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Rethinking the Human Person

Moral Landscape and Ethical Literacy

Nahal Jafroudi

Recent developments in the natural and social sciences have brought great benefits to humanity, both in terms of our material wellbeing and our intellectual and conceptual capacities. Yet, despite a broad ethical consensus and highly developed innate faculties of reason and conscience, there seems to be a significant discrepancy between how we ought to behave and how we actually behave, leading to a disregard for the dignity of human persons across the globe. This book suggests that the problem arises from various misunderstandings of the nature of the self and that the solution could lie in adopting a holistic concept of the human person within the context of a carefully cultivated ethical literacy. It argues that the ideas of the Iranian philosopher Ostad Elahi (1895–1974) provide a powerful and compelling alternative to the dominant post-Enlightenment understanding of selfhood, education and morality.

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Chapter 9: Ethical Literacy and the Holistic Concept of the Self


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Ethical Literacy and the Holistic Concept of the Self

To build a dignified and ethical global community, whose members recognise and uphold each being’s inherent rights and dignity and abide by their own obligations and duties, requires acquisition of the appropriate set of concepts and principles that are finely attuned to the nuances of subjectivity of the experiencing “I”, and conducive to the growth and development of the objective “I”. To this end, addressing the moral concern of effecting an equitable and compassionate moral horizon that counters humans’ self-centred individualistic stance and allows for agents to realise their essential nature by leading morally decent lives, is advocated through the pathway of a holistic education, namely, an education for ethical literacy that conceives of the metaphysics of human persons as bi-dimensional in nature. For, if being ethically literate postulates a positive sense of dignity, which is itself predicated on a thorough understanding of what it means to be human, then adopting a holistic concept of the self is deemed instrumental within the cultivation of ethical literacy.

In essence, in spite of possessing certain knowledge of the salient features of one’s moral character, the nature of the moral agent is quite complex and diverse, where, individuals, while having an awareness of their persons as imperfect and psychologically complex, are only partly in control of the effects of that complexity on their moral actions and intentions. Conversely, although ideas, personal meanings and...

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