Here’s what ChatGPT thought I should know about Humanism when I recently asked:
Tell me about ‘humanism’.
Humanism is a philosophical and ethical worldview that places human beings at the center of value and importance, emphasizing their capacity for reason, empathy, and dignity. Humanism is often associated with secularism, skepticism, and a focus on human reason and science as a means to understand and improve the human condition. It is a broad and diverse movement with various historical, cultural, and ideological expressions.
Humanism traces its roots to ancient Greek philosophy, particularly the ideas of philosophers such as Protagoras, who famously said “Man is the measure of all things,” and Socrates, who emphasized critical thinking and questioning. During the Renaissance, humanism emerged as a distinct intellectual movement that emphasized the importance of human reason, individualism, and the pursuit of knowledge, in contrast to the dominant religious and feudal institutions of the time.
Modern humanism, which emerged during the Enlightenment in the 17th and 18th centuries, further developed these ideas and became associated with secularism and a rejection of traditional religious authority. Humanists advocate for the use of reason, evidence, and scientific inquiry to understand and solve human problems, rather than relying on supernatural beliefs or dogma. Humanists also emphasize human rights, equality, and social justice, and strive to promote well-being, happiness, and flourishing for all human beings, regardless of their beliefs, background, or identity.
Humanism encompasses a wide range of beliefs and practices, including secular humanism, which explicitly rejects religious or supernatural beliefs, and religious humanism, which incorporates humanist principles within a religious or spiritual framework. Humanist organizations and movements exist around the world, advocating for secularism, human rights, ethical living, and social progress. Humanism has influenced many fields, including philosophy, ethics, politics, education, and the arts, and continues to evolve as a dynamic and diverse philosophical outlook on the human experience.
Can you name some humanists from the early 21st century?
Certainly! There have been numerous individuals who have identified as humanists or have been associated with humanist ideas in the early 21st century. Some notable examples include:
Richard Dawkins - A prominent evolutionary biologist, author, and outspoken atheist who has written extensively on science, reason, and skepticism. Dawkins has been associated with secular humanism and has been an advocate for science education, critical thinking, and secularism.
Steven Pinker - A cognitive psychologist, author, and public intellectual who has written extensively on topics such as human nature, reason, and progress. Pinker has been associated with humanist ideas and has advocated for the use of science and reason to improve human well-being.
Rebecca Goldstein - A philosopher and novelist who has written on topics such as reason, ethics, and the intersection of science and humanism. Goldstein has been recognized for her contributions to humanist thought and has been an advocate for secularism, science, and humanist values.
Neil deGrasse Tyson - An astrophysicist, author, and science communicator who has been associated with humanist ideas and has promoted science literacy, critical thinking, and reason. Tyson has been an advocate for science education and has popularized scientific concepts through his media appearances and books.
Gloria Steinem - A feminist writer, activist, and social organizer who has been associated with humanist ideas and has advocated for gender equality, reproductive rights, and social justice. Steinem has been recognized for her contributions to humanist thought and has been an influential figure in the feminist movement.
Daniel Dennett - A philosopher, cognitive scientist, and author who has written extensively on consciousness, free will, and religion from a humanist and naturalistic perspective. Dennett has been associated with secular humanism and has been an advocate for science, reason, and critical thinking.
It’s worth noting that humanism is a diverse and evolving philosophy, and not all individuals associated with humanist ideas may identify as humanists or align with all aspects of humanist thought. The examples above represent a range of individuals who have contributed to humanist discourse and have advocated for humanist principles in various fields.