Posted by: aboutalbion | December 3, 2012

The inclusivity of humanism

I have posted before about my own inclination towards a wide and generous approach to the definition of ‘humanism’.

And over the weekend, I came across a paragraph on another blog which encourages me to continue with train of thought.  Here it is …

Humanism is not a quantifiable essence, a political position, a life-stance, or a ‘rejection’ of supernaturalism.  It is an affirmation of the human in its towering and bewildering complexity.  It embraces the desirability of knowledge in the concrete sense: that we are knowing animals whose salvation seems to consist in knowing more about the world and shaping the world to our own ends.  But it does not conclude that science and reason are the sufficient ends and definition of humanity.  Rather, they are tools and ciphers that help us to describe the world and provide context for our existence.

For that reason, humanism eschews scientific hegemony over the human spirit when it disallows questions about the meaning and end of life, the question of being and becoming, and the role of art and religion as expressions of the human quest.

Bluntly put, science has no capacity to decide the question of God, while humanism may reasonably assert that the question has no bearing on how life is lived or what existence ‘means’.

Humanism can assert on its own terms, and as a part of its own distinctive history, what science has no special competence to assert.”

[Extracted (and re-paragraphed) from a post on “New Oxonian” (30 November 2012)]



  1. This is a very terse explanation for humanism, but I mostly agree with it. That said, there are various forms of humanism, so quantifying it universally becomes haphazard; however, one of its main principles is that of empiricism. And in that regard it rejects the supernatural — anything beyond nature cannot be observed.

    • Yes, five sense sensory experience may well reject the supernatural if the supernatural is understood to be ‘out there’, in front of me. But I think each (and every) human being is subject to occasional overwhelming emotional experiences which are so overpowering that the central nervous system experiences the equivalent of ‘screen lock’ – that is, the central nervous system is flooded by just and only one feeling to the exclusion of all others for an interval of time (short or long). For me, this is the phenomenon of a ‘religious experience’, and leads to my mantra that ‘to be human is to be religious and to be religious is to be human’. Human beings can, I think, be forgiven for using the word supernatural to explain this emotional phenomena. Others may prefer to use a word like non-natural. I hope an inclusive humanism can accommodate both usages.

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