Full Text

Humanism


Subject Religion

Key-Topics humanism

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631181392.1995.x


Extract

[ xxxii ] Since the 16th century the word ‘humanist’ has been used to distinguish students of subjects like poetry, history and moral philosophy from students of other kinds (e.g. of T heology ). This remains one special use related to the word ‘humanities’. More commonly, however, the word ‘humanist’ is used to mean a person with a set of entirely non-religious beliefs and values. M arxism , U tilitarianism and other S ecular alternatives to religion can be regarded as forms of humanism. Marx himself accepted the label, although it is often repudiated by 20th-century Marxists because it is a label commonly claimed by non-Marxists. The tradition of ‘liberal’ or ‘ethical’ humanism associated with the Ethical Societies founded in the late 19th century emphasizes what, from a Marxist point of view, is called ‘bourgeois individualism’. There are no set doctrines attached to this form of humanism and, although humanists believe in the importance of political reforms, they are not committed to any particular political programme. They have been most active in defending the individual against imprisonment for political beliefs and in causes like abortion and euthanasia. Their position has been summed up as a belief in an ‘open mind’ and an ‘open society’ [5: 186] – a formulation due to the philosopher Karl Popper (1902–94) [20]. Liberal or ethical humanism can be distinguished in theory, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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