What are the main features of humanism?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Humanism has these main features:

  • belief in the essential dignity of man
  • a focus on the moral and ethical context of classical texts
  • Man is at the center of the universe
  • involvement in the affairs of the world as opposed to the asceticism of the scholastics
  • love of Latin and of classical (Roman and Greek) philosophy
  • interest in authenticating classical texts
  • 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


krishna-agrawala | Student

Humanism is a way of thinking and behaving that is based on accepting the importance of human beings in the universe. Humanism respects the dignity of and worth of every person. Roots of humanism can be traced back to thousands of years, it flourished as a historical movement in Europe from 1300's to 1500's. The humanist movement in the twentieth century became a well organised movement, and since 1933 several humanist manifestos containing the beliefs and principles of humanism have been prepared by different groups. The newest one of these is the Amsterdam declaration of 2002, which has been accepted by many humanist organizations across the world.

As per this declaration fundamental humanism is believed to be based on ethical and rational that supports democracy and human rights. It insists that personal liberty must be combined with social responsibility. Humanism is considered to be a response to the demand for an alternative to dogmatic religious views. It supports artistic creativity and imagination. Finally, humanism is a life stance that aims at maximum fulfilment through ethical and creative behavior.

Complete text of this declaration is available at the link given below.

imchadian | Student

Brief  Background:


t certain points of history, factors converge to cause dramatic shifts in human values and perceptions. One such shift, beginning in the 14th century Italy, launched the period of European history known as the RENAISSANCE (rebirth).

In Generating the Greco-Roman sources of Western Civilization, humanism rebelled against the rigid constraints of Latinism and Scholasticism. This quest for new truths meant protesting against religious dogmas and philosophical narrow-mindedness in order to stress forcefully HUMAN VALUES.

Humanists accused the scholastics of sophistry and of distorting the truth by arguing philosophical phrases taken out of context. By contrast, humanists researched the historical context and lives of classical writers and focused on the moral and ethical content of the texts. Along with this shift came the concept that “Man is the measure of all things” (Pythagoras), which meant that now Man was the center of the universe in place of God. In turn, the study of man and human acts on Earth led humanists to feel justified in entering into the affairs of the world, rather than leading a life of monastic asceticism, as did the scholastics.

It was in this manner that the classical authors were cleansed of their Christian medievalism, after which the humanist re-discover the genuine values of man. The latter, in the free development of his nature, was not anymore hindered in his decisions and actions by the notion of man’s fall. The humanism of the renaissance encouraged indeed the spirit of a new epoch to flower and to celebrate the genuine worth of man, whether it was in the arts, philosophy and literature.



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