Humanism

Humanism

Overview
Humanism is an approach in study
Observational study
In epidemiology and statistics, an observational study draws inferences about the possible effect of a treatment on subjects, where the assignment of subjects into a treated group versus a control group is outside the control of the investigator...

, philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

, world view
World view
A comprehensive world view is the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing the entirety of the individual or society's knowledge and point-of-view, including natural philosophy; fundamental, existential, and normative postulates; or themes, values, emotions, and...

 or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. In philosophy and social science, humanism is a perspective which affirms some notion of human nature
Human nature
Human nature refers to the distinguishing characteristics, including ways of thinking, feeling and acting, that humans tend to have naturally....

, and is contrasted with anti-humanism.

Secular Humanism
Secular humanism
Secular Humanism, alternatively known as Humanism , is a secular philosophy that embraces human reason, ethics, justice, and the search for human fulfillment...

 is a secular ideology which espouses reason
Reason
Reason is a term that refers to the capacity human beings have to make sense of things, to establish and verify facts, and to change or justify practices, institutions, and beliefs. It is closely associated with such characteristically human activities as philosophy, science, language, ...

, ethics
Ethics
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

, and justice
Justice
Justice is a concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, or equity, along with the punishment of the breach of said ethics; justice is the act of being just and/or fair.-Concept of justice:...

, whilst specifically rejecting supernatural
Supernatural
The supernatural or is that which is not subject to the laws of nature, or more figuratively, that which is said to exist above and beyond nature...

 and religious dogma
Dogma
Dogma is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, or a particular group or organization. It is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted, or diverged from, by the practitioners or believers...

 as a basis of morality
Morality
Morality is the differentiation among intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are good and bad . A moral code is a system of morality and a moral is any one practice or teaching within a moral code...

 and decision-making.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Humanism'
Start a new discussion about 'Humanism'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
Humanism is an approach in study
Observational study
In epidemiology and statistics, an observational study draws inferences about the possible effect of a treatment on subjects, where the assignment of subjects into a treated group versus a control group is outside the control of the investigator...

, philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

, world view
World view
A comprehensive world view is the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing the entirety of the individual or society's knowledge and point-of-view, including natural philosophy; fundamental, existential, and normative postulates; or themes, values, emotions, and...

 or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. In philosophy and social science, humanism is a perspective which affirms some notion of human nature
Human nature
Human nature refers to the distinguishing characteristics, including ways of thinking, feeling and acting, that humans tend to have naturally....

, and is contrasted with anti-humanism.

Secular Humanism
Secular humanism
Secular Humanism, alternatively known as Humanism , is a secular philosophy that embraces human reason, ethics, justice, and the search for human fulfillment...

 is a secular ideology which espouses reason
Reason
Reason is a term that refers to the capacity human beings have to make sense of things, to establish and verify facts, and to change or justify practices, institutions, and beliefs. It is closely associated with such characteristically human activities as philosophy, science, language, ...

, ethics
Ethics
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

, and justice
Justice
Justice is a concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, or equity, along with the punishment of the breach of said ethics; justice is the act of being just and/or fair.-Concept of justice:...

, whilst specifically rejecting supernatural
Supernatural
The supernatural or is that which is not subject to the laws of nature, or more figuratively, that which is said to exist above and beyond nature...

 and religious dogma
Dogma
Dogma is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, or a particular group or organization. It is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted, or diverged from, by the practitioners or believers...

 as a basis of morality
Morality
Morality is the differentiation among intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are good and bad . A moral code is a system of morality and a moral is any one practice or teaching within a moral code...

 and decision-making. Secular Humanism contrasts with Religious Humanism
Religious humanism
Religious humanism is an integration of humanist ethical philosophy with religious rituals and beliefs that center on human needs, interests, and abilities.-Origins:...

, which is an integration of humanist ethical philosophy with religious
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

 ritual
Ritual
A ritual is a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value. It may be prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community. The term usually excludes actions which are arbitrarily chosen by the performers....

s and beliefs that center on human needs, interests, and abilities.
Renaissance humanism
Renaissance humanism
Renaissance humanism was an activity of cultural and educational reform engaged by scholars, writers, and civic leaders who are today known as Renaissance humanists. It developed during the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth centuries, and was a response to the challenge of Mediæval...

 is a cultural movement
Cultural movement
A cultural movement is a change in the way a number of different disciplines approach their work. This embodies all art forms, the sciences, and philosophies. Historically, different nations or regions of the world have gone through their own independent sequence of movements in culture, but as...

 of the Italian Renaissance
Italian Renaissance
The Italian Renaissance began the opening phase of the Renaissance, a period of great cultural change and achievement in Europe that spanned the period from the end of the 13th century to about 1600, marking the transition between Medieval and Early Modern Europe...

 based on the study of classical works.

Religious and Secular Humanism arose from a trajectory extending from the deism
Deism
Deism in religious philosophy is the belief that reason and observation of the natural world, without the need for organized religion, can determine that the universe is the product of an all-powerful creator. According to deists, the creator does not intervene in human affairs or suspend the...

 and anti-clericalism
Anti-clericalism
Anti-clericalism is a historical movement that opposes religious institutional power and influence, real or alleged, in all aspects of public and political life, and the involvement of religion in the everyday life of the citizen...

 of the Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

, the various secular movements of the 19th century (such as positivism
Positivism
Positivism is a a view of scientific methods and a philosophical approach, theory, or system based on the view that, in the social as well as natural sciences, sensory experiences and their logical and mathematical treatment are together the exclusive source of all worthwhile information....

), and the overarching expansion of the scientific project.

History


The term "humanism" is ambiguous. Around 1806 Humanismus was used to describe the classical curriculum offered by German schools, and by 1836 "humanism" was lent to English in this sense. In 1856, German historian and philologist Georg Voigt used humanism to describe Renaissance humanism
Renaissance humanism
Renaissance humanism was an activity of cultural and educational reform engaged by scholars, writers, and civic leaders who are today known as Renaissance humanists. It developed during the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth centuries, and was a response to the challenge of Mediæval...

, the movement that flourished in the Italian Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 to revive classical learning, a use which won wide acceptance among historians in many nations, especially Italy.
This historical and literary use of the word "humanist" derives from the 15th-century Italian term umanista, meaning a teacher or scholar of Classical Greek and Latin literature and the ethical philosophy behind it.

But in the mid-18th century, a different use of the term began to emerge. In 1765, the author of an anonymous article in a French Enlightenment periodical spoke of "The general love of humanity ... a virtue hitherto quite nameless among us, and which we will venture to call ‘humanism’, for the time has come to create a word for such a beautiful and necessary thing.” The latter part of the 18th and the early 19th centuries saw the creation of numerous grass-roots "philanthropic" and benevolent societies dedicated to human betterment and the spreading of knowledge (some Christian, some not). After the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

, the idea that human virtue could be created by human reason alone independently from traditional religious institutions, attributed by opponents of the Revolution to Enlightenment philosophes such as Rousseau, was violently attacked by influential religious and political conservatives, such as Edmund Burke
Edmund Burke
Edmund Burke PC was an Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher who, after moving to England, served for many years in the House of Commons of Great Britain as a member of the Whig party....

 and Joseph de Maistre
Joseph de Maistre
Joseph-Marie, comte de Maistre was a French-speaking Savoyard philosopher, writer, lawyer, and diplomat. He defended hierarchical societies and a monarchical State in the period immediately following the French Revolution...

, as a deification or idolatry of man. Humanism began to acquire a negative sense. The Oxford English Dictionary records the use of the word "humanism" by an English clergyman in 1812 to indicate those who believe in the "mere humanity" (as opposed to the divine nature) of Christ, i.e., Unitarians
Unitarianism
Unitarianism is a Christian theological movement, named for its understanding of God as one person, in direct contrast to Trinitarianism which defines God as three persons coexisting consubstantially as one in being....

 and Deists. In this polarized atmosphere, in which established ecclesiastical bodies tended to circle the wagons and reflexively oppose political and social reforms like extending the franchise, universal schooling, and the like, liberal reformers and radicals embraced the idea of Humanism as an alternative religion of humanity. The anarchist Proudhon (best known for declaring that "property is theft") used the word "humanism" to describe a "culte, déification de l’humanité" ("cult, deification of humanity") and Ernest Renan
Ernest Renan
Ernest Renan was a French expert of Middle East ancient languages and civilizations, philosopher and writer, devoted to his native province of Brittany...

 in L’avenir de la science: pensées de 1848 ("The Future of Knowledge: Thoughts on 1848") (1848–49), states: "It is my deep conviction that pure humanism will be the religion of the future, that is, the cult of all that pertains to manall of life, sanctified and raised to the level of a moral value.“

At about the same time, the word "humanism" as a philosophy centered around mankind (as opposed to institutionalized religion) was also being used in Germany by the so-called Left Hegelians, Arnold Ruge
Arnold Ruge
Arnold Ruge was a German philosopher and political writer.-Studies in university and prison:Born in Bergen auf Rügen, he studied in Halle, Jena and Heidelberg. As an advocate of a free and united Germany he was jailed for five years in 1825 in the fortress of Kolberg, where he studied Plato and...

, and Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

, who were critical of the close involvement of the church in the repressive German government. There has been a persistent confusion between the several uses of the terms: philosophical humanists look to human-centered antecedents among the Greek philosophers and the great figures of Renaissance history.

Ancient Greece


6th-century BCE pre-Socratic Greek philosophers Thales of Miletus and Xenophanes of Colophon were the first to attempt to explain the world in terms of human reason rather than myth and tradition, thus can be said to be the first Greek humanists. Thales questioned the notion of anthropomorphic gods and Xenophanes refused to recognize the gods of his time and reserved the divine for the principle of unity in the universe. These Ionian Greeks were the first thinkers to assert that nature is available to be studied separately from the supernatural realm. Anaxagoras
Anaxagoras
Anaxagoras was a Pre-Socratic Greek philosopher. Born in Clazomenae in Asia Minor, Anaxagoras was the first philosopher to bring philosophy from Ionia to Athens. He attempted to give a scientific account of eclipses, meteors, rainbows, and the sun, which he described as a fiery mass larger than...

 brought philosophy and the spirit of rational inquiry from Ionia to Athens. Pericles
Pericles
Pericles was a prominent and influential statesman, orator, and general of Athens during the city's Golden Age—specifically, the time between the Persian and Peloponnesian wars...

, the leader of Athens during the period of its greatest glory was an admirer of Anaxagoras. Other influential pre-Socratics or rational philosophers include Protagoras
Protagoras
Protagoras was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher and is numbered as one of the sophists by Plato. In his dialogue Protagoras, Plato credits him with having invented the role of the professional sophist or teacher of virtue...

 (like Anaxagoras a friend of Pericles), known for his famous dictum "man is the measure of all things" and Democritus
Democritus
Democritus was an Ancient Greek philosopher born in Abdera, Thrace, Greece. He was an influential pre-Socratic philosopher and pupil of Leucippus, who formulated an atomic theory for the cosmos....

, who proposed that matter was composed of atoms. Little of the written work of these early philosophers survives and they are known mainly from fragments and quotations in other writers, principally Plato and Aristotle. The historian Thucydides
Thucydides
Thucydides was a Greek historian and author from Alimos. His History of the Peloponnesian War recounts the 5th century BC war between Sparta and Athens to the year 411 BC...

, noted for his scientific and rational approach to history, is also much admired by later humanists. In the 3rd century BCE, Epicurus
Epicurus
Epicurus was an ancient Greek philosopher and the founder of the school of philosophy called Epicureanism.Only a few fragments and letters remain of Epicurus's 300 written works...

 became known for his concise phrasing of the problem of evil
Problem of evil
In the philosophy of religion, the problem of evil is the question of how to explain evil if there exists a deity that is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient . Some philosophers have claimed that the existences of such a god and of evil are logically incompatible or unlikely...

, lack of belief in the afterlife, and human-centered approaches to achieving eudaimonia
Eudaimonia
Eudaimonia or eudaemonia , sometimes Anglicized as eudemonia , is a Greek word commonly translated as happiness or welfare; however, "human flourishing" has been proposed as a more accurate translation...

. He was also the first Greek philosopher to admit women to his school as a rule.

Asia


Human-centered philosophy that rejected the supernatural can be found as early as 1000 BCE in the Lokayata
Carvaka
' , also known as ', is a system of Indian philosophy that assumes various forms of philosophical skepticism and religious indifference. It seems named after , the probable author of the and probably a follower of Brihaspati, who founded the ' philosophy.In overviews of Indian philosophy, Cārvāka...

 system of Indian philosophy. Also in the 6th-century BCE, Gautama Buddha
Gautama Buddha
Siddhārtha Gautama was a spiritual teacher from the Indian subcontinent, on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. In most Buddhist traditions, he is regarded as the Supreme Buddha Siddhārtha Gautama (Sanskrit: सिद्धार्थ गौतम; Pali: Siddhattha Gotama) was a spiritual teacher from the Indian...

 expressed, in Pali literature
Pali literature
Pali literature is concerned mainly with Theravada Buddhism, of which Pali is the traditional language.- India :Main article: Pali CanonThe earliest and most important Pali literature constitutes the Pali Canon, the scriptures of Theravada...

, a skeptical attitude toward the supernatural:
Since neither soul nor aught belonging to soul can really and truly exist, the view which holds that this I who am 'world,' who am 'soul,' shall hereafter live permanent, persisting, unchanging, yea abide eternally: is not this utterly and entirely a foolish doctrine?


In China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, Huangdi is regarded as the humanistic primogenitor. Sage kings such as Yao and Shun are humanistic figures as recorded. King Wu of Zhou
King Wu of Zhou
King Wu of Zhōu or King Wu of Chou was the first sovereign, or ruler of the Chinese Zhou Dynasty. The dates of his reign are 1046-1043 BCE or 1049/45-1043. Various sources quoted that he died at the age of 93, 54 or 43. He was considered a just and able leader. Zhou Gong Dan was one of his...

 has the famous saying: "Human is the ling (spirit, soul, god, or leader) in the world (among all)". Among them, Duke of Zhou
Duke of Zhou
The Duke of Zhou played a major role in consolidating the newly-founded Zhou Dynasty . He was the brother of King Wu of Zhou, the first king of the ancient Chinese Zhou Dynasty...

, respected as an initial founder of Rujia (Confucianism), is especially prominent and pioneering in humanistic thought. His words were recorded in the Book of History as follows (translated into English):
What the people desire, Heaven certainly comply.
Heaven (God) is not believable. Our Tao
Tao
Dao or Tao is a Chinese word meaning 'way', 'path', 'route', or sometimes more loosely, 'doctrine' or 'principle'...

 (doctrine) is moral (from former sage kings and to be continued forward).

In the 6th century BCE, Taoist
Taoism
Taoism refers to a philosophical or religious tradition in which the basic concept is to establish harmony with the Tao , which is the mechanism of everything that exists...

 teacher Laozi
Laozi
Laozi was a mystic philosopher of ancient China, best known as the author of the Tao Te Ching . His association with the Tao Te Ching has led him to be traditionally considered the founder of Taoism...

 held natural humanistic philosophy. Confucius
Confucius
Confucius , literally "Master Kong", was a Chinese thinker and social philosopher of the Spring and Autumn Period....

 also taught secular ethics. The silver rule
Silver rule
The Silver Rule, "Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you", is a standard of behaviour found in the writings of amongst others Hillel the Elder. It is related to the ethical principle of the Golden Rule....

 of Confucianism
Confucianism
Confucianism is a Chinese ethical and philosophical system developed from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius . Confucianism originated as an "ethical-sociopolitical teaching" during the Spring and Autumn Period, but later developed metaphysical and cosmological elements in the Han...

 from Analects XV.24, is an example of ethical philosophy based on human values rather than the supernatural. Humanistic thought is also contained in other Confucian classics, e.g., as recorded in Zuo Zhuan
Zuo Zhuan
The Zuo Zhuan , sometimes translated as the Chronicle of Zuo or the Commentary of Zuo, is among the earliest Chinese works of narrative history and covers the period from 722 BCE to 468 BCE. It is one of the most important sources for understanding the history of the Spring and Autumn Period...

, Ji Liang says: "People is the zhu (master, lord, dominance, owner or origin) of gods. So, to sage kings, people first, gods second"; Neishi Guo says: "Gods, clever, righteous and wholehearted, comply with human.

Medieval Islam



Many medieval Muslim thinkers pursued humanistic, rational
Rationalism
In epistemology and in its modern sense, rationalism is "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification" . In more technical terms, it is a method or a theory "in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive"...

 and scientific discourse
Discourse
Discourse generally refers to "written or spoken communication". The following are three more specific definitions:...

s in their search for knowledge, meaning and values
Value (personal and cultural)
A personal or cultural value is an absolute or relative ethical value, the assumption of which can be the basis for ethical action. A value system is a set of consistent values and measures. A principle value is a foundation upon which other values and measures of integrity are based...

. A wide range of Islamic writings on love, poetry
Poetry
Poetry is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning...

, history and philosophical theology
Philosophical Theology
Philosophical theology is the disciplined employment of philosophical methods in developing or analyzing theological concepts. It therefore includes natural theology as well as philosophical treatments of orthodox and heterodox theology....

 show that medieval Islamic thought was open to the humanistic ideas of individualism
Individualism
Individualism is the moral stance, political philosophy, ideology, or social outlook that stresses "the moral worth of the individual". Individualists promote the exercise of one's goals and desires and so value independence and self-reliance while opposing most external interference upon one's own...

, occasional secularism
Secularism
Secularism is the principle of separation between government institutions and the persons mandated to represent the State from religious institutions and religious dignitaries...

, skepticism
Skepticism
Skepticism has many definitions, but generally refers to any questioning attitude towards knowledge, facts, or opinions/beliefs stated as facts, or doubt regarding claims that are taken for granted elsewhere...

 and liberalism
Liberalism
Liberalism is the belief in the importance of liberty and equal rights. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally, liberals support ideas such as constitutionalism, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights,...

.

Another reason the Islamic world flourished during the Middle Ages was an early emphasis on freedom of speech
Freedom of speech
Freedom of speech is the freedom to speak freely without censorship. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used...

, as summarized by al-Hashimi (a cousin of Caliph al-Ma'mun
Al-Ma'mun
Abū Jaʿfar Abdullāh al-Māʾmūn ibn Harūn was an Abbasid caliph who reigned from 813 until his death in 833...

) in the following letter to one of the religious opponents he was attempting to convert
Religious conversion
Religious conversion is the adoption of a new religion that differs from the convert's previous religion. Changing from one denomination to another within the same religion is usually described as reaffiliation rather than conversion.People convert to a different religion for various reasons,...

 through reason
Reason
Reason is a term that refers to the capacity human beings have to make sense of things, to establish and verify facts, and to change or justify practices, institutions, and beliefs. It is closely associated with such characteristically human activities as philosophy, science, language, ...

:
Certain aspects of Renaissance humanism
Renaissance humanism
Renaissance humanism was an activity of cultural and educational reform engaged by scholars, writers, and civic leaders who are today known as Renaissance humanists. It developed during the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth centuries, and was a response to the challenge of Mediæval...

 has its roots in the medieval Islamic world
Islamic Golden Age
During the Islamic Golden Age philosophers, scientists and engineers of the Islamic world contributed enormously to technology and culture, both by preserving earlier traditions and by adding their own inventions and innovations...

, including the "art of dictation
Dictation (exercise)
Dictation is the transcription of spoken text: one person who is "dictating" speaks and another who is "taking dictation" writes down the words as they are spoken.-La dictée:...

, called in Latin, ars dictaminis
Ars dictaminis
The ars dictaminis was the medieval description of the art of prose composition, and more specifically of the writing of letters . It is closely linked to the ars dictandi, covering the composition of documents other than letters. The standing assumption was that these writings would be composed in...

,"
and "the humanist attitude toward classical language
Classical language
A classical language is a language with a literature that is classical. According to UC Berkeley linguist George L. Hart, it should be ancient, it should be an independent tradition that arose mostly on its own, not as an offshoot of another tradition, and it must have a large and extremely rich...

."

Renaissance



Renaissance humanism was an intellectual movement in Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 of the later Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 and the Early Modern period. The 19th-century German historian Georg Voigt (1827–91) identified Petrarch
Petrarch
Francesco Petrarca , known in English as Petrarch, was an Italian scholar, poet and one of the earliest humanists. Petrarch is often called the "Father of Humanism"...

 as the first Renaissance humanist. Paul Johnson agrees that Petrarch was "the first to put into words the notion that the centuries between the fall of Rome and the present had been the age of Darkness.” According to Petrarch, what was needed to remedy this situation was the careful study and imitation of the great classical authors. For Petrarch and Boccaccio, the greatest master was Cicero
Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

, whose prose became the model for both learned (Latin) and vernacular (Italian) prose.
Once the language was mastered grammatically it could be used to attain the second stage, eloquence or rhetoric. This art of persuasion [Cicero had held] was not art for its own sake, but the acquisition of the capacity to persuade others — all men and women — to lead the good life. As Petrarch put it, 'it is better to will the good than to know the truth.' Rhetoric thus led to and embraced philosophy. Leonardo Bruni
Leonardo Bruni
Leonardo Bruni was an Italian humanist, historian and statesman. He has been called the first modern historian.-Biography:...

 (c.1369–1444), the outstanding scholar of the new generation, insisted that it was Petrarch who “opened the way for us to show how to acquire learning," but it was in Bruni’s time that the word umanista first came into use, and its subjects of study were listed as five: grammar, rhetoric, poetry, moral philosophy, and history.”
The basic training of the humanist was to speak well and write (typically, in the form of a letter). One of Petrarch’s followers, Coluccio Salutati
Coluccio Salutati
Coluccio Salutati was an Italian Humanist and man of letters, and one of the most important political and cultural leaders of Renaissance Florence.-Birth and Early Career:...

 (1331–1406) was made chancellor of Florence
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

, "whose interests he defended with his literary skill. The Visconti of Milan claimed that Salutati’s pen had done more damage than 'thirty squadrons of Florentine cavalry.'”

Contrary to a still widely current interpretation that originated in Voigt's celebrated contemporary, Jacob Burckhardt
Jacob Burckhardt
Carl Jacob Christoph Burckhardt was a historian of art and culture, and an influential figure in the historiography of each field. He is known as one of the major progenitors of cultural history, albeit in a form very different from how cultural history is conceived and studied in academia today...

, and which was adopted wholeheartedly, especially by those moderns calling themselves "humanists", most specialists now do not characterize Renaissance humanism as a philosophical movement, nor in any way as anti-Christian or even anti-clerical. A modern historian has this to say:
Humanism was not an ideological programme but a body of literary knowledge and linguistic skill based on the “revival of good letters,” which was a revival of a late-antique philology and grammar, This is how the word “humanist" was understood by contemporaries, and if scholars would agree to accept the word in this sense rather than in the sense in which it was used in the nineteenth century we might be spared a good deal of useless argument. That humanism had profound social and even political consequences of the life of Italian courts is not to be doubted. But the idea that as a movement it was in some way inimical to the Church, or to the conservative social order in general is one that has been put forward for a century and more without any substantial proof being offered.

The nineteenth-century historian Jacob Burckhardt, in his classic work, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy
The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy
The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy is an 1860 work on the Italian Renaissance by Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt. Together with his History of the Renaissance in Italy it is counted among the classics of Renaissance historiography.English translation by S. G. C...

,
noted as a “curious fact” that some men of the new culture were “men of the strictest piety, or even ascetics.” If he had meditated more deeply on the meaning of the careers of such humanists as Abrogio Traversari (1386–1439), the General of the Camaldolese Order, perhaps he would not have gone on to describe humanism in unqualified terms as “pagan,” and thus helped precipitate a century of infertile debate about the possible existence of something called “Christian humanism” which ought to be opposed to “pagan humanism.” --Peter Partner, Renaissance Rome, Portrait of a Society 1500–1559 (University of California Press 1979) pp. 14–15.
The umanisti criticized what they considered the barbarous Latin of the universities, but the revival of the humanities largely did not conflict with the teaching of traditional university subjects, which went on as before.

Nor did the humanists view themselves as in conflict with Christianity. Some, like Salutati, were the Chancellors of Italian cities, but the majority (including Petrarch) were ordained as priests, and many worked as senior officials of the Papal court. Humanist Renaissance popes Nicholas V
Pope Nicholas V
Pope Nicholas V , born Tommaso Parentucelli, was Pope from March 6, 1447 to his death in 1455.-Biography:He was born at Sarzana, Liguria, where his father was a physician...

, Pius II
Pope Pius II
Pope Pius II, born Enea Silvio Piccolomini was Pope from August 19, 1458 until his death in 1464. Pius II was born at Corsignano in the Sienese territory of a noble but decayed family...

, Sixtus IV
Pope Sixtus IV
Pope Sixtus IV , born Francesco della Rovere, was Pope from 1471 to 1484. His accomplishments as Pope included the establishment of the Sistine Chapel; the group of artists that he brought together introduced the Early Renaissance into Rome with the first masterpiece of the city's new artistic age,...

, and Leo X
Pope Leo X
Pope Leo X , born Giovanni di Lorenzo de' Medici, was the Pope from 1513 to his death in 1521. He was the last non-priest to be elected Pope. He is known for granting indulgences for those who donated to reconstruct St. Peter's Basilica and his challenging of Martin Luther's 95 Theses...

 wrote books and amassed huge libraries.

In the high Renaissance, in fact, there was a hope that more direct knowledge of the wisdom of antiquity, including the writings of the Church fathers, the earliest known Greek texts of the Christian Gospels, and in some cases even the Jewish Kabbalah
Kabbalah
Kabbalah/Kabala is a discipline and school of thought concerned with the esoteric aspect of Rabbinic Judaism. It was systematized in 11th-13th century Hachmei Provence and Spain, and again after the Expulsion from Spain, in 16th century Ottoman Palestine...

, would initiate an harmonious new era of universal agreement. With this end in view, Renaissance Church authorities afforded humanists what in retrospect appears a remarkable degree of freedom of thought. One humanist, the Greek Orthodox Platonist Gemistus Pletho
Gemistus Pletho
Georgius Gemistus — later called Plethon or Pletho — was a Greek scholar of Neoplatonic philosophy. He was one of the chief pioneers of the revival of Greek learning in Western Europe...

 (1355–1452), based in Mystras
Mystras
Mystras is a fortified town and a former municipality in Laconia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Sparti, of which it is a municipal unit. Situated on Mt...

, Greece (but in contact with humanists in Florence, Venice, and Rome) taught a Christianized version of pagan polytheism
Polytheism
Polytheism is the belief of multiple deities also usually assembled into a pantheon of gods and goddesses, along with their own mythologies and rituals....

.

Back to the sources


The humanists' close study of Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 literary texts soon enabled them to discern historical differences in the writing styles of different periods. By analogy with what they saw as decline of Latin, they applied the principle of ad fontes
Ad fontes
Ad fontes is a Latin expression which means "to the sources" . The phrase epitomizes the renewed study of Greek and Latin classics in Renaissance humanism. Similarly, the Protestant Reformation called for renewed attention to the Bible as the primary source of Christian faith...

, or back to the sources, across broad areas of learning, seeking out manuscripts of Patristic literature as well as pagan authors. In 1439, while employed in Naples
Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

 at the court of Alfonso V of Aragon
Alfonso V of Aragon
Alfonso the Magnanimous KG was the King of Aragon , Valencia , Majorca, Sardinia and Corsica , and Sicily and Count of Barcelona from 1416 and King of Naples from 1442 until his death...

 (at the time engaged in a dispute with the Papal States) the humanist Lorenzo Valla
Lorenzo Valla
Lorenzo Valla was an Italian humanist, rhetorician, and educator. His family was from Piacenza; his father, Luciave della Valla, was a lawyer....

 used stylistic textual analysis, now called philology
Philology
Philology is the study of language in written historical sources; it is a combination of literary studies, history and linguistics.Classical philology is the philology of Greek and Classical Latin...

, to prove that the Donation of Constantine
Donation of Constantine
The Donation of Constantine is a forged Roman imperial decree by which the emperor Constantine I supposedly transferred authority over Rome and the western part of the Roman Empire to the pope. During the Middle Ages, the document was often cited in support of the Roman Church's claims to...

, which purported to confer temporal powers on the Pope of Rome, was an 8th-century forgery. For the next 70 years, however, neither Valla nor any of his contemporaries thought to apply the techniques of philology to other controversial manuscripts in this way. Instead, after the fall of the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 to the Turks in 1453, which brought a flood of Greek Orthodox refugees to Italy, humanist scholars increasingly turned to the study of Neoplatonism
Neoplatonism
Neoplatonism , is the modern term for a school of religious and mystical philosophy that took shape in the 3rd century AD, based on the teachings of Plato and earlier Platonists, with its earliest contributor believed to be Plotinus, and his teacher Ammonius Saccas...

 and Hermeticism
Hermeticism
Hermeticism or the Western Hermetic Tradition is a set of philosophical and religious beliefs based primarily upon the pseudepigraphical writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus...

, hoping to bridge the differences between the Greek and Roman Churches, and even between Christianity itself and the non-Christian world. The refugees brought with them Greek manuscripts, not only of Plato and Aristotle, but also of the Christian Gospels, previously unavailable in the Latin West. After 1517, when the new invention of printing made these texts widely available, the Dutch humanist Erasmus, who had studied Greek at the Venetian printing house of Aldus Manutius
Aldus Manutius
Aldus Pius Manutius , the Latinised name of Aldo Manuzio —sometimes called Aldus Manutius, the Elder to distinguish him from his grandson, Aldus Manutius, the Younger—was an Italian humanist who became a printer and publisher when he founded the Aldine Press at Venice.His publishing legacy includes...

, began a philological analysis of the Gospels in the spirit of Valla, comparing the Greek originals with their Latin translations with a view to correcting errors and discrepancies in the latter. Erasmus, along with the French humanist Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples
Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples
Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples or Jacob Faber Stapulensis was a French theologian and humanist. He was a precursor of the Protestant movement in France. The "d’Étaples" was not part of his name as such, but used to distinguish him from Jacques Lefèvre of Deventer, a less significant contemporary, a...

, began issuing new translations, laying the groundwork for the Protestant Reformation. Henceforth Renaissance humanism, particularly in the German North, became concerned with religion, while Italian and French humanism concentrated increasingly on scholarship and philology addressed to a narrow audience of specialists, studiously avoiding topics that might offend despotic rulers or which might be seen as corrosive of faith. After the Reformation, critical examination of the Bible did not resume until the advent of the so-called Higher criticsm of the 19th-century German Tübingen school.

Consequences


The ad fontes principle also had many applications. The re-discovery of ancient manuscripts brought a more profound and accurate knowledge of ancient philosophical schools such as Epicureanism
Epicureanism
Epicureanism is a system of philosophy based upon the teachings of Epicurus, founded around 307 BC. Epicurus was an atomic materialist, following in the steps of Democritus. His materialism led him to a general attack on superstition and divine intervention. Following Aristippus—about whom...

, and Neoplatonism
Neoplatonism
Neoplatonism , is the modern term for a school of religious and mystical philosophy that took shape in the 3rd century AD, based on the teachings of Plato and earlier Platonists, with its earliest contributor believed to be Plotinus, and his teacher Ammonius Saccas...

, whose Pagan wisdom the humanists, like the Church fathers of old, tended, at least initially, to consider as deriving from divine revelation and thus adaptable to a life of Christian virtue. The line from a drama of Terence
Terence
Publius Terentius Afer , better known in English as Terence, was a playwright of the Roman Republic, of North African descent. His comedies were performed for the first time around 170–160 BC. Terentius Lucanus, a Roman senator, brought Terence to Rome as a slave, educated him and later on,...

, Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto (or with nil for nihil), meaning "I am a man, I think nothing human alien to me", known since antiquity through the endorsement of Saint Augustine, gained renewed currency as epitomizing the humanist attitude.

Better acquaintance with Greek and Roman technical writings also influenced the development of European science (see the history of science in the Renaissance
History of science in the Renaissance
During the Renaissance, great advances occurred in geography, astronomy, chemistry, physics, mathematics, manufacturing, and engineering. The rediscovery of ancient scientific texts was accelerated after the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, and the invention of printing which would democratize...

). This was despite what A. C. Crombie (viewing the Renaissance in the 19th-century manner as a chapter in the heroic March of Progress) calls "a backwards-looking admiration for antiquity," in which Platonism stood in opposition to the Aristotelian
Aristotelianism
Aristotelianism is a tradition of philosophy that takes its defining inspiration from the work of Aristotle. The works of Aristotle were initially defended by the members of the Peripatetic school, and, later on, by the Neoplatonists, who produced many commentaries on Aristotle's writings...

 concentration on the observable properties of the physical world. But Renaissance humanists, who considered themselves as restoring the glory and nobility of antiquity, had no interest in scientific innovation. However, by the mid-to-late 16th century, even the universities, though still dominated by Scholasticism, began to demand that Aristotle be read in accurate texts edited according to the principles of Renaissance philology, thus setting the stage for Galileo's quarrels with the outmoded habits of Scholasticism.

Just as artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

 — partaking of the zeitgeist
Zeitgeist
Zeitgeist is "the spirit of the times" or "the spirit of the age."Zeitgeist is the general cultural, intellectual, ethical, spiritual or political climate within a nation or even specific groups, along with the general ambiance, morals, sociocultural direction, and mood associated with an era.The...

though not himself a humanist — advocated study of human anatomy
Anatomy
Anatomy is a branch of biology and medicine that is the consideration of the structure of living things. It is a general term that includes human anatomy, animal anatomy , and plant anatomy...

, nature, and weather to enrich Renaissance works of art, so Spanish-born humanist Juan Luis Vives
Juan Luís Vives
Juan Luis Vives , also Joan Lluís Vives i March , was a Valencian Spanish scholar and humanist.-Biography:Vives was born in Valencia...

 (c. 1493–1540) advocated observation, craft, and practical techniques to improve the formal teaching of Aristotelian philosophy at the universities, helping to free them from the grip of Medieval Scholasticism. Thus, the stage was set for the adoption of an approach to natural philosophy
Natural philosophy
Natural philosophy or the philosophy of nature , is a term applied to the study of nature and the physical universe that was dominant before the development of modern science...

, based on empirical
Empiricism
Empiricism is a theory of knowledge that asserts that knowledge comes only or primarily via sensory experience. One of several views of epistemology, the study of human knowledge, along with rationalism, idealism and historicism, empiricism emphasizes the role of experience and evidence,...

 observations and experimentation of the physical universe, making possible the advent of the age of scientific inquiry that followed the Renaissance.

It was in education that the humanists' program had the most lasting results, their curriculum and methods:
were followed everywhere, serving as models for the Protestant Reformers as well as the Jesuits. The humanistic school, animated by the idea that the study of classical languages and literature provided valuable information and intellectual discipline as well as moral standards and a civilized taste for future rulers, leaders, and professionals of its society, flourished without interruption, through many significant changes, until our own century, surviving many religious, political and social revolutions. It has but recently been replaced, though not yet completely, by other more practical and less demanding forms of education.

From Renaissance to modern humanism


The progression from the humanism of the renaissance to that of the 19th and 20th centuries came about through two key figures: Galileo and Erasmus. Cultural critic, Os Guinness explains that the word humanist during the renaissance initially only defined a concern for humanity, and many early humanists saw no dichotomy between this and their Christian faith. See Christian Humanism
Christian humanism
Christian humanism is the position that universal human dignity and individual freedom are essential and principal components of, or are at least compatible with, Christian doctrine and practice. It is a philosophical union of Christian and humanist principles.- Origins :Christian humanism may have...




"Yet it was from the Renaissance that modern Secular Humanism grew, with the development of an important split between reason and religion. This occurred as the church's complacent authority was exposed in two vital areas. In science, Galileo's support of the Copernican revolution upset the church's adherence to the theories of Aristotle, exposing them as false. In theology, the Dutch scholar Erasmus with his new Greek text showed that the Roman Catholic adherence to Jerome's Vulgate was frequently in error. A tiny wedge was thus forced between reason and authority, as both of them were then understood."

19th and 20th centuries


The phrase the "religion of humanity" is sometimes attributed to American Founding Father Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine
Thomas "Tom" Paine was an English author, pamphleteer, radical, inventor, intellectual, revolutionary, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States...

, though as yet unattested in his surviving writings. According to Tony Davies:
Paine called himself a theophilanthropist, a word combining the Greek for "God", "love," and "man", and indicating that while he believed in the existence of a creating intelligence in the universe, he entirely rejected the claims made by and for all existing religious doctrines, especially their miraculous, transcendental and salvationist pretensions. The Parisian "Society of Theophilanthropy" which he sponsored, is described by his biographer as "a forerunner of the ethical and humanist societies that proliferated later" ... [Paine's book] the trenchantly witty Age of Reason (1793) ... pours scorn on the supernatural pretensions of scripture, combining Voltairean mockery with Paine's own style of taproom ridicule to expose the absurdity of a theology built on a collection of incoherent Levantine folktales.


Davies identifies Paine's The Age of Reason
The Age of Reason
The Age of Reason; Being an Investigation of True and Fabulous Theology is a deistic pamphlet, written by eighteenth-century British radical and American revolutionary Thomas Paine, that criticizes institutionalized religion and challenges the legitimacy of the Bible, the central sacred text of...

as "the link between the two major narratives of what Jean-François Lyotard
Jean-François Lyotard
Jean-François Lyotard was a French philosopher and literary theorist. He is well known for his articulation of postmodernism after the late 1970s and the analysis of the impact of postmodernity on the human condition...

 calls the narrative of legitimation": the rationalism of the 18th-century Philosophes and the radical, historically based German 19th-century Biblical criticism of the Hegelians David Friedrich Strauss and Ludwig Feuerbach. "The first is political, largely French in inspiration, and projects 'humanity as the hero of liberty'. The second is philosophical, German, seeks the totality and autonomy of knowledge, and stresses understanding rather than freedom as the key to human fulfillment and emancipation. The two themes converged and competed in complex ways in the 19th century and beyond, and between them set the boundaries of its various humanisms. Homo homini deus est ("Man is a god to man" or "god is nothing [other than] man to himself"), Feuerbach had written.

Victorian novelist Mary Ann Evans, known to the world as George Eliot
George Eliot
Mary Anne Evans , better known by her pen name George Eliot, was an English novelist, journalist and translator, and one of the leading writers of the Victorian era...

, translated Strauss's Das Leben Jesu ("The Life of Jesus", 1846) and Ludwig Feuerbach's Das Wesen Christianismus ("The Essence of Christianity"). She wrote to a friend:

the fellowship between man and man which has been the principle of development, social and moral, is not dependent on conceptions of what is not man ... the idea of God, so far as it has been a high spiritual influence, is the ideal of goodness entirely human (i.e., an exaltation of the human).


Eliot and her circle, who included her companion George Henry Lewes
George Henry Lewes
George Henry Lewes was an English philosopher and critic of literature and theatre. He became part of the mid-Victorian ferment of ideas which encouraged discussion of Darwinism, positivism, and religious scepticism...

 (the biographer of Goethe) and the abolitionist and social theorist Harriet Martineau
Harriet Martineau
Harriet Martineau was an English social theorist and Whig writer, often cited as the first female sociologist....

, were much influenced by the positivism of Auguste Comte
Auguste Comte
Isidore Auguste Marie François Xavier Comte , better known as Auguste Comte , was a French philosopher, a founder of the discipline of sociology and of the doctrine of positivism...

, whom Martineau had translated. Comte had proposed an atheistic culte founded on human principles—a secular Religion of Humanity
Religion of Humanity
Religion of Humanity was a secular religion created by Auguste Comte, the founder of positivist philosophy. Adherents of this religion have built chapels of Humanity in France and Brazil.-Origins:...

 (which worshiped the dead, since most humans who have ever lived are dead), complete with holidays and liturgy, modeled on the rituals of a what was seen as a discredited and dilapidated Catholicism. Although Comte's English followers, like Eliot and Martineau, for the most part rejected the full gloomy panoply of his system, they liked the idea of a religion of humanity. Comte's austere vision of the universe, his injunction to "vivre pour altrui" ("live for others", from which comes the word "altruism
Altruism
Altruism is a concern for the welfare of others. It is a traditional virtue in many cultures, and a core aspect of various religious traditions, though the concept of 'others' toward whom concern should be directed can vary among cultures and religions. Altruism is the opposite of...

"), and his idealization of women inform the works of Victorian novelists and poets from George Eliot and Matthew Arnold
Matthew Arnold
Matthew Arnold was a British poet and cultural critic who worked as an inspector of schools. He was the son of Thomas Arnold, the famed headmaster of Rugby School, and brother to both Tom Arnold, literary professor, and William Delafield Arnold, novelist and colonial administrator...

 to Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy, OM was an English novelist and poet. While his works typically belong to the Naturalism movement, several poems display elements of the previous Romantic and Enlightenment periods of literature, such as his fascination with the supernatural.While he regarded himself primarily as a...

.

The British Humanistic Religious Association was formed as one of the earliest forerunners of contemporary chartered Humanist organizations in 1853 in London. This early group was democratically organized, with male and female members participating in the election of the leadership, and promoted knowledge of the sciences, philosophy, and the arts.

In February 1877, the word was used pejoratively, apparently for the first time in America, to describe Felix Adler. Adler, however, did not embrace the term, and instead coined the name "Ethical Culture
Ethical Culture
The Ethical movement, also referred to as the Ethical Culture movement or simply Ethical Culture, is an ethical, educational, and religious movement that is usually traced back to Felix Adler...

" for his new movement a movement which still exists in the now Humanist-affiliated New York Society for Ethical Culture. In 2008, Ethical Culture Leaders wrote: "Today, the historic identification, Ethical Culture, and the modern description, Ethical Humanism, are used interchangeably."

Active in the early 1920s, F.C.S. Schiller labeled his work "humanism" but for Schiller the term referred to the pragmatist
Pragmatism
Pragmatism is a philosophical tradition centered on the linking of practice and theory. It describes a process where theory is extracted from practice, and applied back to practice to form what is called intelligent practice...

 philosophy he shared with William James
William James
William James was a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher who was trained as a physician. He wrote influential books on the young science of psychology, educational psychology, psychology of religious experience and mysticism, and on the philosophy of pragmatism...

. In 1929, Charles Francis Potter
Charles Francis Potter
Dr Charles Francis Potter was an American Unitarian minister, theologian and author.In 1923 and 1924, he became nationally known through a series of debates with Dr. John Roach Straton, a fundamentalist Christian. The subjects, which Dr...

 founded the First Humanist Society of New York whose advisory board included Julian Huxley
Julian Huxley
Sir Julian Sorell Huxley FRS was an English evolutionary biologist, humanist and internationalist. He was a proponent of natural selection, and a leading figure in the mid-twentieth century evolutionary synthesis...

, John Dewey
John Dewey
John Dewey was an American philosopher, psychologist and educational reformer whose ideas have been influential in education and social reform. Dewey was an important early developer of the philosophy of pragmatism and one of the founders of functional psychology...

, Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics and one of the most prolific intellects in human history...

 and Thomas Mann
Thomas Mann
Thomas Mann was a German novelist, short story writer, social critic, philanthropist, essayist, and 1929 Nobel Prize laureate, known for his series of highly symbolic and ironic epic novels and novellas, noted for their insight into the psychology of the artist and the intellectual...

. Potter was a minister from the Unitarian
Unitarianism
Unitarianism is a Christian theological movement, named for its understanding of God as one person, in direct contrast to Trinitarianism which defines God as three persons coexisting consubstantially as one in being....

 tradition and in 1930 he and his wife, Clara Cook Potter, published Humanism: A New Religion. Throughout the 1930s, Potter was an advocate of such liberal causes as, women’s rights, access to birth control
Birth control
Birth control is an umbrella term for several techniques and methods used to prevent fertilization or to interrupt pregnancy at various stages. Birth control techniques and methods include contraception , contragestion and abortion...

, "civil divorce
Divorce
Divorce is the final termination of a marital union, canceling the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage and dissolving the bonds of matrimony between the parties...

 laws", and an end to capital punishment
Capital punishment
Capital punishment, the death penalty, or execution is the sentence of death upon a person by the state as a punishment for an offence. Crimes that can result in a death penalty are known as capital crimes or capital offences. The term capital originates from the Latin capitalis, literally...

.

Raymond B. Bragg, the associate editor of The New Humanist, sought to consolidate the input of Leon Milton Birkhead
Leon Milton Birkhead
Rev. Leon Milton Birkhead was an American Unitarian minister who opposed Nazi sympathizers in America in the 1930s. He was in dispute with Gerald Burton Winrod since the 1920s...

, Charles Francis Potter
Charles Francis Potter
Dr Charles Francis Potter was an American Unitarian minister, theologian and author.In 1923 and 1924, he became nationally known through a series of debates with Dr. John Roach Straton, a fundamentalist Christian. The subjects, which Dr...

, and several members of the Western Unitarian Conference. Bragg asked Roy Wood Sellars
Roy Wood Sellars
Roy Wood Sellars was an American philosopher of critical realism and religious humanism, and a proponent of emergent evolution. His son was the philosopher Wilfrid Sellars...

 to draft a document based on this information which resulted in the publication of the Humanist Manifesto
Humanist Manifesto
Humanist Manifesto is the title of three manifestos laying out a Humanist worldview. They are the original Humanist Manifesto , the Humanist Manifesto II , and Humanism and Its Aspirations...

in 1933. Potter's book and the Manifesto became the cornerstones of modern humanism, the latter declaring a new religion by saying, "any religion that can hope to be a synthesizing and dynamic force for today must be shaped for the needs of this age. To establish such a religion is a major necessity of the present." It then presented 15 theses of humanism as foundational principles for this new religion.

In 1941, the American Humanist Association
American Humanist Association
The American Humanist Association is an educational organization in the United States that advances Humanism. "Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that...

 was organized. Noted members of The AHA included Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov was an American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books. Asimov was one of the most prolific writers of all time, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000...

, who was the president from 1985 until his death in 1992, and writer Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. was a 20th century American writer. His works such as Cat's Cradle , Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions blend satire, gallows humor and science fiction. He was known for his humanist beliefs and was honorary president of the American Humanist Association.-Early...

, who followed as honorary president until his death in 2007. Gore Vidal
Gore Vidal
Gore Vidal is an American author, playwright, essayist, screenwriter, and political activist. His third novel, The City and the Pillar , outraged mainstream critics as one of the first major American novels to feature unambiguous homosexuality...

 became honorary president in 2009. Robert Buckman was the head of the association in Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, and is now an honorary president.

After World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, three prominent Humanists became the first directors of major divisions of the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

: Julian Huxley
Julian Huxley
Sir Julian Sorell Huxley FRS was an English evolutionary biologist, humanist and internationalist. He was a proponent of natural selection, and a leading figure in the mid-twentieth century evolutionary synthesis...

 of UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

, Brock Chisholm
Brock Chisholm
George Brock Chisholm, CC, MC & Bar was a Canadian First World War veteran, medical practitioner, and the first Director-General of the World Health Organization...

 of the World Health Organization
World Health Organization
The World Health Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations that acts as a coordinating authority on international public health. Established on 7 April 1948, with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, the agency inherited the mandate and resources of its predecessor, the Health...

, and John Boyd-Orr of the Food and Agricultural Organization.

In 2004, American Humanist Association
American Humanist Association
The American Humanist Association is an educational organization in the United States that advances Humanism. "Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that...

, along with other groups representing agnostics, atheists, and other freethinkers, joined to create the Secular Coalition for America
Secular Coalition for America
The Secular Coalition for America is an advocacy group located in Washington D.C., representing atheists, humanists, freethinkers, agnostics, and other non-theistic people with a naturalistic worldview in American politics. Sean Faircloth, a five-term Maine state legislator, served as Executive...

 which advocates in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

 for separation of church and state
Separation of church and state
The concept of the separation of church and state refers to the distance in the relationship between organized religion and the nation state....

 and nationally for the greater acceptance of nontheistic Americans. The Executive Director of Secular Coalition for America is Sean Faircloth
Sean Faircloth
Sean Faircloth is a Maine attorney and politician. He served five terms in the Maine Legislature. Faircloth served on the Judiciary and Appropriations Committee. In his final term, Faircloth was elected Majority Whip...

, a long-time state legislator from Maine
Maine
Maine is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and south, New Hampshire to the west, and the Canadian provinces of Quebec to the northwest and New Brunswick to the northeast. Maine is both the northernmost and easternmost...

.

Attitudes toward religion and atheism


The original signers of the first Humanist Manifesto
Humanist Manifesto I
A Humanist Manifesto, also known as Humanist Manifesto I to distinguish it from later Humanist Manifestos in the series, was written in 1933 primarily by Raymond Bragg and published with 34 signers. Unlike the later manifestos, this first talks of a new religion and refers to humanism as a...

 of 1933, declared themselves to be religious humanists
Religious humanism
Religious humanism is an integration of humanist ethical philosophy with religious rituals and beliefs that center on human needs, interests, and abilities.-Origins:...

. Because, in their view, traditional religions were failing to meet the needs of their day, the signers of 1933 declared it a necessity to establish a religion that was a dynamic force to meet the needs of the day. However, this "religion" did not profess a belief in any god. Since then two additional Manifestos were written to replace the first.

In the Preface of Humanist Manifesto II, the authors Paul Kurtz and Edwin H. Wilson (1973) assert that faith and knowledge are required for a hopeful vision for the future. Manifesto II references a section on Religion and states traditional religion renders a disservice to humanity. Manifesto II recognizes the following groups to be part of their naturalistic philosophy: “scientific,” “ethical,” “democratic,” “religious,” and “Marxist” humanism.

In the 20th and 21st centuries, members of Humanist organizations have disagreed as to whether Humanism is a religion. They categorize themselves in one of three ways. Religious Humanism
Religious humanism
Religious humanism is an integration of humanist ethical philosophy with religious rituals and beliefs that center on human needs, interests, and abilities.-Origins:...

, in the tradition of the earliest Humanist organizations in the UK and US, attempts to fulfill the traditional social role of religion. Secular Humanism
Secular humanism
Secular Humanism, alternatively known as Humanism , is a secular philosophy that embraces human reason, ethics, justice, and the search for human fulfillment...

 considers all forms of religion, including religious Humanism, to be superseded. In order to sidestep disagreements between these two factions, recent Humanist proclamations define Humanism as a life stance; proponents of this view making up the third faction. Regardless of implementation, the philosophy of all three groups rejects deference to supernatural beliefs and addresses ethics without reference to them, attesting that ethics is a human enterprise. It is generally compatible with atheism
Atheism
Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities...

 
and agnosticism
Agnosticism
Agnosticism is the view that the truth value of certain claims—especially claims about the existence or non-existence of any deity, but also other religious and metaphysical claims—is unknown or unknowable....

,
but being atheist or agnostic does not, itself, make one a Humanist. Nevertheless, humanism is diametrically opposed to state atheism
State atheism
State atheism is the official "promotion of atheism" by a government, sometimes combined with active suppression of religious freedom and practice...

.
According to Paul Kurtz
Paul Kurtz
Paul Kurtz is a prominent American skeptic and secular humanist. He has been called "the father of secular humanism." He is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo, having previously also taught at Vassar, Trinity, and Union colleges, and the New School for...

, considered by many to be the founder of secular humanism, one of the differences between Marxist-Leninist atheists and humanists is the latter's commitment to "human freedom and democracy" while stating that the militant atheism of the Soviet Union consistently violated basic human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

.
Kurtz also stated that the "defense of religious liberty is as precious to the humanist as are the rights of the believers."

Knowledge


Modern Humanists, such as Corliss Lamont
Corliss Lamont
Corliss Lamont , was a socialist philosopher, and advocate of various left-wing and civil liberties causes. As a part of his political activities he was the Chairman of National Council of American-Soviet Friendship starting from early 1940s...

 or Carl Sagan
Carl Sagan
Carl Edward Sagan was an American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, science popularizer and science communicator in astronomy and natural sciences. He published more than 600 scientific papers and articles and was author, co-author or editor of more than 20 books...

, hold that humanity must seek for truth through reason and the best observable evidence and endorse scientific skepticism
Scientific skepticism
Scientific skepticism is the practice of questioning the veracity of claims lacking empirical evidence or reproducibility, as part of a methodological norm pursuing "the extension of certified knowledge". For example, Robert K...

 and the scientific method
Scientific method
Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of...

. However, they stipulate that decisions about right and wrong must be based on the individual and common good. As an ethical process, Humanism does not consider metaphysical issues such as the existence or nonexistence of supernatural beings. Humanism is engaged with what is human.

Optimism


Contemporary Humanism entails a qualified optimism
Optimism
The Oxford English Dictionary defines optimism as having "hopefulness and confidence about the future or successful outcome of something; a tendency to take a favourable or hopeful view." The word is originally derived from the Latin optimum, meaning "best." Being optimistic, in the typical sense...

 about the capacity of people, but it does not involve believing that human nature is purely good or that all people can live up to the Humanist ideals without help. If anything, there is recognition that living up to one's potential is hard work and requires the help of others. The ultimate goal is human flourishing; making life better for all humans, and as the most conscious species, also promoting concern for the welfare of other sentient beings and the planet as a whole. The focus is on doing good and living well in the here and now, and leaving the world a better place for those who come after. In 1925, the English mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead
Alfred North Whitehead
Alfred North Whitehead, OM FRS was an English mathematician who became a philosopher. He wrote on algebra, logic, foundations of mathematics, philosophy of science, physics, metaphysics, and education...

 cautioned: "The prophecy of Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Albans, KC was an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, lawyer, jurist, author and pioneer of the scientific method. He served both as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England...

 has now been fulfilled; and man, who at times dreamt of himself as a little lower than the angels, has submitted to become the servant and the minister of nature. It still remains to be seen whether the same actor can play both parts."

Humanism (life stance)


Humanism (capital 'H', no adjective such as "secular") is a comprehensive life stance
Life stance
A person's life stance, or lifestance, is their relation with what they accept as being of ultimate importance, the presuppositions and theory of this, and the commitments and practice of working it out in living....

 that upholds human reason
Reason
Reason is a term that refers to the capacity human beings have to make sense of things, to establish and verify facts, and to change or justify practices, institutions, and beliefs. It is closely associated with such characteristically human activities as philosophy, science, language, ...

, ethics
Ethics
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

, and justice
Justice
Justice is a concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, or equity, along with the punishment of the breach of said ethics; justice is the act of being just and/or fair.-Concept of justice:...

, and rejects supernaturalism, pseudoscience
Pseudoscience
Pseudoscience is a claim, belief, or practice which is presented as scientific, but which does not adhere to a valid scientific method, lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, cannot be reliably tested, or otherwise lacks scientific status...

, and superstition
Superstition
Superstition is a belief in supernatural causality: that one event leads to the cause of another without any process in the physical world linking the two events....

. Many Humanists derive their morals from a philosophy of Ethical naturalism
Ethical naturalism
Ethical naturalism is the meta-ethical view which claims that:# Ethical sentences express propositions.# Some such propositions are true....

, and some acknowledge a science of morality
Science of morality
Science of morality can refer to a number of ethically naturalistic views. Historically, the term was introduced by Jeremy Bentham . In meta-ethics, ethical naturalism bases morality on rational and empirical consideration of the natural world...

.

The International Humanist and Ethical Union
International Humanist and Ethical Union
The International Humanist and Ethical Union is an umbrella organisation embracing humanist, atheist, rationalist, secular, skeptic, freethought and Ethical Culture organisations worldwide. Founded in Amsterdam in 1952, the IHEU is a democratic union of more than 100 member organizations in 40...

 (IHEU) is the world union of more than 100 Humanist, rationalist, secular, ethical culture, and freethought organizations in more than 40 countries. The Happy Human
Happy Human
The Happy Human is a secular icon and the official symbol of the International Humanist and Ethical Union , a world body for Humanism, and has been adopted by many Humanist organisations and individuals worldwide. Its origin was a competition organised in 1965 by the British Humanist Association...

 is the official symbol of the IHEU as well as being regarded as a universally recognised symbol for those who call themselves Humanists (as opposed to "humanists"). In 2002, the IHEU General Assembly unanimously adopted the Amsterdam Declaration 2002 which represents the official defining statement of World Humanism.

All member organisations of the IHEU are required by IHEU bylaw 5.1 to accept the IHEU Minimum Statement on Humanism:

Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethic based on human and other natural values in the spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic
Theism
Theism, in the broadest sense, is the belief that at least one deity exists.In a more specific sense, theism refers to a doctrine concerning the nature of a monotheistic God and God's relationship to the universe....

, and it does not accept supernatural
Supernatural
The supernatural or is that which is not subject to the laws of nature, or more figuratively, that which is said to exist above and beyond nature...

 views of reality.


Humanism’s success lay in its claim to offer two things in its followers. Firstly, it fostered a belief that the mastery of the classics made you a better, more humane person, able to reflect on the moral and the ethical problems that the individual faced in a relation to his/her social world. Secondly, it convinced its students and employers that the study of classical texts provided the practical skills necessary for a future career as an ambassador, lawyer, priest, or secretary with the layers of bureaucratic administration that began to emerge throughout 15th century Europe.

Polemics


Polemics about humanism have sometimes assumed paradoxical twists and turns. Early 20th century critics such as Ezra Pound
Ezra Pound
Ezra Weston Loomis Pound was an American expatriate poet and critic and a major figure in the early modernist movement in poetry...

, T.E. Hulme, and T.S. Eliot considered humanism to be sentimental "slop" (Hulme) or overly feminine (Pound) and wanted to go back to a more manly, authoritarian society such as (they believed) existed in the Middle Ages. "Post Modern"
Postmodernism
Postmodernism is a philosophical movement evolved in reaction to modernism, the tendency in contemporary culture to accept only objective truth and to be inherently suspicious towards a global cultural narrative or meta-narrative. Postmodernist thought is an intentional departure from the...

 critics who are self-described anti-humanists
Antihumanism
Antihumanism is a term referring to a number of perspectives that are opposed to the project of philosophical anthropology...

, such as Jean-François Lyotard
Jean-François Lyotard
Jean-François Lyotard was a French philosopher and literary theorist. He is well known for his articulation of postmodernism after the late 1970s and the analysis of the impact of postmodernity on the human condition...

 and Michel Foucault
Michel Foucault
Michel Foucault , born Paul-Michel Foucault , was a French philosopher, social theorist and historian of ideas...

, have asserted that humanism posits an overarching and excessively abstract notion of humanity or universal human nature
Human nature
Human nature refers to the distinguishing characteristics, including ways of thinking, feeling and acting, that humans tend to have naturally....

, which can then be used as a pretext for imperialism and domination of those deemed somehow less than human. Philosopher Kate Soper notes that by faulting humanism for falling short of its own benevolent ideals, anti-humanism thus frequently “secretes a humanist rhetoric”. In his book, Humanism (1997), Tony Davies calls these critics "humanist anti-humanists". Critics of antihumanism, most notably Jürgen Habermas
Jürgen Habermas
Jürgen Habermas is a German sociologist and philosopher in the tradition of critical theory and pragmatism. He is perhaps best known for his theory on the concepts of 'communicative rationality' and the 'public sphere'...

, counter that while antihumanists may highlight humanism's failure to fulfill its emancipatory ideal, they do not offer an alternative emancipatory project of their own. Others, like the German philosopher Heidegger considered themselves humanists on the model of the ancient Greeks, but thought humanism applied only to the German "race" and specifically to the Nazis and thus, in Davies' words, were anti-humanist humanists.. Such a reading of Heidegger's thought is itself deeply controversial, Heidegger includes his own views and critique of Humanism in Letter On Humanism. Davies acknowledges that after the horrific experiences of the wars of the 20th century "it should no longer be possible to formulate phrases like 'the destiny of man' or the 'triumph of human reason' without an instant consciousness of the folly and brutality they drag behind them." For "it is almost impossible to think of a crime that has not been committed in the name of human reason." Yet, he continues, "it would be unwise to simply abandon the ground occupied by the historical humanisms. For one thing humanism remains on many occasions the only available alternative to bigotry and persecution. The freedom to speak and write, to organize and campaign in defense of individual or collective interests, to protest and disobey: all these can only be articulated in humanist terms."

Inclusive humanism


Humanism increasingly designates an inclusive sensibility
Sensibility
Sensibility refers to an acute perception of or responsiveness toward something, such as the emotions of another. This concept emerged in eighteenth-century Britain, and was closely associated with studies of sense perception as the means through which knowledge is gathered...

 for our species, planet and lives. While retaining the definition of the IHEU with regard to the life stance
Life stance
A person's life stance, or lifestance, is their relation with what they accept as being of ultimate importance, the presuppositions and theory of this, and the commitments and practice of working it out in living....

 of the individual, inclusive Humanism enlarges its constituency within homo sapiens to consider Man's broadening powers and obligations.

This accepting viewpoint recalls Renaissance Humanism
Renaissance humanism
Renaissance humanism was an activity of cultural and educational reform engaged by scholars, writers, and civic leaders who are today known as Renaissance humanists. It developed during the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth centuries, and was a response to the challenge of Mediæval...

 in that it presumes an advocacy role for Humanists towards species governance, and this proactive stance is charged with a commensurate responsibility surpassing that of individual Humanism. It identifies pollution, militarism, nationalism, sexism, poverty and corruption as being persistent and addressable human character issues incompatible with the interests of our species. It asserts that human governance must be unified and is inclusionary in that it does not exclude any person by reason of their collateral beliefs or personal religion alone. As such it can be said to be a container for undeclared Humanism, instilling a species credo to complement the personal tenets of individuals.

Dwight Gilbert Jones writes that Humanism may be the only philosophy likely to be adopted by our species as a whole – it is thus incumbent on inclusive Humanists to not place unwarranted or self-interested conditions on its prospective adherents, nor associate it with religious acrimony.

See also

  • Natural rights
    Natural rights
    Natural and legal rights are two types of rights theoretically distinct according to philosophers and political scientists. Natural rights are rights not contingent upon the laws, customs, or beliefs of any particular culture or government, and therefore universal and inalienable...

  • Extropianism
    Extropianism
    Extropianism, also referred to as the philosophy of "Extropy", is an evolving framework of values and standards for continuously improving the human condition....

  • Materialism
    Materialism
    In philosophy, the theory of materialism holds that the only thing that exists is matter; that all things are composed of material and all phenomena are the result of material interactions. In other words, matter is the only substance...

  • Objectivity (philosophy)
    Objectivity (philosophy)
    Objectivity is a central philosophical concept which has been variously defined by sources. A proposition is generally considered to be objectively true when its truth conditions are met and are "mind-independent"—that is, not met by the judgment of a conscious entity or subject.- Objectivism...

  • Community organizing
    Community organizing
    Community organizing is a process where people who live in proximity to each other come together into an organization that acts in their shared self-interest. A core goal of community organizing is to generate durable power for an organization representing the community, allowing it to influence...

  • Misanthropy
    Misanthropy
    Misanthropy is generalized dislike, distrust, disgust, contempt or hatred of the human species or human nature. A misanthrope, or misanthropist is someone who holds such views or feelings...

  • Social psychology
    Social psychology
    Social psychology is the scientific study of how people's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others. By this definition, scientific refers to the empirical method of investigation. The terms thoughts, feelings, and behaviors include all...

  • Ten Commandment Alternatives
    Ten Commandment Alternatives
    Ten Commandment Alternatives are alternatives to the biblical Ten Commandments. Several alternative versions have been created, and no consensus exists as to a single authoritative version...

     – Secular and humanist alternatives to the Ten Commandments

External links


From classical humanism to the humanism of Today

  • In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg. Humanism. BBC Radio discussion with Tony Davies, Department of English, University of Birmingham; Lisa Jardine, Professor of Renaissance Studies, Queen Mary College, University of London and Honorary Fellow of Kings College Cambridge; Simon Goldhill, Reader in Greek Literature and Culture at Kings College Cambridge.

Introductions to humanism


Web articles


Web books

  • The Philosophy of Humanism by Corliss Lamont
    Corliss Lamont
    Corliss Lamont , was a socialist philosopher, and advocate of various left-wing and civil liberties causes. As a part of his political activities he was the Chairman of National Council of American-Soviet Friendship starting from early 1940s...

  • A Guide for the Godless: The Secular Path to Meaning by Andrew Kernohan
  • The New Humanism by Edward Howard Griggs
  • Thinking and Moral Problems, Religions and Their Source, Purpose, and Developing a Universal Religion, four Parts of a Wikibook.