A philosophy that rejects religion and supernaturalism, and concerns itself with the state of humanity in this life. It is not a religion. One of the biggest philosophies in humanism is that all morals are relative to the situation and their future effects. All people have equal rights to live and enjoy their life, and any attempt to reduce a person's rights, whether through law, or violence, is unacceptable.

The Humanist Manifesto:

First: Religious humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created.

Second: Humanism believes that man is a part of nature and that he has emerged as the result of a continuous process.

Third: Holding an organic view of life, humanists find that the traditional dualism of mind and body must be rejected.

Fourth: Humanism recognizes that man's religious culture and civilization, as clearly depicted by anthropology and history, are the product of a gradual development due to his interaction with his natural environment and with his social heritage. The individual born into a particular culture is largely molded by that culture.

Fifth: Humanism asserts that the nature of the universe depicted by modern science makes unacceptable any supernatural or cosmic guarantees of human values. Obviously humanism does not deny the possibility of realities as yet undiscovered, but it does insist that the way to determine the existence and value of any and all realities is by means of intelligent inquiry and by the assessment of their relations to human needs. Religion must formulate its hopes and plans in the light of the scientific spirit and method.

Sixth: We are convinced that the time has passed for theism, deism, modernism, and the several varieties of "new thought."

Seventh: Religion consists of those actions, purposes, and experiences which are humanly significant. Nothing human is alien to the religious. It includes labor, art, science, philosophy, love, friendship, recreation-all that is in its degree expressive of intelligently satisfying human living. The distinction between the sacred and the secular can no longer be maintained.

Eighth: Religious Humanism considers the complete realization of human personality to be the end of man's life and seeks its development and fulfillment in the here and now. This is the explanation of the humanist's social passion.

Ninth: In the place of the old attitudes involved in worship and prayer the humanist finds his religious emotions expressed in a heightened sense of personal life and in a co-operative effort to promote social well-being.

Tenth: It follows that there will be no uniquely religious emotions and attitudes of the kind hitherto associated with belief in the supernatural.

Eleventh: Man will learn to face the crises of life in terms of his knowledge of their naturalness and probability. Reasonable and manly attitudes will be fostered by education and supported by custom. We assume that humanism will take the path of social and mental hygiene and discourage sentimental and unreal hopes and wishful thinking.

Twelfth: Believing that religion must work increasingly for joy in living, religious humanists aim to foster the creative in man and to encourage achievements that add to the satisfactions of life.

Thirteenth: Religious humanism maintains that all associations and institutions exist for the fulfillment of human life. The intelligent evaluation, transformation, control, and direction of such associations and institutions with a view to the enhancement of human life is the purpose and program of humanism. Certainly religious institutions, their ritualistic forms ecclesiastical methods, and communal activities must be reconstituted as rapidly as experience allows, in order to function effectively in the modern world.

Fourteenth: The humanists are firmly convinced that existing acquisitive and profit-motivated society has shown itself to be inadequate and that a radical change in methods, controls, and motives must be established to the end that the equitable distribution of the means of life are possible. The goal of humanism is a free and universal society in which people voluntarily and intelligently co-operate for the common good. Humanists demand a shared life in a shared world.

Fifteenth: We assert that humanism will: (a) affirm life rather than deny it; (b)seek to elicit the possibilities of life not flee from it; and (c) endeavor to establish the conditions of a satisfactory life for all, not merely for a few. By this positive morale and intention humanism will be guided, and from this perspective and alignment the techniques and efforts of humanism will flow.

Humanism is a term that has been used in many different contexts throughout the years, and that can mean many different things. There are as many different interpretations on what humanism can be as there are interpretations of what human nature is. Many different schools of thought have been humanistic without overtly claiming to be so, while many types of supposedly humanistic philosophy have perhaps not been humanistic at all.

Currently in the modern western world, humanism is synonymous with secular humanism, the belief that human progress does not need transcendent theology to work. However, this has not always been what humanism meant.

The Ancient Greeks had a system of humanistic thought, although it was perhaps not the high point of their culture. While with its practicality and appreciation for human form and human life, the Greeks could perhaps be argued (especially amongst proponents of Western Civilization) to be the most humanistic of ancient civilizations. However, the Greeks had a definite metaphysical and speculative bent that could be seen to be against humanism. And while it was a greek thinker, Protagoras who said "Man is the measure of all things", he was widely regarded as a sophist.

The Classical Chinese developed a type of humanistic thought in the warring states period that would last for (so far) another 2500 years. Confucius, and later Mencius, would annunciate a philosophy that took it for granted that ren, the ability to understand and act humanely, was the starting point and goal of human action and thought. The full history and scope of Confucianism is beyond this node (as well as defenses against those who think Confucianism is simple a fancy word for authoritarianism , but it is obvious that Confucianism has always been a humanistic school, and often in the best sense of the word.

The word humanism itself comes to us from The Renaissance, and in many ways reflects nothing but a curriculum change in education at the time. It originally meant the Studia Humanitias, meaning a learning of rhetoric and history, rather then the abstract study of Aristotle, metaphysic, theology and so on. It also focused on grammar and language for the purposes of persuading people and civic life, rather then language based on supposed connection to metaphysical categories. This change in thought was associated with a great deal of the movements of the Renaissance, including art and banking and exploration and invention. However, renaissance humanists never were thinking that "man is the measure of all things", and for the most part, they still accepted the Catholic Church's hegemony and worldview.

Humanism as we have it now, in the form of secular humanism, is a mishmash of every enlightenment and liberation movement of the past 200 or 300 years, with a great deal of utilitarianism and what not thrown in. Humanism now is equal mixture of Immanuel Kant, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King, Jeremy Bentham, Karl Marx, Jean Paul Sartre and Victor Hugo. In other words, a philosophy that means so much that it means nothing at all. In addition, I think that secular humanism, since it takes scientific progress through scientific reductionism to be a great good, it is not actually all that humane. While science is indeed rational, it is still a system of thought that relies more on Aristotle and his tradition then it does on natural human experience. Of course, there has also been a recent anti-scientific humanist movement. Which, of course, goes to show that humanism can mean anything possible, as long as it somehow has to do with human nature, human potential or human values.

Italian Renaissance Humanism and the Role of the Individual

Throughout history, the individual has held a variety of roles within the larger societal frameworks he is a part of. Periodically, these roles have been significantly altered as a result of a grander paradigm shift that makes the previous social scheme entirely obsolete. Within relatively recent history, one of the more drastic of these shifts occurred during the Italian Renaissance of the 14th and 15th centuries, with the spread of humanist ideas and ideals among Italy’s intelligensia. By fundamentally transforming the philosophies and institutions of Renaissance Italy, humanism served to shift society’s view of individuals from mere members of a whole to a worthwhile beings in and of themselves.

Humanism’s resurrection of classical knowledge and thinking directly resulted in the revival of Platonism, a philosophy that strongly influenced Italian society’s concept of the individual. Platonism, the school of thought named for the Greek philosopher Plato, and the neo-Platonist ideas of other classical scholars were investigated by humanists fimply because of their antiquity. These ideas had been ignored throughout the centuries of medieval dominance by the Church, but in the 15th century a variety of factors combined leading to the foundation of an academy in Florence for the study of Platonism and related ways of thinking. As a part of a more ideal, long vanished society - that of the Greeks - these philosophies were studied and discussed extensively by the humanist scholars who made up the bulk of the Academy. Platonism centers around the concept of human reason as a part of an “eternal sphere” of being, thus elevating the capabilities of mere mortals to an almost immortal level in importance and power. In his Oration on the Dignity of Man, Pico della Mirandola, a leader of the Florentine Academy, discussed human free will as the most divine of possible traits. This concept echoes its Platonic roots; free will enables humans to elevate themselves to the level of the angels or lower themselves to that of animals. These ideas appealed to many Renaissance thinkers, resulting in a weakening of the longstanding Church teaching that man existed solely to serve God. Although Platonism in its classic form and in the form rediscovered by the Church Fathers in no way disputes the importance of God, it does demonstrate man’s worth as more than a servant of the church. As Mirandola discusses, this is because there is within each person the potential to be whatever they desire. The overall effect of the Platonic revival was a reinforcement of the humanist idea that individuals had the potential, and the privelege, to be worthwhile members of society in their own right, a drastic change from the perspective of the Middle Ages.

However, the effect of humanism was not limited to the philosophical level; humanist reforms of educational institutions changed the very way in which a single human fit into the fabric of society. Humanists prized education above all else, and, unlike their Scholastic predecessors, insisted that this learning could not occur for its own sake, but should be motivated by a true goal to improve oneself. Scholars like Baldassare Castiglione worked to codify and describe all the various areas in which a truly fulfilled person, one living up to their full divine potential, should be educated and trained. It was particularly Castiglione’s vision of the perfect courtier that resulted in the modern perception of the “Renaissance man” – educated and successful in a wide range of disciplines. As education for the sake of personal improvement caught on, more and more people began to escape the oppressive traditional boundaries imposed by institutions like the Catholic Church and Scholastic-run universities. It was during this time that earthly accomplishments began to replace spiritual ones as a basis for a person’s value: just being “good enough” to get into heaven was no longer enough to make one an accomplished person. This change was a direct result of humanists and their educational reforms, for it was in part the study of the classics and the achievements of the individual greats of the Greek and Roman cultures that motivated this transformation of values. Finally, Italian humanists sowed the seeds for education reforms that were to continue in the next centuries throughout Europe. As education spread and literacy rates climbed, the laity of the entire European continent developed from a mindless mass to a truly empowered conglomerate of individuals, with more self-confidence and power over themselves. All these factors combined to weaken the suppressive educational and religious institutions of the period, freeing individuals from their traditional place. In general, it was the Italian humanists’ educational ideas, ideals, and reforms that led to such an amazingly rapid change in the role of the individual in a society.

By replacing many of the basic philosophies and institutions of medieval Europe with more modern and sophisticated forms, the humanists of the Italian Renaissance served to redefine the very way in which society perceived each and every human being. Such a dramatic change in direction was representative of the catalytic environment of the Italian Renaissance as a whole. Clearly, the social and cultural upheaval of this period holds an important place among the most exciting and far-reaching of revolutions in all history.

Node Your Homework

Humanism has its roots in the fourteenth century, and started to spread during the fifteenth century and sixteenth century. Humanism was an intelectual movement reserved for the more elite social classes, which previously had the ability to read and write. Humanism also marked the breaking point with the dark, or middle ages of proclaimed barbarism.

The movement exposed the dignity and predictability of humans. Before the humanism movement, the church had controlled almost every aspect of rule over the people. The humanistic movement moved towards a better logic, placing actual reason over the revelations brought by the church, that had come to be known as the truth and followed by the populous. The movement started to change the idea of life from being one continuous moral struggle to find redemption in the end, to life being full of love and interest in the world. This movement promoted well balanced and well educated people to raise the standards of humanity. In the middle of this movement, classic Greek and Roman literature and thoughts were a valued source of information and ideas. In this era certain revised biblical interpretations arose, changing the outline of the bible from it's original version. Physical and mental training were regarded as being very vital parts of one's life in this movement.

Some of the most famous writers and philosophers thrived in the time of the humanistic movement, as literature and art were so highly regarded. Italiens such as Petrarch and Bocaccio made many sonnets and stories during this era. The German involvement was represented by the famous Erasmus, one of the most well known scholars of all time, and proclaimed the prince of the humanists. Also, such classical English humanists and theoligians, such as Colet were also present at this relative point in time, working on writings which promoted humanism and the breaking of the grip on humanity by the church. The humanistic movement eventually lead into the renaissance of later times.

Hu"man*ism (?), n.


Human nature or disposition; humanity.

[She] looked almost like a being who had rejected with indifference the attitude of sex for the loftier quality of abstract humanism. T. Hardy.


The study of the humanities; polite learning.


© Webster 1913.

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