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Trying to define Humanism

Any topics that are primarily about humanism or other non-religious life stances fit in here.
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oberg
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Trying to define Humanism

#1 Post by oberg » May 17th, 2012, 5:55 am

As I am very new to this forum and to the discussion of Humanism in general, I would like to ask a question about the definition of (H)humanism. If there is such a thing..

wikipedia has this to say...

"Humanism (when without "secular" as a qualifying adjective, written with a capital 'H') is a comprehensive life stance or world view which embraces human reason unaided by divine revelation, metaphysical naturalism, altruistic morality and distributive justice, and consciously rejects supernatural claims, theistic faith and religiosity, pseudoscience, and perceived superstition."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanism

With the background knowledge that humanism has many and varied flavours, I was wondering if this should be considered accurate.
"It does not matter who you are...or how many of you there are, and...not how many papers your side has published, if your prediction is wrong then your hypothesis is wrong. Period." Richard Feynman, Nobel Laureate in Physics

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jaywhat
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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#2 Post by jaywhat » May 17th, 2012, 5:57 am

Not sure about humanism lacking 'altruistic morality' !

lewist
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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#3 Post by lewist » May 17th, 2012, 8:22 am

jaywhat wrote:Not sure about humanism lacking 'altruistic morality' !
I would say that is definitely included. The Wikipedia definition quoted is a bit negative. One of the reasons I don't describe myself as atheist is that I can't define myself by what I am not. Humanism is about how I seek to live as well as about some things I reject. My life view is positive.

First, I see no evidence that there is any life after this one. Therefore I live this life as my only life, with no hereafter. I find Robert Ingersoll's line very helpful:
Happiness is the only good. The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here. The way to be happy is to make others so.
It's not easy to follow Ingersoll's idea but it's hard to fault as a basis for our philosophy.

Humanism is - in my view - a quiet philosophy about how to live. For me, it's not evangelical. I have religious friends who find their faith a huge help with difficult life circumstances, and if that crutch helps them through, so be it. It's not for me to knock their support out from under them, provided their faith doesn't impinge on my views and my rejection of religion, provided it doesn't try to control what I do. I seek to be a positive example of the Humanist philosophy; I don't flaunt it, nor do I keep it a secret.

I know that others on the Forum will have different views, but there will be broad aspects we have in common. I'm going to stop now and let others say their piece, adding or disagreeing as we do.
Carpe diem. Savour every moment.

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Dave B
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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#4 Post by Dave B » May 17th, 2012, 8:55 am

I don't see how Humanism, or humanism, can work without "altruistic morality", certainly not in my understanding of it.
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
Me, 2015

oberg
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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#5 Post by oberg » May 17th, 2012, 9:17 am

I suppose the question too, is that if that definition is there on wikipedia, is it reflective or are there organisational powers that be that have a hand in that definition.
"It does not matter who you are...or how many of you there are, and...not how many papers your side has published, if your prediction is wrong then your hypothesis is wrong. Period." Richard Feynman, Nobel Laureate in Physics

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Alan H
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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#6 Post by Alan H » May 17th, 2012, 10:39 am

jaywhat wrote:Not sure about humanism lacking 'altruistic morality' !
I don't think it's saying that.

"Humanism (when without "secular" as a qualifying adjective, written with a capital 'H') is a comprehensive life stance or world view which embraces human reason (unaided by divine revelation), metaphysical naturalism, altruistic morality and distributive justice, and consciously rejects supernatural claims, theistic faith and religiosity, pseudoscience, and perceived superstition."

I've added brackets - does that make sense now? I suspect that is what is meant.
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

Cathy
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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#7 Post by Cathy » May 17th, 2012, 11:25 am

oberg wrote:As I am very new to this forum and to the discussion of Humanism in general, I would like to ask a question about the definition of (H)humanism. If there is such a thing..

wikipedia has this to say...

"Humanism (when without "secular" as a qualifying adjective, written with a capital 'H') is a comprehensive life stance or world view which embraces human reason unaided by divine revelation, metaphysical naturalism, altruistic morality and distributive justice, and consciously rejects supernatural claims, theistic faith and religiosity, pseudoscience, and perceived superstition."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanism

With the background knowledge that humanism has many and varied flavours, I was wondering if this should be considered accurate.
I think the only thing I would say is that if I wanted to formulate a definition for Christianity, the very last place on earth I would go would be wikipedia.

Surely there must be a humanist organisation which has had a go at this?

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Cathy
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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#8 Post by Cathy » May 17th, 2012, 11:39 am

lewist wrote: I find Robert Ingersoll's line very helpful:
Happiness is the only good. The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here. The way to be happy is to make others so.
It's not easy to follow Ingersoll's idea but it's hard to fault as a basis for our philosophy.
The comments by Ingersoll are very attractive, certainly, but they are also contradictory. If the way to be happy is to make others so, then it necessarily follows that one puts other people's happiness before one's own. In which case it is not the case that happiness is the only good, but rather that altruism is the only good.

I think it would be a pretty miserable philosophy which only sought to make others happy as long as the agent was himself also happy. Not to mention verging on trite; I am always suspicious of any philosophy based on emotional responses. I would say that sometimes we have to accept that doing the right thing involves being unhappy, at least for some of the time, but that in seeking to benefit other people it is more than worth it. And that is regardless of what beliefs we may or may not have; it is the same for everyone.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

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Alan C.
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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#9 Post by Alan C. » May 17th, 2012, 11:42 am

Cathy
Surely there must be a humanist organisation which has had a go at this?
See here.
Abstinence Makes the Church Grow Fondlers.

Cathy
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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#10 Post by Cathy » May 17th, 2012, 11:44 am

Alan C. wrote:
Cathy
Surely there must be a humanist organisation which has had a go at this?
See here.
Most excellent.

That certainly seems to be a better place to start from. :)

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

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Alan H
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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#11 Post by Alan H » May 17th, 2012, 2:17 pm

Cathy wrote:
lewist wrote: I find Robert Ingersoll's line very helpful:
Happiness is the only good. The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here. The way to be happy is to make others so.
It's not easy to follow Ingersoll's idea but it's hard to fault as a basis for our philosophy.
The comments by Ingersoll are very attractive, certainly, but they are also contradictory. If the way to be happy is to make others so, then it necessarily follows that one puts other people's happiness before one's own. In which case it is not the case that happiness is the only good, but rather that altruism is the only good.

I think it would be a pretty miserable philosophy which only sought to make others happy as long as the agent was himself also happy. Not to mention verging on trite; I am always suspicious of any philosophy based on emotional responses. I would say that sometimes we have to accept that doing the right thing involves being unhappy, at least for some of the time, but that in seeking to benefit other people it is more than worth it. And that is regardless of what beliefs we may or may not have; it is the same for everyone.
I don't think he is saying that the only way to be happy is to make others happy so I don't think your conclusion follows.

The fuller quotation is:
Justice is the only worship.
Love is the only priest.
Ignorance is the only slavery.
Happiness is the only good.
The time to be happy is now,
The place to be happy is here,
The way to be happy is to make others so.
Wisdom is the science of happiness.
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Dave B
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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#12 Post by Dave B » May 17th, 2012, 3:13 pm

Alan H wrote:
jaywhat wrote:Not sure about humanism lacking 'altruistic morality' !
I don't think it's saying that.

"Humanism (when without "secular" as a qualifying adjective, written with a capital 'H') is a comprehensive life stance or world view which embraces human reason (unaided by divine revelation), metaphysical naturalism, altruistic morality and distributive justice, and consciously rejects supernatural claims, theistic faith and religiosity, pseudoscience, and perceived superstition."

I've added brackets - does that make sense now? I suspect that is what is meant.
I agree that it could be a bad piece of writing - good example of the ability of punctuation to make something say just what you want, pro or anti.
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
Me, 2015

Cathy
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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#13 Post by Cathy » May 17th, 2012, 4:39 pm

Alan H wrote:I don't think he is saying that the only way to be happy is to make others happy so I don't think your conclusion follows.

The fuller quotation is:
Justice is the only worship.
Love is the only priest.
Ignorance is the only slavery.
Happiness is the only good.
The time to be happy is now,
The place to be happy is here,
The way to be happy is to make others so.
Wisdom is the science of happiness.
My conclusion certainly follows what was quoted before. As for what you are now quoting, I can see why it was cut short; most sensible, imo. The best place for this kind of writing is inside a Christmas cracker or fortune cookie; totally meaningless drivel, reminiscent of the doublespeak of 1984. Take any line and ask what it actually means, and I think you would be hard pressed to find an answer.

'Wisdom is the science of happiness'?

No, it isn't. Here is a rather more poetic alternative:

There is in (wisdom) a spirit that is intelligent, holy, unique, manifold, subtle, mobile, clear, unpolluted, distinct, invulnerable, loving the good, keen, irresistible, beneficent, humane, steadfast, sure, free from anxiety, all-powerful, overseeing all. ... She is more beautiful than the sun, and excels every constellation of the stars. Compared with the light she is found to be superior, for it is succeeded by the night, but against wisdom evil does not prevail.

Wisdom of Solomon 7:22b, 29

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

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Alan H
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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#14 Post by Alan H » May 17th, 2012, 4:48 pm

Cathy wrote:Take any line and ask what it actually means, and I think you would be hard pressed to find an answer.
Much like any similar extract from the bible, perhaps?
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

Cathy
Posts: 192
Joined: May 1st, 2012, 9:18 am

Re: Trying to define Humanism

#15 Post by Cathy » May 17th, 2012, 4:50 pm

Alan H wrote:
Cathy wrote:Take any line and ask what it actually means, and I think you would be hard pressed to find an answer.
Much like any similar extract from the bible, perhaps?
You tell me. :)

I am not saying humanism is alone in having terrible verse, of course. Celtic Christian stuff is pretty dire as well.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

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Dave B
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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#16 Post by Dave B » May 17th, 2012, 5:30 pm

Celtic Christian stuff is pretty dire as well.
Sort of religious version of the great Mcgonagall?
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
Me, 2015

oberg
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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#17 Post by oberg » May 18th, 2012, 5:50 am

Alan C. wrote:
Cathy
Surely there must be a humanist organisation which has had a go at this?
See here.
Thanks Alan, that is most enlightening.
"It does not matter who you are...or how many of you there are, and...not how many papers your side has published, if your prediction is wrong then your hypothesis is wrong. Period." Richard Feynman, Nobel Laureate in Physics

lewist
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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#18 Post by lewist » May 18th, 2012, 7:55 am

Dave B wrote:
Celtic Christian stuff is pretty dire as well.
Sort of religious version of the great Mcgonagall?
Enough of that, Dave! I'll not have you slagging off Dundee's great poet and tragedian. :angry:
Carpe diem. Savour every moment.

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animist
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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#19 Post by animist » May 18th, 2012, 9:33 am

lewist wrote:
Dave B wrote:
Celtic Christian stuff is pretty dire as well.
Sort of religious version of the great Mcgonagall?
Enough of that, Dave! I'll not have you slagging off Dundee's great poet and tragedian. :angry:
quite! If ever there was a poem "designed" to remind one of the ridiculousness of life and human aspiration, it is his magnum opus about the Tay Bridge disaster. Poetry is basically crap anyway, from a serious philosophical viewpoint. "No man is an island", "Truth is beauty" - total rubbish, however good they sound. "God is love" - preternaturally sublime - and crap!

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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#20 Post by Maria Mac » May 18th, 2012, 10:58 am

I recall Andrew Copson, Director of the BHA, telling a meeting he didn't like the wiki definition but when it was suggested he change it, he said he didn't know how to. I don't want to spend my time doing a major rewrite but I think a quick edit is justified. I think the words "unaided by divine revelation" could simply be removed to enhance clarity.

"Humanism (when without "secular" as a qualifying adjective, written with a capital 'H') is a comprehensive life stance or world view which embraces human reason, metaphysical naturalism, altruistic morality and distributive justice, and consciously rejects supernatural claims, theistic faith and religiosity, pseudoscience, and perceived superstition."

Any thoughts?

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