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Humanism is a
philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the systematized study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence, reason, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Philosophy of language, language. Such quest ...
stance that emphasizes the individual and social potential and agency of
human beings Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most abundant and widespread species of primate, characterized by bipedality, bipedalism and exceptional cognitive skills due to a large and complex Human brain, brain. This has enabled the development of ad ...
. It considers human beings the starting point for serious moral and philosophical inquiry. The meaning of the term "humanism" has changed according to the successive intellectual movements that have identified with it. During the
Italian Renaissance The Italian Renaissance ( it, Rinascimento ) was a period in History of Italy, Italian history covering the 15th and 16th centuries. The period is known for the initial development of the broader Renaissance culture that spread across Europe an ...
, ancient works inspired scholars in various Italian cities, giving rise to a movement now called
Renaissance humanism Renaissance humanism was a revival in the study of classical antiquity, at first Italian Renaissance, in Italy and then spreading across Western Europe in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries. During the period, the term ''humanist'' ( it, umanista ...
. With Enlightenment, humanistic values were re-enforced by the advances in
science Science is a systematic endeavor that Scientific method, builds and organizes knowledge in the form of Testability, testable explanations and predictions about the universe. Science may be as old as the human species, and some of the earli ...
and
technology Technology is the application of knowledge to reach practical goals in a specifiable and Reproducibility, reproducible way. The word ''technology'' may also mean the product of such an endeavor. The use of technology is widely prevalent in me ...
, giving confidence to humans in their exploration of the world. By the early 20th century, organizations solely dedicated to humanism flourished in Europe and the United States, and have since expanded all over the globe. In the current day, the term generally refers to a focus on human well-being and advocates for human freedom, autonomy, and progress. It views humanity as responsible for the promotion and development of individuals, espouses the equal and inherent dignity of all human beings, and emphasizes a concern for humans in relation to the world. Starting in the 20th century, humanist movements have typically been
non-religious Irreligion or nonreligion is the absence or rejection of religion, or indifference to it. Irreligion takes many forms, ranging from the casual and unaware to full-fledged philosophies such as atheism and agnosticism, secular humanism and anti ...
and aligned with
secularism Secularism is the principle of seeking to conduct human affairs based on Secularity, secular, Naturalism (philosophy), naturalistic considerations. Secularism is most commonly defined as the Separation of church and state, separation of relig ...
. Most frequently, humanism refers to a nontheistic view centered on human agency, and a reliance on science and reason rather than
revelation In religion and theology, revelation is the revealing or disclosing of some form of Religious views on truth, truth or Knowledge#Religious meaning of knowledge, knowledge through communication with a deity or other supernatural entity or entiti ...
from a
supernatural Supernatural refers to phenomena or entities that are beyond the laws of nature. The term is derived from Medieval Latin , from Latin (above, beyond, or outside of) + (nature) Though the corollary term "nature", has had multiple meanings si ...
source to understand the world. Humanists tend to advocate for human rights, free speech, progressive policies, and democracy. Those with a humanist worldview maintain religion is not a precondition of morality, and object to excessive religious entanglement with education and the state. Contemporary humanist organizations work under the umbrella of
Humanists International Humanists International (known as the International Humanist and Ethical Union, or IHEU, from 1952–2019) is an international non-governmental organisation championing secularism and human rights, motivated by secular humanism, secular huma ...
. Well known humanist associations are the
Humanists UK Humanists UK, known from 1967 until May 2017 as the British Humanist Association (BHA), is a charitable organisation which promotes secular humanism and aims to represent "people who seek to live good lives without religious or superstitious be ...
and the
American Humanist Association The American Humanist Association (AHA) is a 501(c) organization, non-profit organization in the United States that advances secular humanism. The American Humanist Association was founded in 1941 and currently provides legal assistance to def ...
.


Etymology and definition

The word "humanism" derives from the
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around present-day Rome, but through ...
concept '' humanitas'', which was first used in ancient Rome by
Cicero Marcus Tullius Cicero ( ; ; 3 January 106 BC – 7 December 43 BC) was a Ancient Rome, Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, philosopher, and Academic skepticism, academic skeptic, who tried to uphold optimate principles during crisis of ...
and other thinkers, to describe values related to
liberal education A liberal education is a system or course of education suitable for the cultivation of a Freedom (philosophy), free (Latin: ''liber'') human being. It is based on the Medieval university, medieval concept of the liberal arts or, more commonly now, ...
. This etymology survives in the modern university concept of the "
humanities Humanities are List of academic disciplines, academic disciplines that study aspects of human society and culture. In the Renaissance, the term contrasted with Divinity (academic discipline), divinity and referred to what is now called classi ...
": the arts, philosophy, history, literature, and related disciplines. The word reappeared during the Italian
Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. is a Periodization, period in History of Europe, European history marking the transition from the Middle Ages to modernity and covering the 15th and 16th centuries, characterized by an e ...
as ''umanista'' and entered the English language in the 16th century. The word "humanist" was used to describe a group of students of
classical literature Classics or classical studies is the study of classical antiquity. In the Western world, classics traditionally refers to the study of Ancient Greek literature, Classical Greek and Roman literature and their related original languages, Ancient ...
and those advocating for a classical education. In the early 19th century, the term ''Humanismus'' was used in Germany with several meanings and from there, it re-entered the English language with two distinct denotations: the first an academic term linked to the study of classic literature, while the other, more popular use signified a non-religious approach to life contrary to
theism Theism is broadly defined as the belief in the existence of a Creator deity, supreme being or deities. In common parlance, or when contrasted with ''deism'', the term often describes the classical conception of God that is found in monotheism (a ...
. It is probable Bavarian theologian Friedrich Immanuel Niethammer coined the term ''humanismus'' to describe the new classical curriculum he planned to offer in German secondary schools. Soon, other scholars such as Georg Voigt and
Jacob Burckhardt Carl Jacob Christoph Burckhardt (25 May 1818 – 8 August 1897) was a Swiss historian of art and culture and an influential figure in the historiography of both fields. He is known as one of the major progenitors of cultural history. Sigfri ...
adopted the term. In the 20th century, the word was further refined, acquiring its contemporary meaning of a naturalistic approach to life, focusing on the well-being and freedom of humans. There is no single widely accepted definition of humanism, and various scholars have given different meanings to the term. For philosopher
Sidney Hook Sidney Hook (December 20, 1902 – July 12, 1989) was an American philosopher of pragmatism known for his contributions to the philosophy of history, the philosophy of education, political theory, and ethics. After embracing communism in his youth ...
, writing in 1974, humanists are opposed to the imposition of one culture in some civilizations, do not belong to a church or established religion, do not support dictatorships, and do not justify violence for social reforms. Hook also said humanists support the elimination of hunger and improvements to health, housing, and education. In the same edited collection, Humanist philosopher H. J. Blackham argued that humanism is a concept focusing on improving the social conditions of humanity by increasing the autonomy and dignity of all humans. In 1999, Jeaneane D. Fowler said the definition of humanism should include a rejection of divinity, and an emphasis on human well-being and freedom. She also noted there is a lack of shared belief system or doctrine but, in general, humanists aim for happiness and self-fulfillment. In 2015, prominent humanist
Andrew Copson Andrew James William Copson, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, FRSA, Chartered Management Institute, FCMI, Chartered Institute of Public Relations, MCIPR (born 19 November 1980) is a Humanist leader and writer. He is the Chief Executive of Hu ...
attempted to define humanism as follows: * Humanism is naturalistic in its understanding of the universe; science and free inquiry will help us comprehend more and more about what is surrounding us. * This scientific approach does not reduce humans to anything lesser than human beings. * Humanists place importance of the pursuit of a self-defined, meaningful, and happy life. * Humanism is moral; morality is a way of humans improving our lives. * Humanists engage in practical action to improve personal and social conditions. According to the International Humanist and Ethical Union: "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, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality". Dictionaries define humanism as a worldview or philosophical stance. According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, humanism is " ... a doctrine, attitude, or way of life centered on human interests or values; especially: a philosophy that usually rejects supernaturalism and stresses an individual's dignity and worth and capacity for self-realization through reason".


History


Predecessors

Traces of humanism can be found in
ancient Greek philosophy Ancient Greek philosophy arose in the 6th century BC, marking the end of the Greek Dark Ages. Greek philosophy continued throughout the Hellenistic period and the period in which Greece and most Greek-inhabited lands were part of the Roman Em ...
. Pre-Socratic philosophers were the first Western philosophers to attempt to explain the world in terms of human reason and natural law without relying on myth, tradition, or religion.
Protagoras Protagoras (; el, Πρωταγόρας; )Guthrie, p. 262–263. was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher A philosopher is a person who practices or investigates philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the systematized study of general and ...
, who lived in Athens , put forward some fundamental humanist ideas, although only fragments of his work survive. He made one of the first agnostic statements; according to one fragment: "About the gods I am able to know neither that they exist nor that they do not exist nor of what kind they are in form: for many things prevent me for knowing this, its obscurity and the brevity of man's life". (80B4 DK)
Socrates Socrates (; ; –399 BC) was a Greeks, Greek philosopher from Classical Athens, Athens who is credited as the founder of Western philosophy and among the first moral philosophers of the Ethics, ethical tradition of thought. An enigmati ...
spoke of the need to "know thyself"; his thought changed the focus of then-contemporary philosophy from nature to humans and their well-being. Socrates, a theist who was executed for atheism, investigated the nature of morality by reasoning.
Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher and polymath during the Classical Greece, Classical period in Ancient Greece. Taught by Plato, he was the founder of the Peripatet ...
(384–322 BCE) taught rationalism and a system of ethics based on human nature that also parallels humanist thought. In the 3rd century BCE,
Epicurus Epicurus (; grc-gre, wikt:Ἐπίκουρος, Ἐπίκουρος ; 341–270 BC) was an Greek philosophy, ancient Greek philosopher and sage (philosophy), sage who founded Epicureanism, a highly influential school of philosophy. He was born ...
developed an influential human-centered philosophy that focused on achieving
eudaimonia Eudaimonia (Ancient Greek, Greek: :Wiktionary:εὐδαιμονία, εὐδαιμονία ; sometimes anglicized as eudaemonia or eudemonia, ) is a Greek word literally translating to the state or condition of 'good spirit', and which is commonl ...
.
Epicurean Epicureanism is a system of philosophy founded around 307 BC based upon the teachings of the Hellenistic philosophy, ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus. Epicureanism was originally a challenge to Platonism. Later its main opponent became Stoici ...
s continued
Democritus Democritus (; el, Δημόκριτος, ''Dēmókritos'', meaning "chosen of the people"; – ) was an Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient ...
' atomist theory—a materialistic theory that suggests the fundamental unit of the universe was an indivisible atom. Human happiness, living well, friendship, and the avoidance of excesses were the key ingredients of Epicurean philosophy that flourished in and beyond the post-Hellenic world. It is a repeated view among scholars that the humanistic features of ancient Greek thought are the roots of humanism two thousand years later. Arabic translations of
Ancient Greek literature Ancient Greek literature is literature Literature is any collection of Writing, written work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to be an art form, especially prose fiction, drama, and poetry. In recent ...
during the
Abbasid Caliphate The Abbasid Caliphate ( or ; ar, الْخِلَافَةُ الْعَبَّاسِيَّة, ') was the third caliphate to succeed the Islamic prophet Muhammad. It was founded by a dynasty descended from Muhammad's uncle, Abbas ibn Abdul-Muttalib ...
in the 8th and 9th centuries influenced philosophers in Islam. Many medieval Muslim thinkers pursued humanistic, rational, and scientific discourse in their search for knowledge, meaning, and
values In ethics and social sciences, value denotes the degree of importance of something or action, with the aim of determining which actions are best to do or what way is best to live (normative ethics in ethics), or to describe the significance of dif ...
. A wide range of Islamic writings on love, poetry, history, and
philosophical theology Philosophical theology is both a branch and form of theology Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the Divinity, divine and, more broadly, of religious belief. It is taught as an Discipline (academia), academic discipline, typica ...
show medieval Islamic thought was open to the humanistic ideas of
individualism Individualism is the Ethics, moral stance, political philosophy, ideology and social outlook that emphasizes the intrinsic worth of the individual. Individualists promote the exercise of one's goals and desires and to value independence and self ...
, occasional
secularism Secularism is the principle of seeking to conduct human affairs based on Secularity, secular, Naturalism (philosophy), naturalistic considerations. Secularism is most commonly defined as the Separation of church and state, separation of relig ...
,
skepticism Skepticism, also spelled scepticism, is a questioning attitude or doubt toward knowledge claims that are seen as mere belief or dogma. For example, if a person is skeptical about claims made by their government about an ongoing war then th ...
,
liberalism Liberalism is a Political philosophy, political and moral philosophy based on the Individual rights, rights of the individual, liberty, consent of the governed, political equality and equality before the law."political rationalism, hostilit ...
, and free speech; schools were established at Baghdad, Basra and Isfahan.


Renaissance

The intellectual movement later known as "renaissance humanism" first appeared in Italy. This movement has greatly influenced western culture up until the modern day. Renaissance humanism emerged in Italy alongside a renewed interest in literature and the arts in the thirteenth century Italy. Italian scholars discovered Ancient Greek thought, particularly that of Aristotle, through Arabic translations from Africa and Spain. Other centers were
Verona Verona ( , ; vec, Verona or ) is a city on the Adige River in Veneto, Northern Italy, Italy, with 258,031 inhabitants. It is one of the seven provincial capitals of the region. It is the largest city Comune, municipality in the region and the ...
,
Naples Naples (; it, Napoli ; nap, Napule ), from grc, Νεάπολις, Neápolis, lit=new city. is the regional capital of Campania and the third-largest city of Italy, after Rome and Milan, with a population of 909,048 within the city's adminis ...
, and
Avignon Avignon (, ; ; oc, Avinhon, label= Provençal or , ; la, Avenio) is the prefecture of the Vaucluse department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region In geography Geography (from Ancient Greek, Greek: , ''geographia''. Com ...
.
Petrarch Francesco Petrarca (; 20 July 1304 – 18/19 July 1374), commonly anglicized as Petrarch (), was a scholar and poet of early Italian Renaissance, Renaissance Italy, and one of the earliest Renaissance humanism, humanists. Petrarch's rediscov ...
, who is often referred to as the father of humanism, is a significant figure. Petrarch was raised in Avignon; he was inclined toward education at a very early age and studied alongside his father, who was also well educated. Petrarch's enthusiasm for ancient texts led him to discover manuscripts that were influential in the development of the Renaissance, such as Cicero's '' Pro Archia'' and
Pomponius Mela Pomponius Mela, who wrote around AD 43, was the earliest Roman geographer. He was born in Iulia Traducta, Tingentera (now Algeciras) and died  AD 45. His short work (''De situ orbis libri III.'') remained in use nearly to the year 1500. It ...
's '' De chorographia''. Petrarch wrote Latin poems such as '' Canzoniere'' and '' De viris illustribus'' in which he described humanist ideas. His most significant contribution was a list of books he created, outlining the four major disciplines (rhetoric, moral philosophy, poetry, and grammar) that would become the base of humanistic studies (''studia humanitatis''). His list relied heavily on ancient writers, especially Cicero. The revival of classicist authors continued after Petrarch's death. Florence chancellor and humanist Coluccio Salutati made his city a prominent center of renaissance humanism. His circle included other notable humanists, most notable,
Leonardo Bruni Leonardo Bruni (or Leonardo Aretino; c. 1370 – March 9, 1444) was an Italians, Italian humanism, humanist, historian and statesman, often recognized as the most important humanist historian of the early Renaissance. He has been called the first ...
, who rediscovered, translated and popularized ancient texts. Humanists heavily influenced education. Vittorino da Feltre and
Guarino Veronese Guarino Veronese or Guarino da Verona (1374 – 14 December 1460) was an Italian classical scholar Classics or classical studies is the study of classical antiquity. In the Western world, classics traditionally refers to the study of Ancie ...
created schools based on humanistic principles. Their curriculum was widely adopted and by the sixteenth century, humanistic ''
paideia ''Paideia'' (also spelled ''paedeia'') (Help:IPA/English, /paɪˈdeɪə/; Greek language, Greek: παιδεία, ''paideía'') referred to the rearing and education of the ideal member of the ancient Greek polis or State (polity), state. These e ...
'' was the dominant outlook of pre-university education. Parallel with advances in education, various humanists in renaissance made progress in different fields, as in philosophy, mathematics and religion. In philosophy, Angelo Poliziano,
Nicholas of Cusa Nicholas of Cusa (1401 – 11 August 1464), also referred to as Nicholas of Kues and Nicolaus Cusanus (), was a German Catholic Cardinal (Catholic Church), cardinal, philosopher, theologian, jurist, mathematician, and astronomer. One of the firs ...
, and
Marsilio Ficino Marsilio Ficino (; Latin name: ; 19 October 1433 – 1 October 1499) was an Italian people, Italian scholar and Catholic priest who was one of the most influential Christian humanism, humanist philosophers of the early Italian Renaissance ...
contributed further to the understanding of ancient classical philosophers and
Giovanni Pico della Mirandola Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (24 February 1463 – 17 November 1494) was an Italian Renaissance nobleman and philosopher A philosopher is a person who practices or investigates philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the systemati ...
undermined the dominance of Aristotelian philosophy by revitalizing Sextus Empiricus skepticism. Even religious studies were affected by the growth of renaissance humanism, when
Pope Nicholas V Pope Nicholas V ( la, Nicholaus V; it, Niccolò V; 13 November 1397 – 24 March 1455), born Tommaso Parentucelli, was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 6 March 1447 until his death in March 1455. Pope Eugene IV, Po ...
initiated the translation of Hebrew and Greek biblical and other texts to contemporary Latin. Humanist values spread from Italy in the fifteenth century. Students and scholars came to Italy to study before returning to their homelands carrying humanistic messages. Printing houses dedicated to ancient text were established in
Venice Venice ( ; it, Venezia ; vec, Venesia or ) is a city in northeastern Italy and the capital of the Veneto Regions of Italy, region. It is built on a group of 118 small islands that are separated by canals and linked by over 400  ...
,
Basel Basel ( , ), also known as Basle ( ),french: Bâle ; it, Basilea ; rm, label=Sutsilvan, Basileia; other rm, Basilea . is a city in northwestern Switzerland on the river High Rhine, Rhine. Basel is Switzerland's List of cities in Switzerland, th ...
and
Paris Paris () is the Capital city, capital and List of communes in France with over 20,000 inhabitants, most populous city of France, with an estimated population of 2,165,423 residents in 2019 in an area of more than 105 km² (41 sq mi), ma ...
. By the end of fifteenth century, the center of humanism had shifted from Italy to northern Europe, with Erasmus of Rotterdam being the leading humanist scholar. The longest-lasting effect of Renaissance humanism was its education curriculum and methods. Humanists insisted on the importance of classical literature in providing intellectual discipline, moral standards, and a civilized taste for the elite—an educational approach that reached the contemporary era.


Enlightenment

During the
Age of Enlightenment The Age of Enlightenment or the Enlightenment; german: Aufklärung, "Enlightenment"; it, L'Illuminismo, "Enlightenment"; pl, Oświecenie, "Enlightenment"; pt, Iluminismo, "Enlightenment"; es, La Ilustración, "Enlightenment" was an intel ...
, humanistic ideas resurfaced, this time further from religion and classical literature. Science, reason, and intellectualism advanced, and the mind replaced God as the means with which to understand the world. Divinity was no longer dictating human morals, and humanistic values (such as tolerance and opposition to slavery) started to take shape. Life-changing technological discoveries allowed ordinary people to face religion with a new morality and greater confidence about humankind and its abilities. New philosophical, social, and political ideas appeared. Some thinkers rejected theism outright and various currents were formed;
atheism Atheism, in the broadest sense, is an absence of belief in the existence of Deity, deities. Less broadly, atheism is a rejection of the belief that any deities exist. In an even narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that ther ...
,
deism Deism ( or ; derived from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as ...
, and hostility to organized religion. Notably during the Enlightenment,
Baruch Spinoza Baruch (de) Spinoza (born Bento de Espinosa; later as an author and a correspondent ''Benedictus de Spinoza'', anglicized to ''Benedict de Spinoza''; 24 November 1632 – 21 February 1677) was a Dutch Republic, Dutch philosopher of Spanish and ...
redefined God as signifying the totality of nature; Spinoza was accused of atheism but remained silent on the matter. Naturalism was also advanced by prominent Encyclopédistes. Baron d'Holbach wrote the polemic '' System of Nature'', claiming religion is built on fear and helped tyrants through the ages.
Diderot Denis Diderot (; ; 5 October 171331 July 1784) was a French philosopher, art critic, and writer, best known for serving as co-founder, chief editor, and contributor to the ''Encyclopédie'' along with Jean le Rond d'Alembert. He was a prominen ...
and Helvetius also combined their materialism with sharp, political critique. Also during the Enlightenment, the abstract conception of humankind started forming—a critical juncture for the construction of humanist philosophy. Previous appeals to "Men" now shifted towards "Man"; this is evident in political documents like ''
The Social Contract ''The Social Contract'', originally published as ''On the Social Contract; or, Principles of Political Right'' (french: Du contrat social; ou, Principes du droit politique), is a 1762 French-language book by the Genevan philosopher Jean-Jacque ...
'' (1762) of
Rousseau Jean-Jacques Rousseau (, ; 28 June 1712 – 2 July 1778) was a Republic of Geneva, Genevan philosopher, writer, and composer. His political philosophy influenced the progress of the Age of Enlightenment throughout Europe, as well as aspects ...
, in which he says "Man is born free, but is everywhere in chains". Likewise,
Thomas Paine Thomas Paine (born Thomas Pain; – In the contemporary record as noted by Conway, Paine's birth date is given as January 29, 1736–37. Common practice was to use a dash or a slash to separate the old-style year from the new-style year. In th ...
's '' Rights of Man'' uses the singular form of the word, revealing a universal conception of Man. In parallel, Baconian empiricism—though not humanism ''per se''—paved the way for
Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes ( ; 5/15 April 1588 – 4/14 December 1679) was an English people, English philosopher, considered to be one of the founders of modern political philosophy. Hobbes is best known for his 1651 book ''Leviathan (Hobbes book), Levi ...
's materialism. Scholar J. Brent Crosson notes that, while it is a wide held belief that the birth of humanism was solely a European affair, the fact was that intellectual thought from other continents such as Africa and Asia contributed significantly as well. He also notes that during enlightenment, the universal Man did not encompass all humans but was shaped by gender and race. He thinks that the shift from man to human is a process that started during enlightenment and is still ongoing.Also, Crosson noted that enlightenment, especially in Britain during scientific revolution, produce not only the notion of universal man and an optimism that reason will prevail over religious superstitions, but also gave birth to pseudoscientific ideas such as ''race'' that shaped European history. He gives the paradigm of Africa; Africa was a contribution to knowledge until renaissance, but was disregarded afterwards.


From Darwin to current era

French philosopher
Auguste Comte Isidore Marie Auguste François Xavier Comte (; 19 January 1798 – 5 September 1857) was a French philosopher and writer who formulated the doctrine of positivism. He is often regarded as the first philosopher of science in the modern sense ...
(1798–1857) introduced the idea—sometimes attributed to
Thomas Paine Thomas Paine (born Thomas Pain; – In the contemporary record as noted by Conway, Paine's birth date is given as January 29, 1736–37. Common practice was to use a dash or a slash to separate the old-style year from the new-style year. In th ...
—of a " religion of humanity". This was intended to be an atheist cult based on some humanistic tenets, and had some prominent members but soon declined. It was nonetheless influential during the 19th century, and its humanism and rejection of supernaturalism are echoed in the works of later authors such as
Oscar Wilde Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (16 October 185430 November 1900) was an Irish poet and playwright. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of the most popular playwrights in London in the early 1890s. He is ...
, George Holyoake—who coined the word ''secularism''—
George Eliot Mary Ann Evans (22 November 1819 – 22 December 1880; alternatively Mary Anne or Marian), known by her pen name George Eliot, was an English novelist, poet, journalist, translator, and one of the leading writers of the Victorian era. She ...
, Émile Zola, and E. S. Beesly. Paine's '' The Age of Reason'', along with the 19th-century
Biblical criticism Biblical criticism is the use of critical analysis to understand and explain the Bible. During the eighteenth century, when it began as ''historical-biblical criticism,'' it was based on two distinguishing characteristics: (1) the concern to ...
of the German
Hegelian Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (; ; 27 August 1770 – 14 November 1831) was a German philosopher. He is one of the most important figures in German idealism and one of the founding figures of 19th century philosophy, modern Western philosophy. ...
s
David Strauss David Friedrich Strauss (german: link=no, Strauß ; 27 January 1808 – 8 February 1874) was a German liberal Protestant theologian and writer, who influenced Christendom, Christian Europe with his portrayal of the "historical Jesus", whose div ...
and
Ludwig Feuerbach Ludwig Andreas von Feuerbach (; 28 July 1804 – 13 September 1872) was a German anthropologist An anthropologist is a person engaged in the practice of anthropology. Anthropology is the study of aspects of humans within past and present Soci ...
, also contributed to new forms of humanism. Advances in science and philosophy provided scholars with further alternatives to religious belief.
Charles Darwin Charles Robert Darwin ( ; 12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882) was an English naturalist, geologist, and biologist, widely known for his contributions to evolutionary biology. His proposition that all species of life have descended ...
's theory of
natural selection Natural selection is the differential survival and reproduction of individuals due to differences in phenotype. It is a key mechanism of evolution, the change in the Heredity, heritable Phenotypic trait, traits characteristic of a populati ...
offered naturalists an explanation for the plurality of species. Darwin's theory also suggested that humans are just another naturalistic species, contradicting the traditional theological view of humans as more than animals. Philosophers
Ludwig Feuerbach Ludwig Andreas von Feuerbach (; 28 July 1804 – 13 September 1872) was a German anthropologist An anthropologist is a person engaged in the practice of anthropology. Anthropology is the study of aspects of humans within past and present Soci ...
,
Friedrich Nietzsche Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (; or ; 15 October 1844 – 25 August 1900) was a German philosopher, Prose poetry, prose poet, cultural critic, Philology, philologist, and composer whose work has exerted a profound influence on contemporary philo ...
, and
Karl Marx Karl Heinrich Marx (; 5 May 1818 – 14 March 1883) was a German philosopher, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist, journalist, Critique of political economy, critic of political economy, and socialist revolutionary. His be ...
attacked religion on several grounds, and theologians
David Strauss David Friedrich Strauss (german: link=no, Strauß ; 27 January 1808 – 8 February 1874) was a German liberal Protestant theologian and writer, who influenced Christendom, Christian Europe with his portrayal of the "historical Jesus", whose div ...
and
Julius Wellhausen Julius Wellhausen (17 May 1844 – 7 January 1918) was a German biblical scholar and oriental studies, orientalist. In the course of his career, he moved from Old Testament research through Islamic studies to New Testament scholarship. Wellhausen ...
questioned the Bible. In parallel,
utilitarianism In ethical philosophy, utilitarianism is a family of Normative ethics, normative ethical theories that prescribe actions that maximize happiness and well-being for all affected individuals. Although different varieties of utilitarianism admit ...
was developed in Britain through the works of
Jeremy Bentham Jeremy Bentham (; 15 February 1748 ld Style and New Style dates, O.S. 4 February 1747– 6 June 1832) was an English philosopher, jurist, and social reformer regarded as the founder of modern utilitarianism. Bentham defined as the "fundam ...
and
John Stuart Mill John Stuart Mill (20 May 1806 – 7 May 1873) was an English philosopher, Political economy, political economist, Member of Parliament (United Kingdom), Member of Parliament (MP) and civil servant. One of the most influential thinkers in the ...
. Utilitarianism, a moral philosophy, centers its attention on human happiness, aiming to eliminate human and animal pain via purely natural means. In Europe and the US, as philosophical critiques of theistic beliefs grew, larger parts of society distanced themselves from religion. Ethical societies were formed, leading to the contemporary humanist movement. The rise of rationalism and the scientific method was followed in the late 19th century in Britain by the birth of many rationalist and ethical associations, such as the National Secular Society, the Ethical Union, and the Rationalist Press Association. In the 20th century, humanism was further promoted by the work of philosophers such as A. J. Ayer, Antony Flew, and Bertrand Russell, whose advocacy of atheism in ''Why I Am Not a Christian'' further popularized humanist ideas. In 1963, the British Humanist Association evolved out of the Ethical Union and merged with many smaller ethical and rationalist groups. Elsewhere in Europe, humanist organizations also flourished. In the Netherlands, the Humanistisch Verbond, Dutch Humanist Alliance gained a wide base of support after World War II. In Norway, the Norwegian Humanist Association also gained popular support. In the US, humanism evolved with the aid of significant figures of the Unitarian Church. Humanist magazines began to appear, including The New Humanist which published the Humanist Manifesto I in 1933. The American Ethical Union emerged from newly founded, small, ethicist societies. The
American Humanist Association The American Humanist Association (AHA) is a 501(c) organization, non-profit organization in the United States that advances secular humanism. The American Humanist Association was founded in 1941 and currently provides legal assistance to def ...
(AHA) was established in 1941 and became as popular as some of its European counterparts. The AHA spread to all states, and some prominent public figures such as Isaac Asimov, John Dewey, Erich Fromm, Paul Kurtz, Carl Sagan, and Gene Roddenberry became members. Humanist organizations from all continents have created the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), which is now known as
Humanists International Humanists International (known as the International Humanist and Ethical Union, or IHEU, from 1952–2019) is an international non-governmental organisation championing secularism and human rights, motivated by secular humanism, secular huma ...
and promotes the humanist agenda via the United Nations organizations UNESCO and UNICEF.


Varieties of humanism

Early 20th century naturalists, who viewed their humanism as a religion and participated in church-like congregations, used the term "religious humanism". Religious humanism appeared mostly in the US and is now rarely practiced. The
American Humanist Association The American Humanist Association (AHA) is a 501(c) organization, non-profit organization in the United States that advances secular humanism. The American Humanist Association was founded in 1941 and currently provides legal assistance to def ...
arose from religious humanism. The same term has also been used by religious groups, such as the Quakers, to describe their Christian humanism, humanistic theology. The term "Renaissance humanism" was later given to a tradition of cultural and educational reform engaged in by civic and ecclesiastical chancellors, book collectors, educators, and writers. By the late 15th century, this collection of academics began to be referred to as ''umanisti'' ("humanists"). It developed during the 14th and early 15th centuries. While modern humanism's roots can be traced to the Renaissance, Renaissance humanism differs from it vastly. Other terms using "humanism" in their name include: *"Christian humanism": a historical current in the late Middle Ages, where Christian scholars combined Christian faith with interest in classical antiquity and a focus on human well-being. *"Ethical humanism": a synonym of Ethical culture, was prominent in the US in early the 20th century, focused on relations between humans. *"Scientific humanism": emphasises belief in the scientific method as a component of humanism, as in the works of John Dewey and Julian Huxley. Largely synonymous with secular humanism. *"Secular humanism" was coined in the mid-20th century. It was initially an attempt to denigrate humanism but was embraced by some humanist associations. It is synonymous with the contemporary humanist movement. *"Marxist humanism": one of several rival schools of Marxism, Marxist thought, which accepts basic humanistic tenets (secularism, naturalism) but differs to other humanism because of its vague stance on democracy and rejection of free will.


Philosophy

Immanuel Kant provided the underpinning of the humanist narrative. His theory of critical philosophy laid down the foundations the world of knowledge, defending rationalism and grounding it to the empirical world. He also supported the idea, fundamental to his philosophy, of the moral autonomy of the individual. Kant argued that morality is the product of the way humans live and not a preset of fixed values. Instead of a universalistic ethic code, Kant suggested a universalistic procedure that shapes the various ethics that differ among various group of people. Humanism is strongly linked to rationality. For humanists, humans are reasonable beings but reasoning and the scientific method are the means of finding truth. Humanists argue that science and rationality have driven successful developments in various field, while the invocation of supernatural phenomena fails to coherently explain the world. One form of irrational thinking is adducing; thus, humanists are skeptical of explanations of natural phenomena or diseases that rely on hidden agencies. Another hallmark of humanist philosophy is human autonomy. For people to be autonomous, their beliefs and actions must be the result of their own reasoning. For humanists, autonomy dignifies each individual: without autonomy, people are reduced to being less than humans. Humanists also consider human essence to be universal, irrespective of race or social status, diminishing the importance of collective identities and signifying the importance of individuals. Philosopher and humanist advocate Corliss Lamont, in his book ''The Philosophy of Humanism'' (1997) states that "In the Humanist ethics the chief end of thought and action is to further this-earthly human interests on behalf of the greater glory of people. The watchword of Humanism is happiness for all humanity in this existence as contrasted with salvation for the individual soul in a future existence and the glorification of a supernatural Supreme Being...It heartily welcomes all life-enhancing and healthy pleasures, from the vigorous enjoyments of youth to the contemplative delights of mellowed age, from the simple gratifications of food and drink, sunshine and sports, to the more complex appreciation of art and literature, friendship and social communion...".


Criticism of humanism

Criticism of humanism focuses on its adherence to human rights, which some critics have further claimed are "Western". Critics claim humanist values have become a tool of Western moral dominance, which is a form of neo-colonialism leading to oppression and a lack of ethical diversity. Other critics argue humanism is an oppressive philosophy because it is not free from the biases of the white, heterosexual males who shaped it. History professor Samuel Moyn attacks humanism for its advocacy of human rights. According to Moyn, in the 1960s, human rights were a declaration of anti-colonial struggle but during the 1970s, they were transformed into a utopian vision, replacing the failing utopias of the 20th century. The humanist underpinning of human rights transforms them into a moral tool that is impractical and ultimately non-political. He also finds a commonality between humanism and the Catholic discourse on human dignity. Anthropology professor Talal Asad sees humanism as a project of modernity and a secularized continuation of Western Christian theology. In Asad's view, just as the Catholic Church passed the Christian doctrine of love to Africa and Asia while assisting in the enslavement of large parts of their population, humanist values have at times been a pretext for Western countries to expand their influence to other parts of the world to humanize "barbarians". Asad has also argued that humanism is not a purely secular phenomenon but takes the idea of the essence of humanity from Christianity. Asad argues that Western humanisms cannot incorporate other humanistic traditions, such as those from India and China, without subsuming and ultimately eliminating them. Sociology professor Didier Fassin sees humanism's focus on empathy and compassion rather than goodness and justice as a problem. According to Fassin, humanism originated in the Christian tradition, particularly the Parable of the Good Samaritan, in which empathy is universalized. Fassin also claims humanism's central essence, the sanctity of human life, is a religious victory hidden in a secular wrapper. Another line of argumentation regarding humanism states that the philosophy is against traditional values, and destroys family and family values. A similar line, with a more religious tone, argues that the materialism of humanism diminishes humananity, as humans no longer have a soul, a ''higher nature'', or are a reflection of God.


Antihumanism

Antihumanism is a philosophical theory that rejects humanism on the ground it is a pre-scientific ideology. This argument developed during the 19th and 20th centuries in parallel with the advancement of humanism. Prominent thinkers questioned the metaphysics of humanism and the human nature of its concept of freedom. Nietzsche, while departing from a humanistic, pro-Enlightenment viewpoint, criticized humanism for illusions on a number of topics, especially the nature of truth. For Nietzsche, objective truth is an anthropomorphic illusion and humanism is meaningless. Nietzsche also argued that replacing theism with reason and science simply replaced one religion with another. According to
Karl Marx Karl Heinrich Marx (; 5 May 1818 – 14 March 1883) was a German philosopher, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist, journalist, Critique of political economy, critic of political economy, and socialist revolutionary. His be ...
, humanism is a bourgeois project that attempts to present itself as radical when it is not. After the atrocities of World War II, questions about human nature and the concept of humanity were renewed. During the Cold War, influential Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser introduced the term "theoretical antihumanism" to attack both humanism and socialist currents that leaned towards humanism, eschewing more structural and formal interpretations of Marx. According to Althusser, Marx's early writings resonate with the humanistic idealism of Hegel, Kant, and Feuerbach but Marx took a radical turn towards scientific socialism in 1845, rejecting concepts such as the essence of man. Other antihumanists such as Martin Heidegger and Michel Foucault attacked the notion of humanity using psychoanalysis, Marxism, and linguistic theory.


Themes


Humanism and morality

The humanist attitude towards morality has changed through the centuries. During the modern era, starting in the 18th century, humanists were oriented towards an objective and universalist stance on ethics. Both Utilitarianism, Utilitarian philosophy (which aims to increase human happiness and decrease suffering) and Kantian ethics (which states that one should act in accordance with maxims that one could will to become a universal law) shaped the humanist moral narrative until the early 20th century. Because the concepts of free will and reason are not based on scientific naturalism, their influence on humanists remained in the early 20th century but was reduced by social progressiveness and egalitarianism. As part of the social changes nations faced in the late 20th century, humanist ethics evolved to support secularism, civil rights, personal autonomy, religious toleration, multiculturalism, and cosmopolitanism. A naturalistic criticism to humanistic morality is the denial of the existence of morality. For naturalistic skeptics, morality was never wired within humans, during the evolutionary process that created humans, who are primarily selfish and self centered. Defending humanist morality, humanist philosopher John R. Shook makes three observations that lead him to the acceptance of morality. First he notices that homo sapiens have a conception of morality and this concept must have been with the species since the beginning of human history, developing by recognizing and thinking upon behaviors. He also adds that morality is a universal finding among human cultures and all cultures strive to improve their moral level. Spook concludes that while morality was initially generated by our genes, culture also shaped and is shaping human morals. He calls "moral naturalism" the view that morality is a natural phenomenon, can be scientifically studied, and that morality is a tool, rather than a set of doctrines, used to develop human culture. Humanist philosopher Brian David Ellis, Brian Ellis argues for a social humanist theory of morality called "social contractual utilitarianism", which is built on Hume's naturalism and empathy, Aristotelian virtue theory, and Kant's idealism. According to Ellis, morality should aim for
eudaimonia Eudaimonia (Ancient Greek, Greek: :Wiktionary:εὐδαιμονία, εὐδαιμονία ; sometimes anglicized as eudaemonia or eudemonia, ) is a Greek word literally translating to the state or condition of 'good spirit', and which is commonl ...
, an Aristotelian concept that combines a satisfying life with virtue and happiness by improving societies on a global scale. Humanist
Andrew Copson Andrew James William Copson, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, FRSA, Chartered Management Institute, FCMI, Chartered Institute of Public Relations, MCIPR (born 19 November 1980) is a Humanist leader and writer. He is the Chief Executive of Hu ...
takes a consequentialist and utilitarian approach to morality. According to Copson, humanist ethical traits all aim at human welfare. Philosopher Stephen Law emphasizes certain principles of humanist ethics; respect for personal moral autonomy, rejection of god-given moral commands, an aim for human well-being, and "emphasiz[ing] the role of reason in making moral judgements". Humanism's godless approach to morality has driven religious criticism. A common argument states that for morals to exist there must be a divine being delivering sets of doctrines, and is illustrated by Dostoevsky in ''The Brothers Karamazov'': "if God does not exist, then everything is permitted". This argument suggests that chaos will ensue if religious belief disappears. For humanists, theism is an obstacle to morality rather than a precondition for it. According to humanists, if people act only out of fear, adherence to dogma, or expectation of a reward, this is a selfish motivation rather than morality. Humanists point to the subjectivity of the supposed objective divine commands by referring to the Euthyphro dilemma; "does God command something because it is good or is something good because God commands it?" If goodness is independent from God, humans can reach goodness without religion but relativism is invited if God creates goodness. Another line of arguing against this religious criticism, is that ultimately, even through religious means, morality is human-made. The interpretation of holy scriptures almost always includes human reasoning; interpreters reach contradictory theories, indicating morality is influenced by human reasoning.


Humanism and religion

Humanism has been widely seen as antithetical to religion. Philosopher of religion David Kline, traces the roots of this animosity since renaissance, when humanistic views deconstructed of the previous religiously defined order. Kline describes various ways this antithesis has evolved. Firstly, Kline notes, that the emergence of a confident human-made knowledge, which was a new way of epistemology, repelled the church from its previous authoritative place. Kline uses the paradigm of non-humanist Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo, to illustrate how scientific discoveries added to the deconstruction of the religious narrative in favor of human generated knowledge. That ultimately delinked the fate of human from the divine will prompting social and political shifts The relation of state and citizens changed as civic humanistic principles emerged, where people were not meant to be servile to Divine right of kings, religiously grounded monarchies anymore, but could pursue their own destiny. Kline also points at the aspect of personal beliefs, that added to the hostility among humanism and religion. Humanism was associated with prominent thinkers that advocated on a rational basis against the existence of God. Critique of theism continued through the various (humanistic) revolutions in Europe, constantly challenging religious worldview, attitudes and superstitions on a rational basis- a tendency that continued to the 20th century. According to Stephen Law, Humanism adherence to secularism place him at odds with religion, especially dominant religion in each country striving to retain privileges gained the last centuries. Worth noting that religious persons can be, and indeed many are, secularists. Law notices a line of criticism against secularism, that it suppress freedom of expression of religious persons but firmly denies such accusation- instead he says, he protects this kind of freedom- it just opposes privilege status of religious views. Prominent humanist Andrew Copson adopts a more peaceful stance against religion. For Copson, humanism is not incompatible with various aspects of religion. Copson sees various domains in religion: Belief, practice, identity and cultural, in which a person adhering to few religious domains could also be humanist. Copson adds that religious critics usually frame humanism as an enemy of religion, but in contrary, most humanists are proponents of religious tolerance or exhibit a curiosity on religions effects in society politics, commenting "Only a few are regularly outraged by other people’s false beliefs per se."


Humanism and the meaning of life

In the 19th century, the problem of the meaning of life arose, along with the decline of religion and its accompanied teleology, puzzling both society and philosophers. Unlike religions, humanism does not have a definite view on the meaning of life. Humanists commonly say people create rather than discover meaning. While many philosophers such as Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche wrote on the meaning of life in a godless world, the work of Albert Camus has echoed and shaped humanism. In ''The Myth of Sisyphus'', the absurd hero Sisyphus is destined to push a heavy rock up to a hill; the rock slips back and he must repeat the task. Personal humanist interpretations of the meaning of life vary from the pursuit of happiness without recklessness and excesses to participation in human history and connection with loved ones, living animals, and plants. Some answers are not far from those of religious discourse if the appeal to divinity is overlooked. According to humanist professor Peter Derks, the features that contribute to the meaning of life are: having a purpose in life that is morally worthy, positively evaluating oneself, having an understanding of one's environment, being seen and understood by others, the ability to connect emotionally with others, and a desire to have a meaning in life. Humanist professor Anthony B. Pinn places the meaning of life in the quest of what he calls "complex subjectivity". Pinn, who is advocating for a non-theistic, humanistic religion inspired by African cultures, says seeking the never-reaching meaning of life contributes to well-being. Pinn argues rituals and ceremonies, which are times for reflection, provide an opportunity to assess the meaning of life, improving well-being. Well-being and the living of a good life have been at the center of humanist reflection. For humanists, well-being is intertwined with values that arise from the meaning of life that each human sets for him or herself. Humanist philosopher Bertrand Russell described the good life as one "inspired by love, guided by knowledge". A.C. Grayling noted a good life "is the life that feels meaningful and fulfilling to the one living it". Despite the platitudes, humanism does not have a doctrine of good life nor offers any certainties; each person should decide for herself what constitutes a good life. For humanists, it is vital the option for a meaningful and fulfilling life is open to all members of society.


Humanism in politics

The hallmark of contemporary humanism in the political arena, is the demand for secularism. Philosopher Alan Haworth, says that secularism deliver fair treatment to all citizens of a State, since all are treated without discrimination, since religion is a private issue and the state should have no say over it. He also adds secularism helps plurality and diversity, that are fundamental aspects of our modern world. Haworth, also examines political objections to humanist call for secularism. He examines the conservative argument of Edmund Burke that calls for common sense instead of abstract reasoning, and preserving traditional and Christian values and puts importance on national continuity. Haworth sees that Christian Values have not stopped Europeans committing atrocities in Europe and elsewhere. While this kind of barbarism can be found in most civilizations, Haworth notes that religions usually fuels rhetoric and enable these actions. More, he adds, the values of hard work, honesty, charity and likewise, are also to be found in other civilizations. Humanism, Haworth adds, also opposes the irrationality of nationalism and totalitarianism, whether these be part of fascism or Marxism–Leninism, Marxist–Leninist communism. According to professor Joseph O. Baker, in political theory, contemporary humanism is sculptured by two main axons. The first is more individualism, individualistic, and the second inclines to Collectivism and individualism, collectivism. The trajectory of these two axons leads to libertarianism and socialism respectively, but a whole range of various combinations exist. Individualistic humanists often have a philosophical perspective of humanism, in the political arena are inclined to libertarianism and in ethics tend to follow a scientistic approach. Those who lean to collectivism, have a more applied view of humanism, they lean towards socialism and have a humanitarian approach in ethics. The second group has some connections with the thought of young Marx, especially his anthropological views rejecting his political practices. A factor that holds many humanists away from the libertarian view, is the consequences they feel it bears. Libertarianism is tied to neoliberalism and capitalistic society that is conceived to be inhumane. Historically, humanism has been a part of both major 20th-century ideological currents—liberalism and Marxism. Early 19th-century socialism was connected to humanism. In the twentieth century, a humanistic interpretation of Marxism focused on Marx's early writings, viewing Marxism not as a "scientific socialism" but as a philosophical critique aimed at the overcoming of "Marx's theory of alienation, alienation". In the US, liberalism is associated mostly with humanistic principles, which is distinct from the European use of the same word, which has economical connotations. In the Post-War era, Jean-Paul Sartre and other French existentialists advocated for humanism, tying it to socialism while trying to stay neutral during the Cold War.


Humanist psychology and counselling

Humanist counseling is the applied psychology inspired by humanism, which is one of the major currents of counseling. There are various approaches such as discussion and critical thinking, replying to existential anxiety, and focusing on social and political dimensions of problems. Humanist counseling focuses on respecting the worldview of clients and placing it in the correct cultural context. The approach emphasizes an individual's inherent drive towards self-actualization and creativity. It also recognizes the importance of moral questions about the way one should interact with people according to one's worldview. This is examined using a process of dialogue. Generally, humanist counseling aspires to help people to live a good, fulfilling, and meaningful life by continual interpretation and reflection. Humanist counseling originated in the post-World War II Netherlands. Humanistic counseling, a different term from humanist counseling, is based on the works of psychologists Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow. It introduced a positive, humanistic psychology in response to what they viewed as the over-pessimistic view of psychoanalysis in the early 1960s. Other sources include the philosophies of existentialism and Phenomenology (philosophy), phenomenology. Some modern counselling organisations have humanist origins, like the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy in the UK, which was founded by Harold Blackham, which he developed alongside the Humanists UK, British Humanist Association's Humanist Counselling Service. Modern-day humanist pastoral care in the UK and the Netherlands also draws on elements of humanistic psychology.


Geographies of humanism


Africa

In Africa, contemporary humanism has been shaped by the continent's colonial history and the introduction of Christianity and Islam. African philosophers focused on the interdependency among humans and between humans and nature. Pre-colonial oral traditions reflecting African views on humanity and human good were eliminated by the entrance of European powers. Christianity and Islam advanced and many intra-African atrocities took place. Even so, Africans never abandoned the ideas of human value and the mutual interdependence of humans, which are core features of African humanism. This idea was advanced by philosophers such as Kwasi Wiredu and Jean-Godefroy Bidima. Wiredu emphased the need of human interaction for human to become what he is, and projected his thought to the need for democracy. Bidima added that the interaction should be enduringly since history and humans are constantly evolving. Socialist philosopher Léopold Sédar Senghor, Africans were naturally leaning towards humanism (and socialism), not because of its scientific or epistemological basis, but because of their intuition.


Middle East

It is a widely held view among scholars that due to the dominance of Islam, humanistic values found a hostile environment in the Middle East and were unable to flourish. Even so, scholar Khurram Hussain identifies some traits of the early Islamic world which he thinks resonates with humanism. He notes that Islam unified a diverse population and provided political, epistemological and social solutions to the then-fragmented Arab world. Also, Hussain argues that there is a form of humanism within the Islamic anthropology. To support his argument, he notes various examples (e.g., the lack of "original sin") indicating that in Islamic theology, the human is a free moral agent. He also points to Islamic scholars such as Ibn Arabi, Ibn al-‛Arabī and Abd al-Karim al-Jili, al-Jīlī who placed humans at the centre of the universe, a place held for God in Christian traditions. Khurram Hussain also notes the Arab Spring, Arab Spring of 2011 revived certain humanistic values (including democracy, freedom, and fairness) in Middle East and argues they are not incompatible with Islam.


East Asia

In East Asia, Confucianism's core ideas are humanistic. The philosophy of Confucius (551–479 BCE), which eventually became the basis of the state ideology of successive Chinese dynasties and East Asian cultural sphere, nearby polities in East Asia, contains several humanistic traits, placing a high value on human life, and discounting mysticism and superstition, including speculations on ghosts and an afterlife. Confucianism is considered a religious form of humanism because supernatural phenomena such as Heaven (tian)—which supposedly guides the world—have a place in it. In the ''Analects, Analects of Confucius'', humanist features are apparent; sinologist Theodore de Bary spots respectfulness, reasonableness, kindness, and enthusiasm for learning. A fundamental teaching of Confucius was that a person can become a ''junzi'' (someone who is noble, just, or kind) through education. Without religious appeals, Confucius advised people to act according to an axiom that is the negative mirror of the Western golden rule: "Is there one word that one can act upon throughout the course of one's life?" According to Confucius; "Reciprocity [shu]—what you would not want for yourself, do not do to others". (Analects 15:23) After Confucius' death, his disciple Mencius (371–289 BCE) centered his philosophies on secular, humanistic concerns like the nature of good governance and the role of education rather than ideas founded on the state or folk religions of the time. Societies in China, Japan and Korea were shaped by the prevalence of humanistic Confucianism. Early Taoism also holds some humanistic tenets. Taoism developed initially as a naturalistic philosophy, aiming to the harmony of self, society and the universe. Naturalness is the goal that is achieved by ''wu wei'' (non‐action), and philosopher Michael LaFargue contends that the philosophy's fundamental book, the ''Tao Te Ching'', is based on humanistic thought. Buddhism also has been seen to bear elements of humanistic thought. This is because Buddhism aims to the salvage human from the sorrows of life, after abandoning egoistic tendencies and coming in peace with society and universe.


North America

The United States Constitution was shaped by humanistic ideas flowing from the Enlightenment, but did not go far enough to tackle gender and race inequality issues. Professor Carol Wayne White notes that Black communities experiencing injustice leaned towards atheism in the 20th Century. Lately, many Black organizations rejecting theism or embracing a humanistic agenda are loosely connected within the Black Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter movement. Black literature reveals the quest for freedom and justice in a community often subordinated to white dominance.


Latin America

Humanism in Latin America is hard to detect mainly because of the dominance of Catholicism and Protestantism. European positivism had influenced the thought of scholars and political leaders in Latin America during the 19th century but its influences waved at the next century. In recent years, humanist organizations have multiplied in Latin America.


Europe

In Europe, various currents of 19th century though as freethinkers, ethicists, atheists and rationalists have merged to form the contemporary humanist movement. Various national organizations founded the European Humanist Federation (EHF) in 1991, affirming their strong support of secularism. All humanistic organizations strongly promote a naturalistic world view, scientific approach, individualism and solidarity but they vary in terms of their practice. One line is that they should focus to meet the needs of nonreligious peoples or their members, the other one is pursuing activism in order to bring social change. These two main patterns in European humanism, that coexist within humanist organizations often collude with each other.


Demographics of humanism

Humanists demographic data are sparse. Scholar Yasmin Trejo examined the results of a Pew Research Center's Religious Landscape Study, that was released in 2014. Trejo did not use self-identification as a method to measure humanists, but combined the answers of 2 particular questions: "Do you believe in God or a universal spirit?" (she picked those answering "no") and "when it comes to questions of right or wrong, which of the following do you look to most for guidance?" (picking answers "scientific information" and "philosophy and reason"). Trejo finds that most humanists identify as atheist or agnostics (37% and 18%), 29% as "nothing in particular", while 16% of humanists identify as religious (following religious traditions). She also found that most humanists (80%) were raised having a religious background. Six out of 10 humanists are married to non-religious spouses, while one in four humanists are married to a Christian. There is a gender divide among humanists, with most being males (67%). Trejo suggests that this can be explained by the fact that more atheists are males, while women have stronger connections to religion because of socialization, community influence, and stereotypes. Other findings note the high education level of most humanists that indicates a higher socioeconomic status. Finally, the overwhelming population of humanists is non-Hispanic white; Trejo's explanations is that minority groups are usually very religious.


Humanist organizations

Humanist organizations exist in several countries.
Humanists International Humanists International (known as the International Humanist and Ethical Union, or IHEU, from 1952–2019) is an international non-governmental organisation championing secularism and human rights, motivated by secular humanism, secular huma ...
is a global organization. Humanists UK (formerly the British Humanist Association) and the American Humanist Association are two of the oldest humanist organizations. London-based Humanists UK has around 28,000 members and a budget of over £1 million (2015 figures) to cover operational costs. Its membership includes some high-profile people such as Richard Dawkins, Brian Cox (physicist), Brian Cox, Salman Rushdie, Polly Toynbee, and Stephen Fry, who are mostly known for their participation in public debate, promoting reason, science and secularism, and objecting to state funding for faith-based events or institutes. Humanists UK organizes and conducts non-religious ceremonies for weddings, namings, coming of age, and funerals. According to Stephen Law, ceremonies and rituals exist in our culture because they help humans express emotions rather than having a magical effect on the participants. The American Humanist Association was formed in 1941 from previous humanist associations. Its journal ''The Humanist'' is the continuation of a previous publication ''The Humanist Bulletin''. In 1953, the AHA established the "Humanist of the Year" award to honor individuals who promote science. A few decades later, it became a well-recognized organization, initiating progressive campaigns for abortion rights and opposing discriminatory policies, resulted in it becoming a target of the religious right by the 1980s. High-profile members of academia and public figures have published work in ''The Humanist'', and joined and lead the AHA.


See also


Notes


References


Sources

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Further reading

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External links


''American Humanist Association''

''International Humanist and Ethical Union''

''Humanists UK''
{{Authority control Humanism, Freethought Philosophical movements Philosophy of life Philosophy of religion