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This simple word has been interpreted by philosophers in many ways over time and has become intertwined with the individual philosopher’s philosophical interests.

So the following tries to capture the essence: early 20th Century humanism is the belief that humans are animals driven by the basic cycle of life and needs of every animal: to eat, to sleep securely and procreate; and that within that framework they have no free will, there is no God or supernatural overlord. Paradoxically humanism in the later part of 20th Century developed into the belief that people are masters of their own destiny: humans reign supreme as they have awareness of the self and the ability to think, imagine, express ideas, empathise, take actions.

This belief relies primarily upon humankind’s capacity for reason and understanding of life through science, and the ability to take actions to shape life as we wish it to be. At an ethical level it embraces compassion and mutual respect between humans, and respect for all sentient beings.

Beyond this simple definition, there are an array of groups who have taken on board the idea of human supremacy and have included humanism in their title. These groups includes:- Religious, Educational, Secular, Liberal, Marxist and Humanist Ecology.

The latter embraces the idea of a symbiotic relationship with the natural environment: pro-actively putting human thinking, decisions, actions in the context of this relationship.

See also


Author: Peter Marcham