By John Dewey
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Additional resources for A Common Faith (The Terry Lectures Series)
It is, first of all, to value power over understanding and, second, to beg the question of what science is to do. We can see the shift in the notion of human dignity in the work of Pico della Mirandola. By the fifteenth century he speaks of humans as those who are unlike any other creature because they have no fixed location or aspect, or determined form, or laws that determine their nature (Oratio de hominis dignitate, Opera, fol. ; quoted in Cassirer 1963, pp. 8 Instead, he says, humans can choose their location, nature, or form for themselves, and they can give their own laws to themselves.
As we have seen, the subjectivization of the world led to the skepticism of Hume, a skepticism that makes human relation impossible. For if one cannot know of one's relation to another, perhaps a spouse-because one can only know his idea of her, not his spouse herself-then he can be related only to his idea of her. Perhaps from some noumenal point of view (which is already a contradiction in terms) it might be said that he is related to her rather than merely to his idea of her, but that relation is for another and not for him.
Dignitas referred to moral or social rank, or the moral qualities expected of and associated with that rank. Thus, to speak of human dignity was to speak of humans' place within the order of creation and what was expected of them as a result. Among the Neoplatonists and church fathers, to speak of human dignity had been, at most, to speak of the human potential to go beyond the limits of being merely in the likeness of God and to become godly by becoming perfectly enformed by God. 7 Fairly clearly, this is a version of ancient psychology applied to the Christian soul.
A Common Faith (The Terry Lectures Series) by John Dewey