The Medieval Conception of Humanity
The medieval period can be described as the time when human beings started to discover the humanity in them and thus referred to as the discovery era (Farber 4). It was the period between 5th and 15th century that is coupled with many philosophical thoughts, ideas, and practices (Pappano and Rice 477). The moderns have different views and philosophies that can make someone imagine that neither of the people living then and now can shift their ages and survive. One of the main issue that districts the people living then and the modern human beings are the concepts of humanity. The purpose of this essay is to explore the notion they had then, compare it with the current views and deduce the relevance that both had in human rights matters.
Medieval Conception of Humanity
Medieval notion of humanity was mainly through a hierarchical kind of the world. Everything relating to the people was viewed from this perspective. Both the supernatural and natural individuals were taken to exist in the form of a ladder of superiority (Farber, 14). There was, for example, the human leaders who formed the uppermost hierarchies of people and the subjects were below them. Even the deity was seen to exist as levels of God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, and angles living in that order respectively. Interestingly, the social, sexual, economic, and political aspects of the people were also viewed from that perspective. The identity of a person was determined about the part of the body they occupied within the societal setting. A copy of the Avis at the rosy image of the body politic that can be dated back to the fourteenth-century can be used to support this conception (Farber, 15). The head and other essential body functions such as the sight and hearing were related to judges such as seneschals, bailiffs, and provosts. The hands were associated with Knights while counselors and wise men were identified with the heart. Those working on the earth and the traders were linked to the legs. That, therefore, showed a complete hierarchy of social and economic class of the people living in the medieval.
Another essential concept during this period was the idea of successful human beings. Someone was considered a complete success if they have in equal measure conformed to the acceptable social and political practices. There was a solid code of conduct which each was expected to adhere to, and those who followed them to the latter were considered successful regardless of their hierarchical position (Farber, 11). Additionally, everyone was expected to maintain the status quo and those who tried to change them were considered outcasts. A change was viewed as negative, and no one was allowed to embrace it. There was little knowledge of human rights or protection of the individual rights since the hierarchy was the central thing that as holding up their philosophy. Originality or development of societal ideas was minimal as the world was perceived as a statistic and not dynamic.
Human Rights and this Conception
The understanding that we have today regarding the issue of human rights can be linked directly to the conception the middle age man had. Firstly it is worth noting that the existence of social, political and economic classes of people in the form of a hierarchy meant that some people were more critical than others. It was therefore not possible to have human rights. Those occupying the top positions could be viewed as more superior than the rest, and as such, they could violate their rights without feeling guilty or regret (Pappano & Rice, 479). This explains why there was rampant slave trade then. There was no equality, individuality or originality as everyone was seen as part of the ladder and nothing could be done about it. This contradicts the current view on humanism as everyone is now perceived and treated to be equal regardless of their social class. No one, for example, is above the law or expected to violate the rights of others without actions being taken. Even the judges, who in the medieval period were considered to be at the top can be sued and punished for oppressing a gardener, for example, working in their flower farm.
Differences between Contemporary and Medieval Conceptions
Firstly, the period was characterized by strong religious beliefs. Christianity was the dominant religion that provided the sense of morality and direction in life. People believed in hell and heaves and feared sin thereby giving room for priests to manipulate the believers. This, however, is no longer the case because; in as much as Christianity is still relevant, people have become more open-minded and cannot be easily manipulated because of the mare fear of sin or hell (Pappano & Rice, 481). Secondly, whereas hierarchy and obedience was the fundamental element in the medieval period, equality, and reasoning paramount today. There is nobody who is superior to any other in this current age unlike back then. Also, people lived then in absolute punishment and persecution a culture that was inherited from the Roman Empire. However today, even the worst of all criminals are subjected to rehabilitation, not punishment.
The concepts of medieval period cannot be entirely disregarded. There was still the value of human life as it is today and order was necessary for the peaceful existence of the people. It was a period where the church grew in large numbers mainly because mission work to Africa was at its climax. The influential church then was identifiable with good humanitarian changes among them the abolition of slave trade. Additionally, the period formed a basic unit of human history that is rich in art, music, and drama all which even to date remain relevant aspects of human beings.