<history of philosophy, philosophy, literature> belief that individual human beings are the fundamental source of all value and have the ability to understand - and perhaps even to control - the natural world by careful application of their own rational faculties. During the Renaissance, humanists such as Bruno, Erasmus, Valla, and Pico della Mirandola helped shift attention away from arcane theological disputes toward more productive avenues of classical study and natural science. Recommended Reading: The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Humanism, ed. by Jill Kraye (Cambridge, 1996); Impact of Humanism, ed. by Lucille Kekewich (Yale, 2000); Rebecca W. Bushnell, A Culture of Teaching: Early Modern Humanism in Theory and Practice (Cornell, 1996); and John C. Olin, Erasmus, Utopia, and the Jesuits: Essays on the Outreach of Humanism (Fordham, 1994).
[A Dictionary of Philosophical Terms and Names]
<ethics> although the definition of humanism is somewhat fuzzy, humanistic philosophies focus centrally on human concerns (as opposed to the interests of the gods or the technical issues of philosophy - that is, as opposed to theism or logicism). Humanistic philosophies have sprung up in many eras and places, including ancient Greece (Aristotelianism and Epicureanism), China (Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism), Renaissance Europe, and in America (some forms of pragmatism, "secular humanism", "humanistic psychology" as advocated by Abraham Maslow, and the thought of people like Thoreau and Emerson). While humanism is often closely tied to secularism and to individualism, these connections are not necessary. In fact, humanism is sometimes thought of as a "religion of humanity" that takes altruism and action for the sake of all humanity as its guiding principle (this is true of the positivism of August Comte, for example). Humanism is often more a state of mind or a certain quality of thought than any definite doctrine, but it is almost universally taken to be a positive quality, except by some 20th century religionists (who seem to hold a special scorn for "secular humanism"). (References from Aristotelianism, behaviorism, Confucianism, dogmatism, eudaimonism, individualism, logicism, Marxism, naturalism, pantheism, positivism, pragmatism, secularism, and Socraticism.)
[The Ism Book]
Edited by Giovanni Benzi
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