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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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Maria Mac
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Re: Trying to define Humanism

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

Latest post of the previous page:

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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Dave B
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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#22 Post by Dave B » May 18th, 2012, 11:04 am

I did actually say that, perhaps, it should be edited to be more explicit. For some reason I now cannot think of I withdrew that suggestion.

The piece certainly need some attention.

Forgotten my Wiki logon details.
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
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Cathy
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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#23 Post by Cathy » May 18th, 2012, 1:07 pm

Dave B wrote:
Celtic Christian stuff is pretty dire as well.
Sort of religious version of the great Mcgonagall?
Worse; far, far worse.

http://www.christianbook.com/border-lan ... /pd/510701

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#24 Post by Cathy » May 18th, 2012, 1:13 pm

animist wrote: Poetry is basically crap anyway, from a serious philosophical viewpoint. "No man is an island", "Truth is beauty" - total rubbish, however good they sound.
Why is the concept that 'no man is an island' total rubbish in relation to serious philosophy?

Man is a social animal; each of us needs other people in order to survive. The death of any single person diminishes humanity as a whole; where is the problem with that?

http://web.cs.dal.ca/~johnston/poetry/island.html

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

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Dave B
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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#25 Post by Dave B » May 18th, 2012, 1:35 pm

Cathy wrote:
animist wrote: Poetry is basically crap anyway, from a serious philosophical viewpoint. "No man is an island", "Truth is beauty" - total rubbish, however good they sound.
Why is the concept that 'no man is an island' total rubbish in relation to serious philosophy?

Man is a social animal; each of us needs other people in order to survive. The death of any single person diminishes humanity as a whole; where is the problem with that?

http://web.cs.dal.ca/~johnston/poetry/island.html
I'm one with Donne on that one! Though there are times when I feel the loss of certain "clods" is probably to humanity's benefit.
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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#26 Post by Cathy » May 18th, 2012, 2:13 pm

Dave B wrote:
Cathy wrote:
animist wrote: Poetry is basically crap anyway, from a serious philosophical viewpoint. "No man is an island", "Truth is beauty" - total rubbish, however good they sound.
Why is the concept that 'no man is an island' total rubbish in relation to serious philosophy?

Man is a social animal; each of us needs other people in order to survive. The death of any single person diminishes humanity as a whole; where is the problem with that?

http://web.cs.dal.ca/~johnston/poetry/island.html
I'm one with Donne on that one! Though there are times when I feel the loss of certain "clods" is probably to humanity's benefit.
I suspect you may be right. :)

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#27 Post by animist » May 18th, 2012, 4:01 pm

Cathy wrote:
Why is the concept that 'no man is an island' total rubbish in relation to serious philosophy?

Man is a social animal; each of us needs other people in order to survive. The death of any single person diminishes humanity as a whole; where is the problem with that?

http://web.cs.dal.ca/~johnston/poetry/island.html
actually, the other part of the Donne poem that you quote, to the effect that the death of any single person diminishes humanity as a whole, is a better example than what I said - I agree that we are to an extent social animals; but it is simply not true that humanity is diminished (except numerically) every time someone dies. There are too many of us on this planet, and, referring to the other thread on longevity, this superfluity of humanity seems likely not only to continue but to intensify. That is the problem about Donne's fine sentiment - it just is not true, however moving it may sound

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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#28 Post by animist » May 19th, 2012, 8:26 am

Cathy wrote:
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
Cathy, you have it exactly the wrong way round. The so-called wisdom of Solomon says nothing about wisdom, only how great it is. The claim that wisdom is about happiness may not be correct, and it is for you to dispute this, but it at least does say something. Humanism as defined is roughly a sort of utilitarianism mediated by justice. Fraid you are being blinded by empty words again if they are put together in a rhetorical way; deep on the surface, superficial underneath, in fact

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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#29 Post by Maria Mac » May 19th, 2012, 4:54 pm

Alan H wrote:
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.
That isn't the original context of the quotation; I think that's an oft-quoted collection of some of Ingersoll's pronouncements. In fact, the original context for those lines was a lecture Ingersoll gave entitled 'The gods' in which wrote:

Reason, Observation and Experience — the Holy Trinity of Science — have taught us that happiness is the only good; that the time to be happy is now, and the way to be happy is to make others so. This is enough for us. In this belief we are content to live and die. If by any possibility the existence of a power superior to, and independent of, nature shall be demonstrated, there will then be time enough to kneel. Until then, let us stand erect.
Cathy wrote: 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 don't see a contradiction in those lines. Ingersoll isn't saying that one mustn't be happy unless one makes others happy first. His argument, if I understand it correctly, is that personal happiness - the one 'good' that everyone strives for - can actually be achieved through making others happy. This is neither miserable, nor trite, nor is it a "philosophy based on emotional responses", but on "reason, observation and experience". It certainly accords with mine.
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 this comment counters Ingersoll's argument. In what sense is seeking to benefit other people worth it, if not in the happiness that will accrue to them and, as a consequence, to oneself?

ETA:
Cathy wrote: 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.
Good grief! Do you always react like this when you come across a piece of prose you don't understand at first sight? I don't particularly like those lines of Ingersoll but they are extremely popular, which would suggest that quite a few people do find meaning in them, as I do myself.

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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#30 Post by animist » May 19th, 2012, 6:21 pm

Cathy wrote: 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 you are being disingenuous and nit-picking, and these comments do not go well with your quotes from John Donne. I think the intention of Ingersoll was to encourage the natural empathy and altruism which most of us are capable of feeling when we reflect that we, each of us the centre of our particular universe, are not really so different from other people in that our needs are much the same.
Cathy wrote: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.
so what would you base your philosophy on?
Cathy wrote: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.
what Athena said
Cathy wrote: 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.
you have it wrong about Orwell's "1984" - the language used was not doublespeak, whatever that is, but "Newspeak", and it featured contradictions like "Ignorance is Strength", "War is Peace" etc

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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#31 Post by Cathy » May 19th, 2012, 10:16 pm

animist wrote: Cathy, you have it exactly the wrong way round. The so-called wisdom of Solomon says nothing about wisdom, only how great it is. The claim that wisdom is about happiness may not be correct, and it is for you to dispute this, but it at least does say something. Humanism as defined is roughly a sort of utilitarianism mediated by justice. Fraid you are being blinded by empty words again if they are put together in a rhetorical way; deep on the surface, superficial underneath, in fact
How kind. 'Blinded by empty words again.' :hilarity:

Fyi, I was not offering a definition. I was offering alternative poetry. If you prefer 'wisdom is the science of happiness' then good for you; it takes all sorts.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#32 Post by Cathy » May 19th, 2012, 10:22 pm

animist wrote:I think you are being disingenuous and nit-picking

you have it wrong about Orwell's "1984"
How kind. I must say, this place is very good for my soul.

I am going to start a collection of epithets and put them into my siggie.

:)

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

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#33 Post by Cathy » May 19th, 2012, 10:29 pm

Athena wrote: Do you always react like this when you come across a piece of prose you don't understand at first sight?
This has to be a contender for most buried presuppositions in one sentence.

Congratulations.

:)

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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#34 Post by Maria Mac » May 19th, 2012, 11:02 pm

Cathy wrote:
Athena wrote: Do you always react like this when you come across a piece of prose you don't understand at first sight?
This has to be a contender for most buried presuppositions in one sentence.

Congratulations.

:)
What "buried presuppositions" are you reading into that sentence?

You described the lines as "meaningless drivel" and said,
Take any line and ask what it actually means, and I think you would be hard pressed to find an answer.
This would seem to be a clear admission that you don't understand the lines. Are you denying this?

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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#35 Post by animist » May 20th, 2012, 8:01 am

Cathy wrote:
animist wrote: Cathy, you have it exactly the wrong way round. The so-called wisdom of Solomon says nothing about wisdom, only how great it is. The claim that wisdom is about happiness may not be correct, and it is for you to dispute this, but it at least does say something. Humanism as defined is roughly a sort of utilitarianism mediated by justice. Fraid you are being blinded by empty words again if they are put together in a rhetorical way; deep on the surface, superficial underneath, in fact
How kind. 'Blinded by empty words again.' :hilarity:

Fyi, I was not offering a definition. I was offering alternative poetry. If you prefer 'wisdom is the science of happiness' then good for you; it takes all sorts.
I do not prefer it as poetry at all, and this is the mistake you keep making; keep poetry in its place, as something to make one feel good (or whatever). As usual, you evade the issue, which is that your quotation says nothing at all about wisdom, whereas the humanist one does.

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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#36 Post by animist » May 20th, 2012, 8:04 am

Cathy wrote:
animist wrote:I think you are being disingenuous and nit-picking

you have it wrong about Orwell's "1984"
How kind. I must say, this place is very good for my soul.

I am going to start a collection of epithets and put them into my siggie.

:)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doublespeak
thanks for the link - how is your soul, BTW?

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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#37 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » May 20th, 2012, 10:29 am

Gosh. So this is what I've been missing. Hello, Cathy, and a belated welcome.

It seems that "Wisdom is the science of happiness" is not original to Robert Ingersoll. It comes from the seventeenth-century German philosopher, G. W. Leibniz. He seems to have said it several times, but one version is: "Wisdom is nothing other than the science of happiness, that is to say it teaches us to attain happiness.” Other translations give "felicity" rather than "happiness", for example: "[J]ustice is the charity of the wise, or the virtue by which the affection of man toward men is moderated by reason. Charity is the habit of loving everyone; and the one who is thus disposed to charity is called the good person. Again, wisdom is the science of felicity. Felicity is in him but so that we may live in the grace and love of God, whose power and perfection is the highest."

Can't say I'm keen on that, but perhaps it's more to Cathy's tastes. My guess is that Ingersoll, who was pretty well read, had come across these lines of Leibniz. I've also found a fuller version of Ingersoll's variant, from a different lecture, entitled "Oration on Humboldt":
Slowly, beautifully, like the coming of the dawn, came the grand truth that the Universe is governed by law; that disease fastens itself upon the good and upon the bad; that the tornado cannot be stopped by counting beads; that the rushing lava pauses not for bended knees; the lightning for clasped and uplifted hands; nor the cruel waves of the sea for prayer; that paying tithes causes, rather than prevents famine; that pleasure is not sin; that happiness is the only good; that demons and gods exist only in the imagination; that faith is a lullaby sung to put the soul to sleep; that devotion is a bribe that fear offers to supposed power; that offering rewards in another world for obedience in this, is simply buying a soul on credit; that knowledge consists in ascertaining the laws of nature, and that wisdom is the science of happiness. Slowly, grandly, beautifully, these truths are dawning upon mankind.
And finally, the fuller quotation from "Oration on the Gods" that Athena gave earlier is even more effective, I think, when the context is broadened even further. The paragraph preceding the one quoted is:
While utterly discarding all creeds, and denying the truth of all religions, there is neither in my heart nor on my lips a sneer for the hopeful, loving and tender souls who believe that from all this discord will result a perfect harmony; that every evil will in some mysterious way become a good, and that above and over all there is a being who, in some way, will reclaim and glorify every one of the children of men; but for the creeds of those who glibly prove that salvation is almost impossible; that damnation is almost certain; that the highway of the universe leads to hell; who fill life with fear, and death with horror; who curse the cradle and mock the tomb, it is impossible to entertain other than feelings of pity, contempt and scorn.

Reason, Observation, and Experience[---][/---]the Holy Trinity of Science[---][/---]have taught us that happiness is the only good; that the time to be happy is now, and the way to be happy is to make others so. That is enough for us ...
I think that packs quite a punch. No, it's not poetry, but I think both lectures must have been pretty impressive oratory.

Emma

Source: "The gods [microform] and other lectures"

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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#38 Post by lewist » May 20th, 2012, 10:45 am

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:...I think that packs quite a punch. No, it's not poetry, but I think both lectures must have been pretty impressive oratory. Emma
That's inspiring this Sunday morning, Emma. Thank you.
Carpe diem. Savour every moment.

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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#39 Post by Kismet » May 27th, 2012, 8:52 pm

Perhaps some headway in finding a definition of Humanism would be first to look at the motivations surrounding its being instantiated. That would turn, I propose, on the fact that it attempts to establish value on the foundation of the human, or a conception of humanity by which value may be derived. This I feel is a doomed project for the simple reason that humans eschew value just as much as they gainsay its abandonment. Based on one's circumstances one may act "humanly" or... one may also act "humanly".. just not "humanistically."

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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#40 Post by Dave B » May 27th, 2012, 9:03 pm

Ah, "Man is the measure of all things . . ." Protagoras, 5thC BCE.

I can agree with that, though I cannot sustain the argument that there are no absolutes in this, don't have the brains for that, just a gut feeling that seems to accord with my experience of life. That "Man" makes good rules every time is another argument . . .
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Re: Trying to define Humanism

#41 Post by Alan H » May 27th, 2012, 9:23 pm

Kismet wrote:Perhaps some headway in finding a definition of Humanism would be first to look at the motivations surrounding its being instantiated.
When/where do you think Humanism was instantiated?
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