226 The reason for this is obviously linked with the very fact that the concept is a collec- tive heritage of humanity and as such interpretative open. Experience has shown that the whole of human development: moral and ethical norms depend inexonerably on the conceptuality of human dignity.227 Even though human dignity as an idea is contemporaneous with hu- manity and exists in every culture, well developed reflections on the sub- ject are still scanty in some cultures. In the West where the concept has been transformed into moral rights one can boast of well reflected and referred materials, which have been systematically documented. On the contrary in Africa discussions on human dignity and rights are still in the collection stage. The reason could be the very little interest shown in the issues of human dignity and human rights. Moreover scholars prefer to concentrate more on the human rights issues, rather than fighting on grounds and interpretations of human dignity. Recently, there is a grow- ing tendency to relegate these controversies to the background in the various cultures, religions and worldviews. Unfortunately this pretension has not solved any problem either rather it has exacerbated it. The mod- ern naiveté towards...

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