Being a Person
Note: These notes are a combination of the material from the powerpoint slides &
quotes from Ernestine McHugh’s book.
Excerpts from her book are preceded by the
page numbers you can find them on.
The best way to study the themes illustrated is to
go to those pages and read the whole vignette rather than just the excerpt presented
We start by highlighting the idea of a society organized in terms of morally tinged
concepts such as honor, greed, and generosity:
To take Yhebe again, reflecting on the people of Timling and on life more generally, the
root of problems is in greed (quotes from Fricke 2006, essay on coursetools):
“All this fighting, all this looking for difference.
Even the Christians say they’re one kind
or the other.
But they’re all really the same.
Some honor Isu’s mother, some don’t.
There’s not much difference there.”
“But everybody looks for difference -- the Maoists, the parties, everybody.
When I think about it, I think I liked the old ways best, before foreign money
came, when the old habits were honored, when nobody sought their own advantage.
You know, it’s greed that makes us look for difference.”
And then, a similar highlighting from McHugh:
“Gurungs consider graciousness to be a mark of honor and to treat someone else with
disrespect is to call your own standing into question.”
A way of reading the book:
Some things to look for in Ernestine McHugh’s book:
nature of the person if we start with cultural notions of what it takes to be a person, we
can broaden out into the implications for relations between people, the moral
expectations one has -- so in reading McHugh, especially in her chapter 3, we might
give attention to the notion of
nature of the social
-- societies can be said to have certain key ethical dimensions --
the Gurung, for example, might be said to be characterized by the
ethic of exchange”
We can take just these two dimensions, personhood and ethic, and look for how these
two things permeate different domains of culture and social life:
a person’s life