**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

The Essence Of Humanism
by [?]

[Footnote: Reprinted from the Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods, vol. ii. No. 5, March 2, 1905.]

Humanism is a ferment that has ‘come to stay.’ It is not a single hypothesis or theorem, and it dwells on no new facts. It is rather a slow shifting in the philosophic perspective, making things appear as from a new centre of interest or point of sight. Some writers are strongly conscious of the shifting, others half unconscious, even though their own vision may have undergone much change. The result is no small confusion in debate, the half-conscious humanists often taking part against the radical ones, as if they wished to count upon the other side. [Footnote: Professor Baldwin, for example. His address ‘Selective Thinking’ (Psychological Review, January, 1898, reprinted in his volume, ‘Development and Evolution’) seems to me an unusually well written pragmatic manifesto. Nevertheless in ‘The Limits of Pragmatism’ (ibid; January, 1904), he (much less clearly) joins in the attack.]

If humanism really be the name for such a shifting of perspective, it is obvious that the whole scene of the philosophic stage will change in some degree if humanism prevails. The emphasis of things, their foreground and background distribution, their sizes and values, will not keep just the same. [Footnote: The ethical changes, it seems to me, are beautifully made evident in Professor Dewey’s series of articles, which will never get the attention they deserve till they are printed in a book. I mean: ‘The Significance of Emotions,’ Psychological Review, vol. ii, 13; ‘The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology,’ ibid; iii, 357; ‘Psychology and Social Practice,’ ibid., vii, 105; ‘Interpretation of Savage Mind,’ ibid; ix, 2l7; ‘Green’s Theory of the Moral Motive,’ Philosophical Review, vol. i, 593; ‘Self-realization as the Moral Ideal,’ ibid; ii, 652; ‘The Psychology of Effort,’ ibid; vi, 43; ‘The Evolutionary Method as Applied to Morality,’ ibid; xi, 107,353; ‘Evolution and Ethics,’ Monist, vol. viii, 321; to mention only a few.] If such pervasive consequences be involved in humanism, it is clear that no pains which philosophers may take, first in defining it, and then in furthering, checking, or steering its progress, will be thrown away.

It suffers badly at present from incomplete definition. Its most systematic advocates, Schiller and Dewey, have published fragmentary programmes only; and its bearing on many vital philosophic problems has not been traced except by adversaries who, scenting heresies in advance, have showered blows on doctrines– subjectivism and scepticism, for example–that no good humanist finds it necessary to entertain. By their still greater reticences, the anti-humanists have, in turn, perplexed the humanists. Much of the controversy has involved the word ‘truth.’ It is always good in debate to know your adversary’s point of view authentically. But the critics of humanism never define exactly what the word ‘truth’ signifies when they use it themselves. The humanists have to guess at their view; and the result has doubtless been much beating of the air. Add to all this, great individual differences in both camps, and it becomes clear that nothing is so urgently needed, at the stage which things have reached at present, as a sharper definition by each side of its central point of view.

Whoever will contribute any touch of sharpness will help us to make sure of what’s what and who is who. Any one can contribute such a definition, and, without it, no one knows exactly where he stands. If I offer my own provisional definition of humanism now and here, others may improve it, some adversary may be led to define his own creed more sharply by the contrast, and a certain quickening of the crystallization of general opinion may result.

The essential service of humanism, as I conceive the situation, is to have seen that THO ONE PART OF OUR EXPERIENCE MAY LEAN UPON ANOTHER PART TO MAKE IT WHAT IT IS IN ANY ONE OF SEVERAL ASPECTS IN WHICH IT MAY BE CONSIDERED, EXPERIENCE AS A WHOLE IS SELF-CONTAINING AND LEANS ON NOTHING. Since this formula also expresses the main contention of transcendental idealism, it needs abundant explication to make it unambiguous. It seems, at first sight, to confine itself to denying theism and pantheism. But, in fact, it need not deny either; everything would depend on the exegesis; and if the formula ever became canonical, it would certainly develop both right-wing and left-wing interpreters. I myself read humanism theistically and pluralistically. If there be a God, he is no absolute all-experiencer, but simply the experiencer of widest actual conscious span. Read thus, humanism is for me a religion susceptible of reasoned defence, tho I am well aware how many minds there are to whom it can appeal religiously only when it has been monistically translated. Ethically the pluralistic form of it takes for me a stronger hold on reality than any other philosophy I know of–it being essentially a SOCIAL philosophy, a philosophy of ‘CO,’ in which conjunctions do the work. But my primary reason for advocating it is its matchless intellectual economy. It gets rid, not only of the standing ‘problems’ that monism engenders (‘problem of evil,’ ‘problem of freedom,’ and the like), but of other metaphysical mysteries and paradoxes as well.