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Passions in Poetry

Lazy Humanism?

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Brad
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0 posted 04-10-2004 08:42 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Stephan says this somewhere and it's stayed with me. I'm not completely sure what he means (though I'm going to guess), but I bet I'm not alone in that. Humanism is a term that's been used widely and vaguely for a number of different things.

Here's three:

1. Man is the measure of all things. A doctrine that argues that we are the metaphorical center of the universe, all things only matter in relation to us. I didn't put this in quotes because I think it means multiple things to multiple people. I've heard it called arrogant, I don't see it that way, but let's use it that way here. Note to self: pretty sure Protagoras said this, but I'll have to check.

2. At the end of Foucault's The Order of Things he argues that man should be seen as footprints in the sand and should disappear just as readily as footprints do when the tide comes in. This makes Foucault out to be an anti-humanist (In the sense of being anti-human), but what I think he means is that the idea of man, the idea of a single entity that we all must conform to, must disappear. This is at least  consistent with his idea of heterotopias (as opposed to one utopia).

3. Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die. This is, I think, what Stephan means. The idea is that because there really is only us, we can do anything we want which means being uncaring, selfish, animal-like in our actions for, in the end, it doesn't matter.

As I've tried to describe these three views, the problem is that none of it really captures anything a humanist or myself actually means by humanism. 1 is silly -- what does the sombrero galaxy have to with us? 2 is the difference between footprints and walking, and 3 confuses individualism with humanism.

I don't have much time but I'll end here with a quote from Robert Nozick referring to humanity after the Holocaust:

quote:
It now would not be a special tragedy if humankind ended, if the human species were destroyed in atomic warfare or the earth passed through some cloud that made it impossible for the species to continue reproducing itself . . . its loss would now be no special loss above and beyond the losses to the individuals involved. Humanity has lost its claim to continue.


--The Examined Life pp.237-238.

I want to suggest that, today, that there can be no such thing as a lazy humanist. Maybe a hundred years ago, it was possible, but today after the Holocaust and the subsequent realization that it was not an anomaly, a humanist can no longer rely on a complacent view of Human Nature. A humanist, by definition, must deal with these things for it to mean anything at all.

More later.


jbouder
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1 posted 04-11-2004 05:00 PM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder

Brad:

At the core of Humanism, as I understand it, is optimism as to man and his potential.  That is why, I think, so many Humanists tend to be drawn toward Socialistic and Communistic political views.  That is also why I think history has repeatedly demonstrated that such a view falls short.

One of Camus' essays that stuck with me through the years from "Resistance, Rebellion and Death" noted corrected that, while Christianity is pessimistic as to man (that is, man in incapable of saving himself from God's punishment for sin), it is optimistic as to man's "destiny."  Camus went on to say that he was pessimistic as to man's destiny, but an optimist as to man in the "here-and-now."

The "laziness" that, quite frankly, easily befalls both Humanists and Christians is like tunnel vision focused on man's glorious destiny to the neglect of those suffering now.  Facing challenges now is quite a bit of work and, if memory serves me correctly, that was the gist of Camus' essay as well.

What you describe at the end of your post doesn't really sound like Humanism as I understand it.  But then again, I can't say I've read much of anything by the new Humanists.

Jim
Brad
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2 posted 04-11-2004 07:52 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

quote:
In Alsace, during the extremely hard winter of 1817,  when famine threatens, a peasant woman takes advantge of her husband's being absent at work to kill their little daughter, cuts off her leg and cooks it in the soup.

In Paris in 1827, Henriette Cornier, a servant, goes to the neighbor of her employers and insists that the neighbor leave her daughter with her for a time.  The neighbor hesitates, agrees, then, when she returns for the child, Henriette Cornier has just killed her and has cut off her head which she has thrown out the window.

In Vienna, Catherine Ziegler kills her illegitimate child.  On the stand, she explains that her act was the result of an irresistible force. She is acquitted on grounds of insanity. She is released from prision. But she declares that it would better if where kept there, for she will do it again.  Ten months later, she gives birth to a child which she kills immediately, and she declares at the trial that she became pregnant for the sole purpose of killing her child.


--Michel Foucault, "The Dangerous Individual," Foucault: Politics, Philosophy, Culture, p. 129.

Jim, I don't think Humanism necessarily has to be optimistic. You're right, I think, that many Humanists, myself included, do gravitate to the socialistic direction, but it need not be that way. Socialists (some anyway) believe that once the problem of scarcity is solved, we can do what we want (become more truly human as many might say). Christians (some anyway) believe that we become most truly human in times of crisis.

There is evidence to back up both accounts, and yet the problem with both socialism and Christian accounts is that they both apply a kind of cookie cutter approach to human nature. What we want is already known.

I don't think we know what we want.

Humanism isn't or shouldn't be based on a cost/benefit analysis of what it is to be human.  That presupposes what we are and one can selectively find examples to back whatever decision you've already made.

I think it is simply the recognition that we can ask what we want in a way that doesn't presuppose an answer. And, as far as I can tell, we are the only species that can do that.

For now.  

  
Local Rebel
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3 posted 04-12-2004 12:01 AM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

I suppose that I agree with the premise of the thread Brad... but, please clarify for me which humanists have been lazy in particular?

Haven't humanist individuals and groups always been quite active in things like human rights, environmental issues, relieving suffering,  and building common morality even prior to the holocaust?

If you look at the who's who -- it's pretty hard to imagine the progress that's been made in Western culture without humanists.

We can even go all the way back to Kung Fu Tse in the Eastern culture-- he merely developed an ethical system -- not a religion.  
hush
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4 posted 04-12-2004 12:27 AM       View Profile for hush   Email hush   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for hush

This is entirely over my head... I thought being humanist had more to do with simply believing that all people deserve things like basic necessities and a fair shot in the world... that everyone is worth that much, and that human worth doesn't have to be tied tto which god you believe in or what color your skin is.

Am I mistaken? How much am I missing out on here?
jbouder
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5 posted 04-12-2004 12:11 PM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder

quote:
Socialists (some anyway) believe that once the problem of scarcity is solved, we can do what we want (become more truly human as many might say). Christians (some anyway) believe that we become most truly human in times of crisis.


I don't see how the two are in conflict.  Either can be in operation depending on the circumstance, but both are descriptive of human behavior.  Economics tend to be prioritized during times of relative peace - charitable contributions generally drop during recessions and increase during economic upturns.  Tragedy tends to reorder our priorities, but as time passes such priorities generally revert.

I think a danger associated with Humanistic economic theory is the tendency to diminish the individual in favor of the whole.  An example of this might be the practice of local education agencies selecting not to provide children with disabilities with legally-entitled appropriate education because they've determined the economic benefit of non-compliance with regulation outweighs the risk of getting caught.

Of course, these are gross over-simplifications - abundance didn't stop Tyco's executives from (allegedly) embezzling millions or discourage Martha Stewart from participating in questionable trading.  At the same time, there are those who exploit tragedy for personal gain.

Jim
Stephanos
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6 posted 04-14-2004 06:01 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

quote:
I thought being humanist had more to do with simply believing that all people deserve things like basic necessities and a fair shot in the world... that everyone is worth that much, and that human worth doesn't have to be tied tto which god you believe in or what color your skin is.
Am I mistaken? How much am I missing out on here?



Hush,  that sounds much more like "humanitarianism" than humanism.

Of course humanists can be "humanitarian" ... but then those of any creed or world-view can be, or not be.


Stephen.
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7 posted 04-15-2004 12:58 AM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

Monohumanism -- The belief in one Human

Polyhumanism -- The belief in many humans

Panhumanism -- The belief that Human is everything and everything is Human.

Ahumanism -- Disbelief or denial in the existance of a Human or humans.


It all depends on your world view

  
Brad
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8 posted 04-15-2004 06:37 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

http://www.secularhumanism.org/intro/declaration.html

quote:
Paradoxically, some of the critics of secular humanism maintain that it is a dangerous philosophy. Some assert that it is "morally corrupting" because it is committed to individual freedom, others that it condones "injustice" because it defends democratic due process. We who support democratic secular humanism deny such charges, which are based upon misunderstanding and misinterpretation, and we seek to outline a set of principles that most of us share.

Secular humanism is not a dogma or a creed. There are wide differences of opinion among secular humanists on many issues. Nevertheless, there is a loose consensus with respect to several propositions. We are apprehensive that modern civilization is threatened by forces antithetical to reason, democracy, and freedom. Many religious believers will no doubt share with us a belief in many secular humanist and democratic values, and we welcome their joining with us in the defense of these ideals.


For many reasons, I don't buy everything this document says, but compare it to this statement:
http://www.secular-humanism.com/

  
Secular Humanism - Excluding God from Schools & Society

quote:
Secular Humanism is an attempt to function as a civilized society with the exclusion of God and His moral principles. During the last several decades, Humanists have been very successful in propagating their beliefs. Their primary approach is to target the youth through the public school system. Humanist Charles F. Potter writes, "Education is thus a most powerful ally of humanism, and every American school is a school of humanism. What can a theistic Sunday school's meeting for an hour once a week and teaching only a fraction of the children do to stem the tide of the five-day program of humanistic teaching?" (Charles F. Potter, "Humanism: A New Religion," 1930)

John J. Dunphy, in his award winning essay, The Humanist (1983), illustrates this strategic focus, "The battle for humankind's future must be waged and won in the public school classroom by teachers who correctly perceive their role as the proselytizers of a new faith: A religion of humanity -- utilizing a classroom instead of a pulpit to carry humanist values into wherever they teach. The classroom must and will become an arena of conflict between the old and the new -- the rotting corpse of Christianity, together with its adjacent evils and misery, and the new faith of humanism."

Is this what's happening? John Dewey, remembered for his efforts in establishing America's current educational systems, was one of the chief signers of the 1933 Humanist Manifesto. It seems the Humanists have been interested in America's education system for nearly a century. They have been absolutely successful in teaching children that God is imaginary and contrary to "science."


The former reaches out in order to form a coalition, the latter speaks of a conspiracy.

I don't know, isn't it at least a little disingenuous to name a site secularhumanism.com and then attack it?
jbouder
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9 posted 04-15-2004 07:49 PM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder

Actually, I think it's pretty funny.

You're right that the second is propaganda, but if you're going to be honest, you'd have to say the first is too.

I'm a little rusty on this but, if I recall correctly, Humanism approaches morality in a similar way to Mill's Utilitarianism.  I'm willing to give credit where credit is due when it comes to the commitment of Humanists to help secure the due process rights of the most vulnerable of people.  But before the Humanists, those who believed that certain "unalienable rights [were] endowed by the Creator" worked hard to achieve very similar goals.

Practically speaking, I think Humanism works better as an economic theory than a moral one.  It's emphasis on the public good has been important since the industrial revolution in protecting the health, safety, and well-being of people in general.  I become concerned, however, when the Spocks of Humanism start moralizing that the "needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."  The needs of the many ought never be an excuse to deprive the few of the most fundamental of rights.

More later.

Jim
Brad
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10 posted 04-15-2004 08:27 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

But isn't secular humanism a minority point of view?

If so, and this is just a thought mind you, shouldn't Stephan's original comment be more along the lines of a lazy Christianity?

I overheard a conversation a few months back:

"So, what are you doing on Sunday?"

"Going to church."

"Going to church? Look, I believe in God too, but you've got to get your priorities straight."

Now, as far as I could tell, they (two males) asking a woman to do some kind of outdoor activity.

It strikes me that that "I believe in God too," is the key point in that statement. Peer pressure and all that.

  
jbouder
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11 posted 04-15-2004 09:19 PM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder

Well, I suppose Jesuit Catholicism could be a minority view too but it represents 1/9th of the highest court in the United States.

I think the idea that a way of thinking must be representative of the majority in order to be influential is somewhat naive.  This is why it is important to look at both the strengths and limitations of particular viewpoints and what effect they have on basic human rights if carried too far or if not considered long enough.  I'm not saying that specialization is a bad thing, but we shouldn't be afraid of being eclectic.

Jim

jbouder
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12 posted 04-15-2004 09:47 PM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder

P.S.  Brad, humans tend toward laziness by nature, whether they be Humanist or Christian.  "Speak much, do little" is something you may have experienced if you've served on many boards - secular or sacred.  But doesn't intellectual laziness include the disregard for facts that are inconsistent with our already-decided conclusions?

Jim
Brad
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13 posted 04-15-2004 11:04 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

I don't have any problems with people being eclectic.

jbouder
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14 posted 04-16-2004 01:06 PM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder

Sure makes for more interesting dinner conversation ... ever try talking with a wonk?
serenity blaze
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15 posted 04-16-2004 03:02 PM       View Profile for serenity blaze   Email serenity blaze   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for serenity blaze

Um...raising my hand, yet again.

What's a wonk?

Ron
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16 posted 04-16-2004 03:21 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=wonk&r=67

serenity blaze
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17 posted 04-16-2004 03:25 PM       View Profile for serenity blaze   Email serenity blaze   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for serenity blaze

OH.



I am apparently in no danger of being categorized as such.

heh heh?

Sheesh again.



(and thanks again, Ron, I just looked at it and thought, "izzat a woid?")

and Noooooooo...I couldn't ask what you Utilitarianism is--I hadta ask about the WONK.

grin.
jbouder
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18 posted 04-16-2004 03:52 PM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder

Utilitarianism is an ethical system which argues all energy ought to be focused toward making the greatest number of people happy.  I think it is more or less the polar opposite of extreme individualism.

Jim
serenity blaze
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19 posted 04-16-2004 03:57 PM       View Profile for serenity blaze   Email serenity blaze   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for serenity blaze

Thanks Jim.

I just love this place.

I dunno about "lazy humanism"--but this forum is certainly helpful to the lazy human.

Thanks guys.

Stephanos
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20 posted 04-16-2004 07:43 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Brad,

I've been watching this thread, and noticed that it's supposed to spring from something I said.  However, you never quoted me.  I'd appreciate if you would, if for no other reason than I might recall the context, meaning, etc.  of what I said.

It also might help me understand what you're trying to communicate.


Stephen.
Brad
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21 posted 04-17-2004 05:11 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

I'm not completely sure where you said it, I've tried looking at those gargantuan posts on gay marriage, I did think it was near the Schaeffer quote because I thought the gist was the same as the quote.

My point here is simply that there's nothing lazy about humanism. What I think you're referring to is a lazy Christianity -- in that most people identify with Christianity in America rather than with humanism. If humanism has more influence today, it's not because people identify with humanism, it's because humanists try hard to show that a world can work without supernatural entities.

Jim asks us to look at Stalin, Mao, and Hitler. I ask you to look at the same people. Can any one of them legitimately be called a humanist?

berengar
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22 posted 04-17-2004 05:21 PM       View Profile for berengar   Email berengar   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for berengar

It's interesting that both sides - the (evangelical?) Christians and (secular) humanists portray themselves as beleagured minorities in the same place, it's just the mental landscape that differs.  Witness the right-to-lifers and abstinence people trying to get their message across in what they believe is an educatiional and cultural environment essentially held in thrall by the godless, the hedonists, the materialists and the liberals.  Yet on any number of atheistic/secular/humanist web forums I've come across the emotional climate is pretty much the same - they are the brave and persecuted vanguard etc etc.
Maybe laziness is not identified with any creed or perspective as such, but rather the failure to practice empathy?
Brad
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23 posted 04-17-2004 05:39 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Empathy with what?

A few years back, a poll was taken and 49% of the population in America stated that it would not vote for an avowedly aetheist candidate.

Aristotelian 'balance' is an easy game to play. Simply declare that your stance is maligned or declare that your stance is more in extreme of what it actually is and you'll get what you want.

Opeth
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24 posted 04-17-2004 06:04 PM       View Profile for Opeth   Email Opeth   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Opeth

"the (evangelical?) Christians and (secular) humanists portray themselves as beleagured minorities in the same place, it's just the mental landscape that differs."

~ I never heard secular people complain, in numbers, like in a rally, about being a minority, yet I have heard countless of christians mistakenly claim to be "not of this world" and a minority - not in this country, [to no one in particular] "bub."

"I have gone away. The bed is cold and empty. Trees bend their boughs toward the earth. And nighttime birds float as black faces.

 
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