What is “‘Humanism?”



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    The definition varies depending on the particular domain in which the term is invoked.  At the most general level, “humanism” simply refers to any system of thought or ideology that takes humanity and human needs of primary importance, yet the term has number of more specific definitions as well.  In academia, “humanism” refers to the “humanities” or the study of arts, mustic, literature, and history. In historical studies, “humanism” refers to the scholastic movement in the 15th century in which scholars “rediscovered” classical Latin texts and which was one of the main aspects of the renaissance.  In contemporary philosophy, secular humanism refers to the ideology of trying to improve the world and mankind’s intellectual and moral state without appeal to religion.

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    To answer that question in full, you might want to reference the English philosopher John Locke (1632-1704), who could be called the father of Humanism. His writings greatly contributed to the idea of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. His most famous writings were “Essay Concerning Human Understanding” and “Two Treatises on Civil Government” (1690); they are responsible for his being thought the leading pioneer of freedom for all. His general ideas are summed up on the following site, but to read his words is to feel the humanistic spirit that was the foundation of our constitution.

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    As a life philosophy, humanism places an emphasis on the power of the individual to lead a moral life that contributes in a positive way to all of humanity. Humanism is secular; they reject the notion of a supreme being or other monotheistic beliefs. Instead of being concerned with the afterlife, humanists place importance on the present and believe that they are the agents of change in their own life. Humanists believe that every human being is entitled to certain inalienable rights that cannot be changed or effected by cultural or geographical circumstances.

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    Humanism is the belief that there is neither a “heaven” nor a “God” in the Christian sense, but rather, humans are responsible for their own actions and situations. It is a practical belief, encouraging people to live in this lifetime, dealing with what may come in a practical way. Writer Kurt Vonnegut was the funniest of Humanists.

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    Everyone has answered this question very well and very completely.  The term “humanism” is very complex and has roots in many disciplines of thought.  One field that has not yet been discussed is how the term relates to psychology.  Humanistic psychology is very much based on existential concepts concerning the human condition of futility which surrounds life on this planet.  This was of perceiving the interaction between the human condition and the world encompasses four main themes including, first the uncertainty of any fixed meaning in light of inevitable death.  Second, the conflict of inherent freedom to choose self-enhancing attitudes or actions in the face of potential meaninglessness.  Third, the dilemma of how circumstances of meaninglessness hinder a human’s true embrace of freedom.  Finally, fourth, the human can never successfully evade responsibility for whatever choice is ultimately made, for or against freedom, for or against meaninglessness.  Thus, humanistic psychology is one of dilemma, question, uncertainty, and constant psychic flux in a conceivably static world.  (Shafer, John B.P. Humanistic Psychology. Prentice-Hall, New Jersey. 1978).

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