Human Dignity in Yoruba Worldview



Dignity, Human Dignity, Yoruba worldview, Personhood, Value (wuyi), Valuable (iwuyi), Decolonization, Hermeneutics, Bioethics


The title of this paper has some fundamental suppositions that need immediate exposition. One, it suggests that there is a Yoruba worldview which has certain peculiar notion of human dignity that the paper wants to expose some sense in it amidst its inadequacies. Second, with the paper's title, it may also be assumed that the Yoruba notion of human dignity is perhaps in tandem with or it makes mockery of our general understanding of human dignity (if any there is such). These are not the only possible assumptions of this paper. The paper's title is equally suggestive of bringing to the fore, the Yoruba cultural worldview stance on the contemporary bioethical discourse on the usefulness or otherwise of the concept of dignity.


A Dictionary of the Yoruba Language (Ibadan: Oxford University Press, 1950. Beyleveld, D. & Brownsword. R. “Human Dignity in Bioethics and Biolaw.” Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Brownsword, R. “Bioethics Today, Bioethics Tomorrow: Stem Cell Research and the 'Dignitarian Alliance.'” Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics and Public Policy. 17:15 (2003).

Bujo B. Foundations of an African ethic: Beyond the Universal Claims of Western Morality (trans: McNeil B). New York: Crossroad Publishers, 2001.

Campbell, F. K. Ableism: A Theory of Everything? Keynote for International Conference on 'Linking Concepts of Critical Ableism and Racism Studies with Research on Conflicts of Participation' University of Hamburg (Germany), June 6-8, 2013.

Ekanola, A.B. “A Naturalistic Interpretation of the Yorùbá Concept of Ori”, Philosophia Africana. Vol.9, No.1. 2006.

Emeghara, H. “The Dignity of the Human Person in African Belief.” Theology Annual Vol.14: (1992/93).

Gbadegesin, S. “In Search of Agbasanko”, The Nation Newspaper, September 28, (2007).

Graaf, R.V.D and Delden, J.V. “Clarifying Appeals to Dignity in Medical Ethics from an Historical perspective.” Bioethics, Vol.23, No.3. (2009): 151- 160.

Gyekye, K. Tradition and Modernity: Philosophical Reflections on the African Experience. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Idowu, E.B. Olodumare: God in Yoruba Belief. London: Longman Ltd. 1962. Kant, I. Critique of Practical Reason. Indianopolis: Hackett Publishing, 1788. Kant, I. Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1797.

Kass, L. R. Life, Liberty and the Defense of Dignity. San Francisco, CA: Encounter Books, 2002.

Kolnai, A. “Dignity.” Philosophy, Vol. 51, No.197, (1976).

Lucke, R. “What is Dignity? Is it a Useful Concept?” Retrieved from open. (2013): par.10.

Macklin. R. “Dignity is a useless Concept.” BMJ. 327, (2003):1419-20 Mattson, David, and Susan G. Clark, 'Human Dignity in Concept and Practice,' Policy Sciences, 44 (4). (2011): 303-319.

Metz, T. Human Dignity, Capital Punishment, and an African Moral Theory: Toward A New Philosophy of Human Rights. Journal of Human Rights, 9(1), (2010), 81-99.

Metz, T. An African Theory of Dignity and a Relational Conception of Poverty. The Humanist Imperative in South Africa, (2011), 233-242.

Metz, T. African Conceptions of Human Dignity: Vitality and Community as the Ground of Human Rights. Human Rights Review, 13(1), (2012), 19- 37.

Metz, T. African Values, Human Rights and Group Rights: A Philosophical Foundation for the Banjul Charter. In African Legal Theory and Contemporary Problems. Dordrecht: Springer, 2014. 131-151

Norden Felt, L. “Dignity and Care of the Elderly”, Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy, Vol. 6. (2003): 103-110.

Oduwole, E.O. “The Concepts of Ori and Human Destiny: A Fatalistic Interpretation.”Journal of Philosophy and Development, Vol.1, No. 1 and 2, (1996).

Polycarp A. I. The Communal Basis for Moral Dignity: An African Perspective, Philosophical Papers, 45:3, (2016).

Schachter, O. “Human Dignity as a Normative Concept”, The American Journal of International Law, Vol.77, No.4, (1983).

Schroeder, Doris. 'Dignity: Two Riddles and Four Concepts,' Cambridge Quarterly Health Care Ethics, 17. (2008).

Wiredu, K. Cultural Universals and Particulars: An African Perspective. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1996.