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Dignity and Human Rights Education

Exploring Ultimate Worth in a Post-Secular World


Robert A. Bowie

This book addresses the question of human rights education in a world that is witnessing a resurgence of religion in public life, and a continuation of religion across much of the globe, long after secularization theories predicted its decline. Promoting a universal vision of human rights while acknowledging religious diversity is a challenge for schools. This book starts with the basic premise that human rights are grounded in a belief in the dignity and ultimate worth of the human person. Drawing on key philosophical and theological sources for understanding dignity, it builds a vision of human rights and religious education that seeks to square the impossible circle of universal human rights education in a religiously diverse world.


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Part II


Introduction to Part ii Dignity is the focus of much discussion and there are numerous systematic treatments in literature from many cultural and religious perspectives.1 It is interpreted relationally by its interaction to other ordering ideas, through conceptual typologies and also as a contextualized and self-contained his- torical notion (Lebech, 2004; Sulmasy, 2008; Miguel, 2002). The sources chosen in the next chapters are commonly identified in contemporary lit- erature as featuring prominently in the development of the idea. They are grouped under three categories: Antiquity which offers a cosmo-centric framework, Christianity which offers a Christo-centric framework and the Enlightenment which offers a logo-centric framework. Each of these frame- works offers a different understanding of the place of social acceptability. The main source from antiquity is Cicero, and significant within his thinking are Stoic ideas about natural law that are also found in Sophocles (1974) and Aristotle (1995). Cicero features in many recent reviews of dignity and provides an early snapshot of the concept. A shift in emphasis occurs within the Christian group, which covers a collection of authors all operating within a theological framework. Thus this group spans histori- cal periods so that influences are seen in contemporary Christian think- ing. While natural law grows in influence, the idea of the image of God and the image of Christ become key to defining the dignity of the human person in the twentieth century. These doctrines remain important in the present day. Kant is by far the most commonly cited philosopher...

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