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Center for Social Concerns sponsors lecture on human dignity

By EMMA BORNE | Friday, September 27, 2013



News Writer

On Thursday, Clemens Sedmak, professor of moral and social theology at King’s College in London, spoke on dignity and justice at the annual Center for Social Concerns Fr. Bernie Clark lecture.  

The lecture, titled “The Deep Practice of Human Dignity,” focused on three key ideas: the concept of human dignity, the concept of integrity and the concept of deep practice. 

Sedmak said human dignity is not only a concept, but also a way of life. 

“[Human dignity] is a way of experiencing, a way of thinking and a way of acting,” Sedmak said. “Dignity is not only something that can be used as a concept; you need to do it. It needs to have this kind of cash value.”  

Human dignity is closely related to human integrity, Sedmak said. 

“The concept of dignity and integrity are linked because of the focus on vulnerability in both. … Human dignity needs an understanding of vulnerability,” she said. “Vulnerability is important because it violates integrity.”

In order to understand others’ vulnerability as a concept, Sedmak said, “we have to understand our own vulnerability.”

Sedmak said understanding our own vulnerability in turn allows us to practice human dignity, clarifying the third point of his lecture.  

Humans need to practice human dignity for the simple reason of being human, Sedmak said.

“The concept of human dignity is command and the command consists in saying: value the human person because she is human,” Sedmak said. “And that is where the justification stops.” 

Even in a difficult circumstance, Sedmak said the practice of human dignity comes with the concept of being whole-hearted. 

“Deep practice has these two properties: there are adverse circumstances… and secondly a moment of whole heartedness,” Sedmak said. “If you want to appropriate a skill under adverse circumstances, you must be fully motivated.”

Though deep practices are not easy, Sedmak said deep practices are essential to human dignity. 

“If we want the concept of dignity to have friction we need to appropriate it by way of deep practices,” Sedmak said. 

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