What’s the Deal with New Humanism?


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.



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