Because Humanism emphasizes the importance of human agency and critical thought, proponents of the outlook believe that humans must claim responsibility for ongoing global conflict, be it physical or political. Nothing is left to chance; everything that has happened—from political election results to the outcome of wars and battles—is the result of human action, not chance or the supernatural.
Though this is a difficult idea to process—that human action is the only reason for the horrible events happening in the world—it creates necessary accountability. Terrible people are elected to office all over the world because citizens hold similar beliefs. Wars happen because people believe in their causes.
However, New Humanim in the 20th century is not all doom and gloom. This applied accountability is meant to catalyze an increased sense of responsibility in people. All outcomes are possible through human engagement and action. If you don’t like or agree with something happening in the world, get out there and try to do something about it. Protest, organize meetings, and talk to others; change is only possible through action.
Still not totally sure what it means to be a Humanist? Here is a quick list of things we believe in:
- Civil liberties
- Human rights
- Church-state separation (secularism)
- Participatory democracy in government, the workplace, and education
- Global consciousness
- International exchange of thoughts and products
- Open discussion of social problems
The International Humanist and Ethical Union defines the movement as such: “Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance that affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. Humanism stands for the building of a more human society through an ethics based on human and other natural values in a spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. Humanim is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.” If that sounds like something you’re interested in, you’re in the right place!
If you’re visiting this blog, you probably have some interest in Humanism in one of its forms. Therefore, I should first delineate how New Humanism is different from your standard, run-of-the-mill Humanism. The latter is simple; it is the outlook or thought that importance should be placed on physical, tangible human existence rather than the supernatural. Humanism stresses the value and goodness of humans as divorced from any “divine” being, emphasizing the range of human needs and importance of rational thinking.
New Humanism expands on this belief. Developed at the beginning of the 20th Century by Irving Babbit and Paul Elmer More, this updated version of Humanism takes into account and seeks to understand the consequences of culture and political thought. Originally developed to understand the perceived gap between the ideals of liberal arts colleges and the realities of university education, it aims to understand cognitive dissonance, pointing up the importance of the metaphysical and its relationship to human existence. However, New Humanism, like orthodox Humanism, concerns itself primarily with the needs and rational action of human beings. We embrace human reason, ethics, social justice, and philosophical naturalism while rejecting, specifically, religious dogma, pseudoscience, and the supernatural.
In its early days, New Humanism reacted against the philosophies of literary realism and naturalism, which were in vogue during the movement’s development. We refuse to accept deterministic views of human nature, believing that we are all unique and that the essence of human experience is, fundamentally, moral and ethical. Moreover, there are several other branches of Humanism, including Secular Humanism, Post-Humanism, Scholasticism, and Religious Humanism.
If any of this sounds interesting to you, read on! Though New Humanists came to be regarded as cultural elitists toward the middle of the twentieth century, I can assure you—this is an interesting and helpful outlook to assume in light of recent political and cultural happenings.
We designed the logo for the New Humanist, in part, as an homage to William Carlos Williams’ poem, “The Red Wheelbarrow.”
so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
To me, this short poem captures what’s best about New Humanism. So much depends upon a red wheelbarrow, but it automatically invokes the image of a person accomplishing great things, or at least overcoming hidden obstacles to accomplish an ordinary thing. The rain water complicates the task but also makes the work worth doing in the first place. The white chickens, the responsibility of the world and a day’s work, are looming off to the side. It’s a humanistic ambition and humility all wrapped into one.
We can move mountains and worlds, but only with a combination of human innovation and the diligent pursuit of our goals. We can tackle big challenges with deceptively simple solutions. Everything looks simple and flat but is actually messy and complicated and is largely of our own creation even if our control over things is anything but absolute. We are granted free will, but not always liberty. The matter of our redemption is within our hands but far from assured. The manner of our redemption is up to our choosing.
Hi there! My name is Alice, and I’m a (New) Humanist. If you’ve landed on my blog, I can only assume that you are interested in Humanism for personal, academic, or conversational reasons. This blog is devoted to helping others understand Humanism and its various forms and applications.
I discovered Humanism and New Humanism as an undergraduate student. My interest in it quickly blossomed from one of passive observation to consistent action and engagement. Regardless of your reason for researching Humanism, I’m glad you are here. I can only hope to provide the information, insight, and interpretations necessary to help others understand this wonderful, accessible, and applicable outlook.