Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Humanism as a philosophy, Humanism as a life-stance

            Humanism is a philosophy and a life-stance. As a philosophy, it is commonly agreed that Humanism eschews the supernatural, understands human goods as derived from human need, and embraces the human development of knowledge, ethics, community, and meaning-making. As a life-stance, Humanism is the individual’s and the collective’s living expression of the philosophy of Humanism.
            I tried to make the above description as diplomatic and broad as possible, but I also think that Humanism (as philosophy and life-stance) more often is crafted on a much smaller scale, by each individual and group according to their understanding of what it means to engage and pursue ‘the good’ in a naturalistic world. Personally, I tend to conflate Humanism with my take on Existentialism (with a focus on concrete existence, meaning, freedom, responsibility, anxiety, death, relationships, authenticity, social criticism, nothingness, the limits of rationalism) and my take on radical Feminism (with a focus on egalitarianism, social criticism, relationships, experience, authenticity, self-critical analysis, and social justice activism). My Humanism is a commitment to human flourishing insofar as it is pursued through all of the Existential/Feminist themes I listed. No doubt other secular thinkers will mold Humanism in the image of their own constellation of non-supernatural priorities and ideals.
            All well and good so far, but I’ve really only discussed Humanism as a philosophy. Humanism as a life-stance is all about what one does with their Humanist philosophy. A person could pursue Humanism in their career, in their politics and activism, or in their communal-cultural practices. I have mixed feelings about whether a self-proclaimed Humanist necessarily must pursue Humanism in all realms of their life—on the one hand, I don’t want to be the one to set or demand a standard; on the other, I personally find it difficult to see career, politics, activism, community, and culture as non-overlapping realms.
Regardless of how it is implemented, I think it is developing Humanism as a life-stance that is the main goal of the Humanist Community Project at Harvard. Developing Humanism as a life-stance is the best expression of the truth that Humanism is more than just atheism, which itself can only serve as the philosophical frame or foundation for a lifestyle. Humanism, as a progressive philosophy, includes the requirement that it be lived in order to be affirmed. Developing Humanism as a life-stance requires the creation of opportunities for people to actualize their Humanist values—in work, in activism, and in life and community with other Humanists.

No comments:

Post a Comment