Below are several articles describing and defining Humanism.
These addendums are an attempt by Hilton Brown to bring some aspects of Humanist Philosophy to the attention of persons interested in The Humanist Community. The source material for all Addendums is to be found in the lead paragraph of each addendum.
Evolutionary Ethics and Its Future by Robert D. Finch
Robert D. Finch, a past president of the Humanists of Houston who has served on the AHA’s Board of Directors, has written an essay titled “Evolutionary Ethics and Its Future”, which is published in Volume 21 (1) 2013 of “Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism”. The following is an abstract from “Evolutionary Ethics and Its Future”.
Let us recapitulate some humanist principles:
- Truth and Knowledge: We should base our conduct on the best available knowledge of the natural world, in which people and their minds have evolved and of our human-made systems.
- Rationality: The systems of the human mind based in the natural world, enable us to think, and be creative agents, and are the source of personal freedom, dignity and responsibility.
- Emotions: We have to recognize that emotions are the driving force of our behavior. We need to provide the loving relationships of a family for the security of young and old.
- Values: People are able to share emotions and refine their values through the various arts.
- Ethics: We should use or emotions, values and rationality in building ethical theories and systems to live by.
- Pragmatism: We should uphold the methods of social systems that have proven to be successful in the past, including the law, science and good practice while working for their improvement.
- Commitment: We need to belong to the organizations that foster our worldview and enable it to be tested and improved.
- Destiny: We believe that Humanism should offer visions of the future which will inspire the individual and guide the policies of society.
Henry Ford: The Visionary Humanist by Alistair J. Sinclair
Alistair J. Sinclair is a philosopher residing in Glasgow, Scotland. The source for this “Addendum” is his article “Henry Ford: The Visionary Humanist” published in Volume 20 (2) of “Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism”, a peer-reviewed journal published by the American Humanist Association. It is also published in American Papers on Humanism and Religion which is available on Amazon.com.
“It is a shock when the mind awakens to the fact that not all of humanity is human — that whole groups of people do not regard others with humane feelings.” Henry Ford (1922)
Dr. Sinclair argues that Henry Ford was a humanist who changed the world for the better. He had a humanist vision of society in which the standard of living of everyone would gradually improve and poverty would be gradually reduced. The humane capitalism which Ford popularized led to more efficient ways of lowering costs in large scale organizations. It also insured that there was a trickle-down effect that benefitted workers and improved industrial relations.
On January 5, 1914 Ford announced that his company would almost double the wages of its car workers and introduced the eight hour day and the five day work week (Previously the norm had been a twelve hour day and a six day week), He also introduced vacations for his hourly paid workers.
Ford was adamant that work should be found for disabled people instead of excluding them from employment because they are disabled. It would be quite outside the spirit of what we are trying to do, to take on men because they were crippled, pay them a lower wage and be content with a lower output.
This “Addendum” is a half-page presentation of a 20 page philosophic article, complete with notes and references. I commend the article to your attention.
Utopian Visions and the American Dream by Frederic March
Frederic March, a past president of the Humanist Society of New Mexico, has written an essay titled “Utopian Visions and the American Dream” published in Volume 21 (1) 2013 of Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism”. This “Addendum” is an abstract from his essay.
Utopian narratives express a universal yearning for a better human society. In his description of Plato’s ideal social fantasy, Bertrand Russell categorizes its attributes as education, culture/economy, biological control, religion, and justice. Although Frederic March develops all of these attributes in his essay, in this “Addendum” we shall deal primarily with education.
As our nation’s leading advocate for humanism, the AHA helps defend our democracy against breaches in the barriers of church-state separation. It promotes science and evolution teaching unadulterated by theology. It defends freedom of thought and religion.
The AHA recently issued its Ten Commitments: Guiding Principles for Teaching Values in America’s Public Schools:
1. Altruism – Altruism is the unselfish concern for the welfare of others without expectation of reward, recognition or return.
2. Caring for the World Around Us– Everyone can and ought to play a role in caring for the earth and its inhabitants.
3. Critical Thinking – We gain reliable knowledge because we are able to observe, report, experiment, and analyze what goes on around us.
4. Empathy– We human beings are capable of empathy, the ability to understand and enter imaginatively into another living being’s feelings, the sad ones and the happy ones as well.
5. Ethical Development– Questions of fairness, cooperation, and sharing are among the first moral issues we encounter in our ethical development as human beings.
6. Global Awareness– We live in a world that is rich in cultural, social and individual diversity, a world where interdependence is increasing rapidly so that events anywhere are more likely to have consequences everywhere.
7. Human Rights– Human Rights is the idea that people should have rights just because they are human beings.
8. Peace and Social Justice– A curriculum that values and fosters peace education would promote understanding, tolerance, and friendship among nations as well as among cultural and religious or philosophical groups.
9. Responsibility– Our behavior is morally responsible when we tell the truth, help someone in trouble, and live up to promises we’ve made.
10. Service and Participation– Life’s fulfillment can emerge from an individual’s participation in the service of humane ideals.
These Commitments clearly encompass Education for Democracy. The AHA has the capacity to organize and coordinate the resources of many organizations that also seek to educate for a humanist democracy.
Why Isn’t Humanism the Preeminent Belief of Humankind? by Jennifer Hancock
Jennifer Hancock was Executive Director for the Humanists of Florida. She has written a Humanist Reflections essay for Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism, Vol.20 (2) – 20 12. The following is an abstract from her essay:
Why Isn’t Humanism the Preeminent Belief of Humankind? Joyce Carol Oates asked this question at an AHA conference. I have been pondering an answer. The humanist philosophy is straightforward, easy to understand, and most important: it works! The problem is that people simply don’t know what Humanism is.
One of the reasons we find it hard to share our philosophy is that collectively we aren’t clear on what humanism is. There are benefits to thinking of humanism as a philosophy. Humanists have no dogma and there is no one right way to be a humanist. Some may integrate humanism into their religious practice. In addition to organized groups of humanists, there are millions of Americans who are humanists and don’t even know it.. When it comes to the promotion of humanism, one size does not fit all. What I care about is free thought because that leads to more effective problem solving, self-reflection, and a more rational approach to ethics. Many have no interest in religion. They reject atheism for the same reason they reject religion. If they are interested in learning about rational ethics then let’s let them learn about humanism. Humanists promote free thought and skepticism as a part of our philosophy. Humanism is as vital to conversations as skepticism, atheism and free thought. The problem is that if we don’t talk about it, no one will.
Ours is a philosophy of grand concepts: compassion for all humanity, positive social change, rejection of supernaturalism, a reality based ethics, values and personal responsibility. We are humanists because humanism works. It works for the big grand issues, and also works for the day to day issues. Humanism also helps us navigate our day to day interpersonal relationships. It calls us to be compassionate with everyone. Critical thinking, compassion, rejecting supernaturalism helps us solve our problems. The reason we take the time to think critically and take responsibility for our actions is because it helps us solve our problems.
Humanism works! The reason my form of humanist outreach is focused on helping people live ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity is because humanism works. I may be a bit evangelical in sharing the news, but if don’t and you don’t, who will?
Humanists don’t like to proselytize. I don’t proselytize, I witness. I don’t engage in conversation with a motive to change people’s minds. When people ask me about my beliefs, I share them. I am simply a witness that the humanist approach has value for me. Proselytizing forces people to defend their beliefs and values, witnessing encourages them to think about their beliefs and values in a new way. Humanism treats the idea of whether gods exist or not as inessential. Talking about values and ethics without invoking religion is more of a threat to religion precisely because it proves the point: religious belief is unnecessary and actually interferes with our ability to discuss ethics.
Humanism works! We need to start sharing humanism!
Comments by Hilton Brown
A few weeks ago a Philosophy of Humanism essay titled Why Isn’t Humanism the Preeminent Belief of Humankind? by Jennifer Hancock was reviewed in an addendum. Significant points she raised were
1) Humanists aren’t very clear on just what their beliefs are,
2) Hence, they weren’t very effective in explaining Humanism to non-Humanists and
3) They often approached non-Humanists in a proselytizing mode which forces people into a defensive mode.
Recently, Dr. Chris Schriner, author of Bridging the God Gap: Finding Common ground Among Believers, Atheists and Agnostics, spoke about his techniques in getting both theistic humanists and secular humanists to work together.
After all, the AHA Commitment is to these ten concepts:
2. Caring for the World Around Us
3. Critical Thinking
5. Ethical Development
6. Global Awareness
7. Human Rights
8. Peace and Social Justice
10. Service and Participation
Add to that list, the Summary of Humanism and its Aspirations, and you have the talking points for a conversation with anyone who shows an interest in what Humanism is all about. But Jennifer Hancock’s point is you are a Witness not a Proselytizer. Witnesses talk about things they believe and feel are important. Proselytizers talk about the things the other person feels are important.
Humanism works. We need to start sharing humanism. There is room in the Humanist tent for Theists, Deists, Secularists, Believers, Agnostics, and Atheists. Anyone who subscribes to most of the AHA Commitments and Humanism and its Aspirations is a person I believe I could like. Humanism Works!
Religion for Atheists: A Non-Believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion by Alain de Botton
Comments below by Hilton Brown
In my opinion, an excellent book for anyone interested in Humanism!
“……….The premise of this book is that it must be possible to remain a committed atheist and nevertheless find religions sporadically useful, interesting and consoling – and be curious as to the possibilities of importing certain of their ideas and practices into the secular realm.”
A sample from the book, and then the beginning of an application of the book’s wisdom to our own situation:
iv. Teaching wisdom
Ultimately, the purpose of all education is to save us time and spare errors. It is a mechanism whereby society – whether secular or religious – attempts reliably to inculcate in its members, within a set span of years, what it took the very brightest and most determined of their ancestors centuries of painful and sporadic efforts to work out.
With this prelude, let us turn to a sample of the AHA’s Ten Commitments.
1.Altruism Altruism is the unselfish concern for the welfare of others without expectation of reward, recognition, or return. Opportunities for acts of altruism are everywhere in the family, the community, the friends and groups within which you exist, and the places where you carry on your public activities.
2. Caring for the World Around Us Everyone can and ought to play a role in caring for the Earth and its inhabitants. We can and ought to play a role in caring for the Earth and its inhabitants. We can directly experience the living things in our homes and neighborhoods like trees, flowers, birds, insects, and pets. We can learn about deserts, oceans, and wild life. We learn that we are dependent on each other, on the natural world and all that lives in it for food and shelter, space and beauty.
3, Critical Thinking We gain reliable knowledge because we are able to observe, report, report, experiment, and analyze what goes on around us. We also learn to raise questions that are clear and precise, to gather information, and to reason about the information we receive in a way that tests it for truthfulness, accuracy and utility.
4. Empathy We human beings are capable of empathy, the ability to understand and enter imaginatively into another living being’s feelings, the sad ones and the happy ones as well. Many of the personal relationships we have (in the family, among friends, between diverse individuals, and amid other living things) are made positive through empathy. With discussion and role-playing, we can learn how other people feel when they are sad or hurt or ignored, as well as when they experience great joys.
iii Role Models
While paying attention to the messages in its public spaces, Christianity also wisely recognizes the extent to which our concepts of good and bad are shaped by the people we spend time with. It knows that we are dangerously permeable with regard to our social circle, all too apt to internalize and mimic others’ attitudes and behavior. Simultaneously, it accepts that the particular company we keep is largely a result of haphazard forces, a peculiar cast of characters drawn from our childhood, schooling, community and work.
With this prelude, let us turn to the next sample of the AHA’s Ten Commitments.
6. Global Awareness We live in a world that is rich in cultural, social, and individual diversity, a world where interdependence is increasing rapidly so that events anywhere are more likely to have consequences everywhere. Much can be done to prepare the next generation for accepting the responsibility of global citizenship. Understanding can be gained regarding the many communities in which we live through history, anthropology, and biology. A linguistic, ethnic, and cultural diversity are present in the classroom and provide lessons of diversity and commonality. We help other reach understanding about interconnectedness of the welfare of all humanity.
7. Human Rights Human rights is the idea that people should have rights just because they are human beings. These rights are universal. That is, they are for everyone no matter what their race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, age sex, political beliefs, intelligence, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
8. Peace and Social Justice Teaching that values peace education would promote understanding, tolerance, and friendship among nations as well as among cultural and religious or philosophical groups. We should learn about the United Nations’ role in preventing conflict as well as efforts to achieve social justice here in the United States, We should take meaningful actions that promote peace and social justice both at home and abroad.
I’m out of space here, but we will continue in a future Addendum
Hilton U Brown III