Respect for human dignity: a central phenomenon to philosophically unite nursing theory and practice through consilience of knowledge

Barbara Bennett Jacobs, University of Connecticut School of Nursing

Document Type Article


Nightingale suggested that there should be no distinction between "men of thought" and "men of action" and that an "Ideal" or philosophy should not be isolated but incorporated into everyday activities. This construct is analogous to the belief that nursing theory and nursing practice should be incorporated, and both should reflect a common central phenomenon. The pursuit of nursing knowledge by women of "thought" is not viewed as a central phenomenon but is an outcome of scholarly inquiry. Outcomes pursued by practicing nurses, women of "action," depend on their particular role and scope of practice. A number of outcomes are possible ranging from prevention, public health and policy, alleviation of pain and suffering, and individual health promotion and healing to palliative care. These outcomes are not viewed as the source of unity to guide nursing since they may vary, especially with developments in science, technology, and philosophy. A more unifying central phenomenon could be viewed as the respect for, or the restoration of, human dignity, our being in community, our being in the world, and our sea of a moral imperative. Consilience, a way to unify the knowledge that is needed to support this phenomenon, is suggested as an example of an approach to a philosophy of nursing that embraces multiple forms and sources of knowledge in all-encompassing morality that ultimately ennobles the lives of all human beings in covenantal relationships with nurses both in theory and in practice.