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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-N025-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 20, 2024, from

Article Summary

The philosophical term ‘humanism’ refers to a series of interrelated concepts about the nature, defining characteristics, powers, education and values of human persons. In one sense humanism is a coherent and recognizable philosophical system that advances substantive ontological, epistemological, anthropological, educational, aesthetic, ethical and political claims. In another sense humanism is understood more as a method and a series of loosely connected questions about the nature and character of human persons.

From the fourteenth century to the end of the nineteenth century, humanism minimally meant: (1) an educational programme founded on the classical authors and concentrating on the study of grammar, rhetoric, history, poetry and moral philosophy; (2) a commitment to the perspective, interests and centrality of human persons; (3) a belief in reason and autonomy as foundational aspects of human existence; (4) a belief that reason, scepticism and the scientific method are the only appropriate instruments for discovering truth and structuring the human community; (5) a belief that the foundations for ethics and society are to be found in autonomy and moral equality. From the end of the nineteenth century, humanism has been defined, in addition to the above, by the way in which particular aspects of core humanist belief such as human uniqueness, scientific method, reason and autonomy have been utilized in such philosophical systems as existentialism, Marxism and pragmatism.

Citing this article:
Luik, John C.. Humanism, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-N025-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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