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Definition and Explanation of Humanism


Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively. It advocates for critical thinking and evidence over acceptance of dogma or superstition. Originating during the Renaissance, humanism focuses on the study of classical texts and the belief in the potential for human achievement and progress.

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What is Humanism?

Modern Humanism is a belief that people should lead their life by showing respect to other people simply because they are human.  That belief may be based in the religious belief of a supreme creator watching over us, or may be based in the philosophical reasons of simply doing good unto others.

The philosophy behind Humanism does not allow for discrimination of other people. It teaches that all humans should assist and provide for the needs of other humans simply because we are all human.  Religious beliefs, citizenship, cultural differences, etc., should never interfere with treating someone else with respect and kindness and assisting them when needed.

Modern religious Humanism associates these beliefs and practices with a supreme creator who has determined good and evil.  Modern secular Humanism associates these beliefs and practices with the natural ability of humans to be able to distinguish right from wrong, good from evil, and with basic philosophical human needs to be a good person and to do good works.

The term "Humanism" is not very old but the ideas and beliefs, obviously, go back very far.

I hope this short explanation helps.  Please see the link provided for more information if needed.

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What is humanism?

While humanism as a philosophical idea is typically associated with the Renaissance, its roots are in the Classical period of Greece and Rome.  In many Greek and Roman works, while the subject treats the deeds of gods and goddesses and their relationship with humans, authors explored the nature of the human condition.  Gods and goddesses were subject to the same weaknesses (and sometimes even more so) as the human population.  At its root, humanism reflects on the human condition and on humanity.  After the fall of Rome, humanism did not re-emerge until the Italian Renaissance in the mid- to late fourteenth century.  Rather than maintaining the Middle Ages' emphasis on humanity's relation to the divine, the focus of writers, artists, and sculptors again turned toward humanity as an end in itself.  In works such as Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, the viewer can see the emphasis on the physical structure of human beings, in the same way that works by Machiavelli and More explore human nature, as their texts serve as a response to certain realities they perceived in human nature. 

While numerous works in the Renaissance provide insight into the nature of humanism, Erasmus's The Praise of Folly, Sir Thomas More's Utopia, and Machiavelli's The Prince tend to stand out from others as in depth explorations of the human condition, particularly of human frailties.

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