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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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Introduction to Part III


Part III is concerned with three things. Chapter 8 scrutinizes HRE literature and the different ways that literature refers to dignity, if at all it does. It examines the idea of inherent worth and the flourishing person, the developmental dimensions of dignity which are associated with each other in the multidimensional individual. It argues that the dynamic relationship between inherent worth, the development of that person, and how others respond is not conceptually clear in HRE literature. Though there are theological and philosophical sources of dignity which help to explain the senses in which dignity is used in human rights they do not feature in HRE literature, perhaps because of an anxiety that ideological differences would damage the HRE project.

Chapter 9 pursues the question of whether human rights literature can draw on literature from different meaning-giving narratives (religious and philosophical) when making sense of dignity. It analyses the theoretical and practical difficulties and opportunities of conceptualizing dignity in inclusivistic or exclusivistic ways, ultimately rejecting the argument made by some that there is a diametric opposition between Christian and Kantian/liberal democratic conceptions of dignity. Instead it is argued that there are stronger grounds in favour of a converging and aligning approach to making sense of dignity and that there are examples of inclusivistic and compatibilistic approaches, notably in writings by Karol Wojtyla, later Pope John Paul II, amongst others. These approaches discern an educational enterprise at the heart of the dignity discussion based around discussion and...

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