- Discuss some of the ways in which the concept of the 'pers...
Discuss some of the ways in which the concept of the 'person' varies cross culturally
The understanding of the 'person' in western society and culture
has been directly associated with the human being and the self.
This 'person' is the philosophical or moral aspect of the
biological human. The Western (or Euro-American) concept of the
person is unconsciously used as the absolute or model to compare
and contrast against culturally different perceptions. Every
culture, throughout time and space, has had an idea of themselves,
their personhood. This essay discusses some of the ways in which
the concept of the person varies through culture.
Schmitz (1998) analysis of the linguistic history of the term
'person' serves as a background to the concept and how the modern,
Euro-American meaning formed. It also shows how a concept can vary
cross-culturally. The term derives from the Roman 'Phersu' cult - a
goddess who marked her subterranean transition. Theatrical Rome saw
a 'dramatis personae' - masked character, and so the term came to
be associated with communication through representation and hidden
agents. Law in Rome dictated only a man be seems as a person of/in
law (slaves, children and women were not referred to as "persons"
in Roman jurisprudence). Greek prosopon merged with persona to
emphasise the visually expressive encounter of face to face
communication with humans. Mauss (1938) also analyses the
linguistic history of the term and finds the Latin the 'persona' is
the ancestral mask or disguise.
The concept of the person concerns linguistics, and is important
in social, religious, political, medical and judicial realms.
Religion has had, and continues to have, a profound impact on ideas
about the 'person' for so many cultures. Indigenous religions focus
upon the elements of the person left after death, and concepts of
the person are more often dualistic and non-western cultures focus
upon the role of the person within the community. Where there is
cross of western and non-western ideology, we see a combination of
the beliefs of the person, which I have discussed in relation to
Asian and African traditions.
The main difference, as analysed by Peltzer, is that the western
person is socialised by objects, whereas the non-western person is
socialised by people (Peltzer 2002: 5 quoting Agiobu-Kemmer 1984:
189). The western concept of the person is ideologically defined as
self-enclosed and often autonomous, and generally the non-western
concept of the person is integrated within the community, or the
family, and is not always concerned with the physical presence of
the body of the individual, but what their existence means for the
group as a whole.