14. Humanism

Every philosophy holds some particular concepts in metaphysics, epistemology and axiology. As the philosophy differs so do its conceptions in these fields. According to humanism, man is the essence of reality. There is no other super human ontological reality beyond him. His is the proper object of knowledge and whatever human faculties help us in knowing anything are faculties of knowledge. All truth is human truth and there is no truth beyond man.
In axiology humanism seeks to realise a world in which the human values may be achieved to their maximum limit. For this purpose we will have to, first of all, satisfy the physical needs because in their absence no mental or spiritual development is possible. But since man is more than the animal, the bread and butter, clothes and house are not sufficient for his welfare. After the satisfaction of the physical needs the humanist should plan for mental and spiritual progress.
Man is an animal, but he is a cultural animal. Without the cultural evolution he cannot realize his humanity. Therefore, after the satisfaction of the basic physical needs, the humanist seeks to achieve progress in the fields of literature, art, thinking and other fields of cultural evolution.
Humanist Psychology
In the field of psychology the humanist trend is particularly clear in the branches known as fields of applied psychology. Thus, in industrial psychology the psychologist aims at finding out the ideal conditions of all round welfare of the human beings working under industrial conditions. His aim is not only research into conditions for realising maximum production but achieving circumstances where the worker may develop as a human being. Thus, the psychologists help him in labour welfare, a branch of human welfare in general.
Similarly, in the fields of abnormal psychology and psychiatry the psychologists aim at the understands of human being suffering from psychological ailments and finding out ways to cure them so that they might enjoy their normal life and behave as normal human beings. Thus, the aim here is not merely curative but seeks welfare. The application of psychology, conse-quently, is growing gradually in different fields of human life such as industry, law, medicine and above all in education. In the field of education the psychologist is everywhere in search of ways and means to improve educands as human beings. Thus, in the fields of education today, the humanist approach is the guiding principle.
Kinds of humanism
Main kinds of Humanism are defined below :
Ancient humanists
Humanism was born in the West with the birth of Western philosophy in the Socratic emphasis upon thoughtful life. “An unexamined life is not worth living,” said Socrates to the judges when he was presented in the court. By saying so he emphasized the role of reason in man. This reason is the human element and emphasis on reason has always been a fundamental characteristic of humanism in the West. After Socrates Plato, in his dialogues, developed what is known as Socratic method of philosophical discussion. In his most remarkable book The Republic Plato denies the good of the individuals and the groups which since then has been the search of all humanist philosophers, though the idea of human good has changed according to change in circumstances. Aristotle realised that everyone has a philosophy peculiar to himself and this philosophy is his guiding principle in his life. Therefore, he maintained that every individual should consciously develop a rational philosophy and consistently live according to it. These and other philosophers of ancient Greece were searching for a world-view which may lead to a better realisation of human society as it was it those days.
Contemporary humanists
But humanism in the West particularly developed in twentieth century. Contemporary though has witnessed several types of humanisms such as renaissance humanism, academic humanism, catholic humanism, religious humanism, Marxist humanism, and naturalist humanism. Of these the most important is the naturalist humanism. Before discussing this particular type of humanism most prevalent in the West today, it will be, however, relevant to give a brief introduction to other types of humanism as well.
Renaissance humanism
This was a revolt against other worldly Christian philosophy. Humanism everywhere is against other worldliness. This types of humanism was established by Rabelais and Erasmus among others. The Italian artists Leonardo de Vinci and Michael Angelo, in the tradition of this humanism, eulogized the multisided personality in man. These humanists revolted against the Catholic Church and concentrated upon this worldly welfare of man. They criticised faith in life after death. According to Corliss Lamont, “The features of permanent value in Renaissance Humanism that can be taken over by present-day Humanism are its insistence on getting away from religious control of knowledge; its immense intellectual virtuality; its ideal of the well rounded personality; and above all, its stress in man’s enjoying to the full his life in his world.”
Academic humanism
In the early 1930 Prof. Irving Babbitt of Harward University and Paul Elmer More of Princeton University establish what is known as academic humanism. This type of humanism chalked out a literary and educational programme which did not have wide influence.
Catholic humanism
This type of humanism was found in the thought of Catholic saints such as Thomas Aquinas and Jacques Maritain. The area of its influences was limited to Catholic Christian religious circle.
Religious humanism
This type of humanism is mostly found in the thoughts of clergymen such as John H. Dietrich, Charles Francis Potter, Curtie W. Reese, David Rhys William, etc. In 1933 these and other clergymen issued a Humanist Manifesto consisting of 15 brief propositions explaining their position. This humanist manifesto was approved by several ethical culture societies in America.
Marxist humanism
This type of humanism was developed on the basis of the philosophy known as Dialectical Materialism. Though Marxists do not agree with other contemporary humanists on certain points but there is a unanimity between both in the rejection of supernatural and religious authority, faith in science and seeking welfare of mankind as the goal of life.
Naturalists humanism
As has already been pointed out, this type of humanism is the most popular in the West today. It is also known as scientific humanism as it has a firm faith in science. It is called secular humanism due to its emphasis on secular values and democratic humanism due to its faith in democracy.
Corliss Lamont has summarised the position of naturalistic humanism in the following ten central propositions :

  1. Humanism believes in a naturalistic metaphysics or attitude towards the universe that considers all forms of supernatural as myth; and that regards nature as the totality of being and as a constantly changing system of matter and energy which exists independently of any mind or consciousness.
  2. Humanism, drawing especially upon the laws and facts of science believes that man is an evolutionary product of this great nature of which he is a part; that his mind is indivisibly conjoined with the functioning of his brain; and that as an inseparable unity of body and personality he can have no conscious survival after death.
  3. Humanism, having its ultimate faith in man, believes that human beings possess the power of potentiality of solving their own problems, through reliance primarily upon reason and scientific method applied with courage and vision.
  4. Humanism believes, in opposition to all theories of universal predestination, determinism or fatalism, that human beings, while conditioned by the past, possess genuine freedom of creative choice, and are, within certain objective limits, the masters of their own destiny.
  5. Humanism believes in an ethics or morality that grounds all human values in this earthly experiences and relationships; and that holds as its highest goal the this worldly happiness, freedom and progress—economic, cultural and ethical—of all mankind, irrespective of nation, race or religion.
  6. Humanism believes that the individual attains the good life by harmoniously combining personal satisfactions and continuous self-development with significant work and other activities that contribute to the welfare of the community.
  7. Humanism believes in the widest possible development of art and the awareness of beauty, including the appreciation of Nature’s loveliness and splendour, so that the aesthetic experiences may become a pervasive reality in the life of man.
  8. Humanism believes in a far-reaching social programme that stands for the establishment throughout the world of democracy, peace and a high standard of living on the foundations of a flourishing economic order, both national and international.
  9. Humanism believes in the complete social implementation of reason and scientific method; and thereby in the use of democratic procedures, including full freedom of expression and civil liberties, throughout all areas of economic, political and cultural life.
  10. Humanism, in accordance with scientific method, believes in the unending questioning of basic assumptions and convictions including its own. Humanism is not a new dogma, but is a developing philosophy which remains ever open to experimental testing, newly discovered facts and more rigorous reasoning.”
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