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Humanistic psychology focuses on the inner lives, goals, and hopes of people, rejecting the idea that behavior is largely determined by forces beyond people's control. Humanists feel that this idea mitigates people's essential dignity as human beings. Instead, humanists encourage studies of such topics as personal responsibility, and values, along with creativity. Here are some of the goals of Humanism:
- maintaining the dignity of the human being
- a rejection of formal religion and the application of ethical principles to one's life.
- a championing of conservative values
- dissatisfaction with modern culture's stress on wealth and progress
- emphasis on reason, proportion, and decorum
- intellectual and cultural advancement
Certainly, Humanistic psychology, which emerged in the years after World War II, is deeply rooted in the great religious and philosophical traditions of Western society. Certainly, then, humanism supports democracy and human rights, the main principles of the United States Constitution as it demands that personal liberty must be combined with social responsibility and education. Such thinkers as the Transcendentalists Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau were, in a sense, humanists, for they supported the importance of individual liberty, creativity, and intuition. Emerson's concept of the Oversoul certainly replaced formal religion, placing man at the center of the universe as did the Humanists. In Nature, Emerson writes,
The currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God.
And, Thoreau extols individual social responsibility in his "Civil Disobedience" in which he states that a man must follow his conscience and not support a government when it assaults one's liberties.
While the United States Constitution has long stressed individual liberties, and the emphasis upon reason and decorum as do the Humanists, the society of the United States was not built upon one of Humanism's goals; namely, dissatisfaction with stress upon wealth and progress. For, the American Dream was conceived as a goal of acquiring wealth, land, and prestige in order to advance in socio-economic class.
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