The Humanistic Perspective. A Horizon of Vitality, Creativity, and Hope. Humanism: a perspective.
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The Humanistic Perspective A Horizon of Vitality, Creativity, and Hope
Humanism: a perspective “ Humanism can be .. defined as the view that puts the human person (humanus) at the center of things and highlights the individual’s creativity, rationality, and esthetic powers. This view is at least as old as the Greeks and Romans. Although the word “humanism” was not used in the classical age, Cicero referred to humanitas as the quality of mind and spirit that distinguishes human beings from mere animals. • Cicero thought that that quality is best nurtured and expressed through literature (including history, philosophy, and oratory). • Renaissance scholars, following Cicero’s lead, identified the study of classical literature (both Greek and Latin) with humanism, and they applied the term “humanist” exclusively to classical scholars.” • From A Brief History of Western Man, by T H Greer (pp. 264-6)
Humanism in Western Thought: A Historical Tour Tendencies in Western Thought: We find instances of the humanistic approach in ancient Greece and Classical Rome. Then it virtually disappears during to the Middle Ages, to be awakened during the Renaissance. This surge in humanistic and artistic activity eventually gives birth to the natural sciences and to the development of empirical, rational philosophies, leading us to the Enlightenment and the modern age. ------------------------------------ “To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child.” - Cicero
Ancients and Renaissance The humanistic perspective appears in a history of Western thought. • Ancient Greeks and Classical Rome An early expression of a secular and humanist perspective of reality. After an early focus on Speculative Metaphysics and Cosmology, some of the ancient thinkers brought matters “Down to earth” (human affairs). • Renaissance Period - Starting with the Italian Renaissance, with the Humanists’ recovery of classic works, we see a preference for a classical view of nature and humanity, contrary to that of M.A. “Back to the Classics & forward to a new vision of humanity”
Enlightenment and Darwin’s Revolution • Science & Enlightenment: Rise of Natural sciences (16th - 17th centuries) & the Enlightenment, (17th - 18th centuries) - The secular perspective gains the support of the natural sciences and rational philosophies. • Darwin & Modernism*: 19th Century Evolutionary Biology: Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection. Evolutionary sciences add impetus to overt secular views - Glance at 19th century skepticism, secularism, & rational inquiry. * Modernism as a movement to redefine traditional (religious) views in light modern sciences and critical, historical studies and critical philosophy.
Ancient Greeks, Hellenistic Philosophers, & Classical Romans Humanistic tendencies in Ancient Greek Thought Pre-Socratics: Democritus, Sophists, Protagoras Socrates: a focus on human issues, questions of moral issues Aristotle: – Ethics & Political thought geared to realization of human excellence Hellenistic (Greece):Epicurus, Stoicism, Skepticism Classical Roman: Stoicism Lucretious (Epicureanism) – a secular philosophy
Much of Pre-Socratic Philosophy offers Grand Cosmology! Metaphysical Speculation! For example: Thales: Water is the primary element, ultimate reality. Parmenides: all reality is the motionless, changeless One, Heraclitus, all reality is in flux; basic element is fire
Democritus brings the discussion closer to home • Democritus (460 – 370 BC) : argued for a purely materialistic explanation of nature, claiming that everything in the universe is composed of tiny particles - and that this is the true reality, not some spiritual world beyond our present life. [Later this philosophy is further developed by Epicurus (342-270 BC).]
Democritus (460 – 370 BC): Atomism (a naturalistic cosmology) and Human Ethics. “People are fools who hate life yet wish to live through fear of Hades” “People are fools who live without the enjoyment of life.” “He is fortunate who is happy with moderate; unfortunate who is unhappy with great possessions.”
…We can also detect early traces of ‘humanism’ in the fifth century BC when the Sophists and Socrates “called philosophy down from heaven to earth,” as Cicero later put it, by their focus on social, political, and moral questions. • “Sophists are great representatives of Greek enlightenment. They came after the bold speculators and metaphysicians and asked, what can we really know? Their thought is critical, not constructive, and their criticism does not stop before all kinds of prejudice and traditions.” • “Questioning of that sort is inseparable from honesty,...” • [ Walt Kaufmann, Philosophic Classics (71)]
Early philosophical tendency toward humanism Sophist, Protagoras (490 BC – 420 BC) - Among the early "humanists" we find Protagoras, a Greek philosopher and teacher who lived around the 5th century BC. Protagoras exhibited two important features which remain central to humanism even today. First, he appears to have made humanity the starting point for values and consideration when he created his now-famous statement "Man is the measure of all things." In other words, “it is not to the gods that we should look when establishing standards, but instead to ourselves.”
Secondly, Protagoras was skeptical with regards to traditional religious beliefs and traditional gods - so much so, in fact, that he was accused of impiety and exiled from Athens. • According to Diogenes Laertius, Protagoras claimed that: "As to gods, I have no means of knowing either that they exist or do not exist. For many are the obstacles that impede knowledge, both the obscurity of the question and the shortness of human life." • This is a radical sentiment even today, much less 2,500 years ago.
SOCRATES (470-399 BC) PLATO (428 BC – 347 BC) ARISTOTLE (384-322 BC) ------------------------------------------------ These men are not ‘humanists’ in their entire philosophy, but we can identify humanistic elements, primarily in Socrates and Aristotle. All reject supernatural myth as way of explaining things and instead rely on reason. Two (S&A) focus attention on ordinary human behavior in an effort to understand human values. Aristotle’s Ethics and Politics are clearly humanistic (but not his metaphysics).
Socrates (470-399 BC) His concern with reason, human values, virtue, human action and human wisdom makes him an early advocate of a ‘humanistic’ perspective on the world. Plato’s early dialogues depict the wise Socrates, an intellectual and moral hero of many later philosophers. He expounded typically humanist maxims such as "Know thyself" and "The good individual in the good society." While Socrates believed in a god and held hope for immortality, his search for moral good independently of religious doctrine makes his philosophy an example of an ancient humanism.
Plato (428 – 347 BC) Plato’s main contribution to humanism primarily comes by way of his portrayal of Socrates in the early dialogues. Also, by his approach to truth on the basis of reason rather than religious authority, Plato reflects a secularist outlook. But other aspects of his thought are contrary to the humanistic perspective, e.g., the metaphysics of his theory of forms, his view that physical phenomena (matter, body) are unreal, mere appearances, while an abstract realm of eternal forms is the ultimate reality.
Aristotle (384-322 BCE) The Nicomachean Ethics ..considered one the greatest works … in field of ethics. His discussion of ethics as the good for man, of moral virtue as the mean, of the conditions for the responsibility for an action,… of the great-souled man (Aristotles’ ideal), of the preference of loving over being loved, of friendship and self-love, and finally of human happiness…indicate an ethical philosophy focused on persons, not gods. (Walter Kaufmann, Philosophic Classics (page 359)
(Aristotle continued) (regarding politics): The very nature of a polis [its true form] is to provide all the conditions that are necessary for human welfare, for acting well, that is, for the proper functioning of the various human excellences… . . . The best polis is the one that best fosters all human excellences, all conduct in accord with moral excellence and intelligence.” – again, a focus on human good apart from any appeal to religion. (Aristotle, John Herman Randall, Jr., page 255)
Pericles and Greek Drama Greek humanism is found not merely in the work and writings of philosophers – but also was expressed in politics and art. For example, the Funeral Oration by Pericles in 431 BCE, as a tribute to those who died during the first year of Peloponnesian War, makes no mention of gods or souls or an afterlife. Instead, Pericles emphasizes that those who were killed, died for the sake of Athens, and that they would live on in the memories of its citizens.
and the work of Greek Tragic dramatists: Euripides (485-407 BC) The Trojan Women - he challenged the religious and moral values of his time. Sensitive to injustice, opposed slavery and showed the other side of war. Sophocles (496-406 BC) Oedipus The King - Depicted the consequences of exaggerated pride and self-confidence. He reflected the Greek ideal of nothing in excess
Epicurus(342 – 270 BC) Epicurus adopted the materialistic philosophy of Democritus. He developed his own system of ethics, arguing that the enjoyment of this current, material world is the highest ethical good towards which a person can strive. He held that there are no gods to please or who might interfere with our lives - what we have here and now is all that should concern us. "Where you are, death is not; where death is, you are not."
Hellenistic Period 323-200 BC Rise of Macedonia 340 BC Alexander the Great336-323 BC =========================================================== A set of philosophies which were pessimistic in character developed after the conquests of Alexander the great and the later deterioration of the empire. “Mankind lives in a tough world and must accommodate to harsh realities”
The Cynics - ascetic philosophy taught that people should get along with as little as possible Antisthenes (445–365 BC), Diogenes (412–323 BC) rejected conventional values – “Lived in a tub”. Skeptics thought that there is very little that human beings can know - Pyrrho, 360-270 BC (by writings of Empiricus) Stoicism: Zeno of Citium (Cypress, 336-264 BC), Cleanthes (330-240 BC) The teachings of the Stoics survived because they appealed to the Roman mind for the austere moral emphasis, the stress on self-control and superiority to pain.
Roman Classical period(250 BC -180 AD) Stoicism: The Roman Stoic philosophy stressed cultivating the greatness of the soul. Stoicism has religious aspect, with an ideal of the unity of all processes, and stresses that humans should live in harmony with what ever happens. Marcus Aurelius (121-180 AD) Epictetus (50 – 138 AD)
Marcus Aurelius (121-180 AD) was a Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 AD. He was the last of the Five Good Emperors, and is also considered one of the most important Stoic philosophers. His work Meditations, written in Greek while on campaign between 170 and 180, is still revered as a literary monument to a government of service and duty - “…. one should be concerned with two things only: acting justly and loving what is allotted” ========================================================= A Stoic sentiment: ‘….the sage is utterly immune to misfortune and that virtue is sufficient for happiness’ (Seneca, Epictetus)
Epictetus (50 – 138 AD) He spent a portion of his life as the slave of an important administrator in the court of Nero. An exponent of Stoic ethics notable for the consistency and power of his ethical thought – Key to his philosophy is seen in his account of what it is to be a human being; i.e., to be a rational mortal creature.– He rejected the way of thinking that says moral improvement is achievable only by divine assistance. “Have you not hands, fool? Has not god made them for you? You sit down now and pray your nose may not run? Wipe it, rather, and do not blame god!” “There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.”
[Roman Expression of Epicurus’ Philosophy ] Lucretious(95-55 BC): “On the Nature of Things” was a Roman poet and philosopher. His only known work is the epic philosophical poem De rerum natura about the beliefs of Epicureanism, and which is translated as On the Nature of Things. …when his poem began once again to be read (in the Renaissance) Lucretious was charged with atheism. But Lucretius was not in fact an atheist. He believed that the gods existed. But he also believed that, by virtue of being gods, they could not possibly be concerned with human beings or with anything that we do. However, as many elements of his poem show, he strongly rejected supernatural and theistic religion. Hence, it is easy to understand the hostility that defenders of religious doctrine felt toward him.
Some surprisingly modern ideas in the poem: Everything is made of invisible particles The universe has no creator or designer Nature ceaselessly experiments. There is no single moment of origin, no mythic scene of creation. All living beings, from plants and insects to the higher mammals and man, have evolved through a long, complex process of trial and error. Humans are not unique (part of material process..) Human society began not in a Golden Age of tranquility and plenty, but in a primitive battle for survival. The soul dies.There is no afterlife.
[Continue: Lucretious, “On the Nature of Things”] • Death is nothing to us. When you are dead—when the particles that have been linked together, to create and sustain you, have come apart—there will be neither pleasure nor pain, longing nor fear. • All organized religions are superstitious delusions. The delusions are based on deeply rooted longings, fears, and ignorance. • Religions are invariably cruel. Religions always promise hope and love, but their deep, underlying structure is cruelty. This is why they are drawn to fantasies of retribution and why they inevitably stir up anxiety among their adherents. The quintessential emblem of religion—and the clearest manifestation of the perversity that lies its core—is the sacrifice of a child by a parent. • There are no angels, demons, or ghosts. Immaterial spirits of any kind do not exist.
[Continue: Lucretious, “On the Nature of Things”] • The highest goal of human life is the enhancement of pleasure and the reduction of pain. Life should be organized to serve the pursuit of happiness. There is no ethical purpose higher than facilitating this pursuit for oneself and one’s fellow creatures • The greatest obstacle to pleasure is not pain; it is delusion. • Understanding the nature of things generates deep wonder. The realization that the universe consists of atoms and void and nothing else, that the world was not made for us by a providential creator, that we are not the center of the universe, that our emotional lives are no more distinct than our physical lives from those of all other creatures, that our souls are as material and as mortal as our bodies—all these things are not the cause for despair. On the contrary, grasping the way things really are is the crucial step toward the possibility of happiness
II. Renaissance (1400 – 1650) and ‘humanism’ -- Surge in Humanism -- • “Humanist” scholars & their recovery of ancient classics • Erasmus – Christian humanist - attempted to humanize the Church • Niccoli Machiavelli – a realistic view of state and governance – Empirical inquiry – • Gutenberg – the printing press – 1447 • Seeds of science: Leonardo Da Vinci, Copernicus, Galileo
The Renaissance, in brief • The Renaissance is the profound revolution in European thought and culture brought on by the economic, social, and political changes that started late in 14th and into the 15th Century. • “..Learning of the Middle Ages had been entirely in the hands of the clergy. Architecture, sculpture, and painting were generally commissioned by the Church and involved a religious purpose or religious subject matter. As the growth of private wealth in the fourteenth century produced generous private patrons, learning and art took on a secular character…” (The World in Literature, Warnock and Anderson (1959), page 528)
“it is no accident that the Renaissance arose in Italy . . The forces of social change were further advanced there; the development and spread of urban life, for example, had progressed further in Italy than in northern Europe.” (A Brief History of Western Man, by T H Greer) “… the “renaissance” of the ancients was not simply a recovery of ancient classics from oblivion, it was the rebirth of an understanding of ancients in their own terms, freed from the veil of medieval mysticism. Only the revival of secular culture made possible this new perspective, divorced from theology and symbolism.” (Warnock & Anderson, Op. Cit., 529)
Humanism of the Renaissance • Humanism awakens with the Renaissance, which denoted a move away from God to man as the center of interest. God still remained as creator and supreme authority --- most of the Renaissance humanists were far from being atheists --- but God’s activity was seen as less immediate, more as general control than as day-to-day interference, and this enabled a scientific outlook to arise which saw the universe as governed by general laws, even if these were laid down by God.
“To Renaissance humanists the classical view of man was the proper view. They, like the ancients, saw man as an aspiring egoist whose interests were centered in the here and now. [i.e., secular in nature] If the humanists seldom renounced religion, they tended to regard it as a formality or as an extension of man’s knowledge and power. “The good life, they thought, is the life that is pleasing to man’s senses, intellect, and esthetic faculties. Everything human is inherently good, though it needs to be cultivated and proportioned. (Greer, op.cit.,265)
The Italian ‘humanists’ made up the first substantial body of secular scholars in Europe • Francesco Petrarca (Petrarch)1304-1374 – 1st Renaissance humanist - writings of Cicero • Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) – writings of historian Tacitus • Lorenzo Valla (1407-1457) – textual analysis, exposed “The Donation of Constantinople” • Pico Della Mirandola (1463-1494) • – perfectibility of human nature • Poggio Bracciolini (1380-1459) – discoverer of Lucretious poem “On the Nature of things”
Christian Humanism, Politics, and Printing • Desiderius Erasmus (1466- 1536) The Praise of Folly (1509) • Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) The Prince, 1513 • Johannes Gutenberg (1395 – 1468) – the printing press – 1447
Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536 ) – a Dutch Renaissance humanist, Catholic priest, social critic, teacher and theologian – a Christian humanist “.. he devoted his life to research and writing, visiting the major centers of learning. … In the classics, Erasmus found models of behavior that could well be followed by genuine Christians. Socrates, Plato, and Cicero were worthy, he thought, of a place among the saints. But he read the ancient writings as a true believer.” (Greer, p. 273)
Erasmus (continued) “.. He tried to cleanse the Church and society of selfishness, cruelty, hypocrisy, pride, and ignorance -- and to replace them with tolerance, honesty, wisdom, service, and love. Repelled by violence and disorder, he hoped that appeals to reason would bring about peaceful change. But sometimes he doubted if reform could be realized peacefully. His work, The Praise of Folly (1509), is filled with ironic skepticism and satirical criticism of ecclesiastics among others. (274)
Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) major work: The Prince, 1513 – a realistic view of state and governance – Machiavelli set out to see what could learned through direct observation of the world around him. ..Machiavelli’s work was a watershed in the history of political thought. …his view of the state contrasted with that of Thomas Aquinas, but even greater was the contrast in the methodology of the two scholars. Aquinas, the scholastic philosopher, had sought truth mainly by reasoning from authority (deduction). Machiavelli sought it mainly by generalizing from collected data (induction). He drew his facts from recorded history and personal experience. Though he lacked the system, precision, and control that characterize modern social science, Machiavelli was clearly moving toward a new conception of knowledge and its verification. (Greer, p.272)
Johannes Gutenberg (1395 – 1468) – Printing – His use of the printing press – 1447 - Humanism was an international movement which, because of the freemasonry of scholars, found its way to the northern countries before other phases of the Renaissance. Humanism was greatly accelerated by the inven-tion of the printing press in the 15th century, which freed learning from dependence on scribes for the laborious reproduction of manuscripts, rapidly increased the circulation of book knowledge, and destroyed the Church’s monopoly of libraries. Gutenberg likely contributed as much as the great Renaissance scholars to the spread of a humanistic thought.
Seeds of Modern Science “… the age of the Renaissance saw the first major discoveries of modern science and ended with the articulation of the experimental method that was to expand man’s knowledge of his world immeasurably in the next period.” (Warnock and Anderson, The World in Literature, 1959) • Andreas Vesalius (1514 – 1564) - anatomy, study of the human body • Georgius Agricola (1494 – 1555) – German scholar/scientist, metallurgymineralogy
Leonardo Da Vinci(1452 – 1519) Besides his artistic work, Da Vinci had a great interest in science. He carried on a study of human anatomy and the mathematics of perspective, partially to improve his painting and sculpture, partially out of an enlightened interest in pure science. He also was a technological genius. He conceptualized a helicopter, a tank, concentrated solar power, a calculator, and the double hull, and he outlined a rudimentary theory of plate techtonics. He made important discoveries in anatomy, civil engineering, optics, and hydrodynamics, but did not publish his findings and they had no direct influence on later science.
NicolausCopernicus (1473-1543) Several astronomers of the Renaissance had questioned the geocentric theory, but it remained for Nicolaus Copernicus, a Pole, to publish a formal challenge in his Revolutions of the Heavenly Bodies (1543). He long delayed announcement of his heliocentric theory, fearing church persecution as a heretic, but even ecclesiastical condemnation could not prevent the spread of his theory and its acceptance … as the starting point of modern astronomy.
Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) The Italian Galileo strengthened the Copernican theory by perfecting the first useful telescope and proved by observing the spots on the sun’s surface that it turned on its axis. Galileo's theoretical and experimental work on the motions of bodies, along with the largely independent work of Kepler and Descartes, were precursors of the classical mechanics developed by Isaac Newton.
In 1633 the Inquisition found Galileo "vehemently suspect of heresy", namely of having held the opinions that the Sun lies motionless at the centre of the universe, that the Earth is not at its center and moves, and that one may hold and defend an opinion as probable after it has been declared contrary to Holy Scripture. He was required to adjure, curse, and detest those opinions.