Humanity Vs. Humanism

Natural law (Latin: ius naturalelex naturalis) is a system of law based on a close observation of human nature, and based on values intrinsic to human nature that can be deduced and applied independent of positive law (the enacted laws of a state or society). According to natural law theory, all people have inherent rights, conferred not by act of legislation but by “God, nature, or reason.” Natural law theory can also refer to “theories of ethics, theories of politics, theories of civil law, and theories of religious morality.”

In the Western tradition it was anticipated by the Pre-Socratics, for example in their search for principles that governed the cosmos and human beings. The concept of natural law was documented in ancient Greek philosophy, including Aristotle, and was referred to in ancient Roman philosophy by Cicero. References to it are also to be found in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, and were later expounded upon in the Middle Ages by Christian philosophers such as Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas. The School of Salamanca made notable contributions during the Renaissance.

Sistine Chapel ceiling, painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512, image by Calvin Craig.

Although the central ideas of natural law had been part of Christian thought since the Roman Empire, the foundation for natural law as a consistent system was laid by Aquinas, as he synthesised ideas from his predecessors and condensed them into his “Lex Naturalis” (lit. “Natural law”).

St. Thomas argues that because human beings have reason, and because reason is a spark of the divine, all human lives are sacred and of infinite value compared to any created object, meaning all humans are fundamentally equal and bestowed with an intrinsic basic set of rights that no human can remove.

But before we go further, I think it’s important we make the distinction between two intricate concepts;

Humanity vs Humanism

humanity (n.) late 14c., “kindness, graciousness, politeness; consideration for others,” from Old French humanitéumanité “human nature; humankind, life on earth; pity,” from Latin humanitatem (nominative humanitas) “human nature; the human race, mankind;” also “humane conduct, philanthropy, kindness; good breeding, refinement,” from humanus (see human (adj.)). Sense of “human nature, human form, state or quality of being human” is c. 1400; that of “human race, humans collectively” first recorded mid-15c.

humanism (n.)along with humanist used in a variety of philosophical and theological senses 16c.-18c., especially ones concerned with the (mere) humanity of Christ, or imitating Latin humanitas “education befitting a cultivated man.” See human (adj.) + -ism. In the sense “the doctrine or science of human nature,” humanics (1864) has been used. From 1832 in reference to “intelligent study and appreciation of the classics,” especially in reference to the Renaissance. By 1847 in reference to “system or mode of thought in which human interests predominate” (originally often in the writings of its enemies). As a pragmatic system of thought, defined 1907 by co-founder F.C.S. Schiller as “The perception that the philosophical problem concerns human beings striving to comprehend a world of human experience by the resources of human minds.”

What makes us “human”?

The word “humanism” derives from the Latin concept humanitas, which was first used by Cicero to describe values related to liberal education, which was similar to 21st century arts, philosophy, history, and literature. The word reappeared during the Italian Renaissance as umanista and reaching the English language in the 16th century. The word “humanist” was used to describe a group of students of classical literature and those advocating for education based on it.

Humanity is a virtue linked with basic ethics of altruism derived from the human condition. It also symbolises human love and compassion towards each other. Humanity differs from mere justice in that there is a level of altruism towards individuals included in humanity more so than the fairness found in justice. That is, humanity, and the acts of love, altruism, and social intelligence are typically individual strengths while fairness is generally expanded to all. Humanity can be classed as one of six virtues that are consistent across all cultures. The concept goes back to the development of “humane” or “humanist” philosophy during the Renaissance (with predecessors in 13th-century scholasticism stressing a concept of basic human dignity inspired by Aristotelianism) and the concept of humanitarianism in the early modern period, and resulted in modern notions such as “human rights”.

Confucius said that humanity, or “Ren”(仁), is a “love of people” stating “if you want to make a stand, help others make a stand.” That is, the Confucian theory of humanity exemplifies the golden rule. It is so central to Confucian thought that it appears 58 times in the Analects. Similar to the Christian process of seeking God, Confucius teaches seeking Ren to a point of seemingly divine mastery until you are equal to, or better than, your teacher. The Confucian concept of Ren encompasses both love and altruism.

Gabriella Clare Marino

In Greek philosophy, Plato and Aristotle both wrote extensively on the subject of virtues, though neither ever wrote on humanity as a virtue, despite highly valuing love and kindness, two of the strengths of humanity. Plato and Aristotle considered “courage, justice, temperance” and “generosity, wit, friendliness, truthfulness, magnificence, and greatness of soul” to be the sole virtues, respectively.

As in Abrahamic religion, humanity is one of Thomas Aquinas’ “Seven Heavenly Virtues.” Beyond that, humanity was so important in some positivist Christian cultures that it was to be capitalized like God. Kindness, altruism and love are all mentioned in the bible. Proverbs 19:22 “states the desire of a man is his kindness.” On the topic of altruism, emphasis is placed on helping strangers (Hebrews 13:1) and the biblical adage “it is better to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

Pre-Socratic Greek philosophers were the first Western philosophers to attempt to explain the world in terms of human reason and natural law without relying on myth, tradition, or religion. Thales of Miletus led this demythologization in the 6th century BCE along with the rest of the Milesian school. Thales’ pupils Anaximander and Anaximenes said nature is available to be studied separately from the supernatural realm. Another pre-Socratic philosopher Protagoras, who lived in Athens c. 440 BCE, put forward some fundamental humanist ideas. Only some fragments of his work survive. He made one of the first agnostic statements; according to one fragment: “About the gods I am able to know neither that they exist nor that they do not exist nor of what kind they are in form: for many things prevent me for knowing this, its obscurity and the brevity of man’s life”. (80B4 DK) According to scholar Mauro Bonazzi, this was an attempt by Protagoras to distance religion from politics, and a key concept in his radical humanism. Protagoras also said: “man is the measure of all things”. Philosopher Friedrich Schiller defended Protagoras against charges of relativism, noting he used the word “man” to refer to humankind rather than separate individuals. Contemporary humanism, although, does not endorse moral relativism.

Socrates spoke of the need to “know thyself”; his thought changed the focus of the contemporary philosophy from nature to humans and their well-being. Socrates, a theist who was executed for atheism, investigated the nature of morality by reasoning. Aristotle (384–322 BCE) taught rationalism and a system of ethics based on human nature that also parallels humanist thought. In the 3rd century BCE, Epicurus formed an influential human-centered philosophy that focused on achieving eudaimonia. Epicureans continued Democritus’ atomist theory – a materialistic theory that suggests the fundamental unit of the universe was an indivisible atom. Human happiness, living well, friendship, and the avoidance of excesses were the key ingredients of Epicurean philosophy that flourished in and beyond the post-Hellenic world.

Omkar Jadhav

The Age of Enlightenment

During the Age of Enlightenment, humanistic ideas resurfaced, this time further from religion and classical literature. Science, reason, and intellectualism advanced, and the mind replaced God as the means with which to understand the world. Divinity was no longer dictating human morals, and humanistic values such tolerance and opposition to slavery started to take shape. Life-changing technological discoveries allowed ordinary people to face religion with a new morality and greater confidence about humankind and its abilities. New philosophical, social, and political ideas appeared. Some thinkers rejected theism outright and various currents were formed; atheism, deism, and hostility to organized religion. Notably during the Enlightenment, Baruch Spinoza redefined God as signifying the totality of nature; Spinoza was accused of atheism but remained silent on the matter. Naturalism was also advanced by prominent Encyclopédistes. Baron d’Holbach wrote the polemic System of Nature, claiming religion is built on fear and helped tyrants through the ages. Diderot and Helvetius also combined their materialism with sharp, political critique.

Also during the Enlightenment, the abstract conception of humankind started forming—a critical juncture for the construction of humanist philosophy. Previous appeals to “Men” now shifted towards “Man”; this is evident in political documents like The Social Contract (1762) of Rousseau, in which he says “Man is born free, but is everywhere in chains”. Likewise, Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man uses the singular form of the word, revealing a universal conception of Man. In parallel, Baconian empiricism – though not humanism per se – paved the way for Thomas Hobbes’s materialism.

Scholar J. Brent Crosson notes that, while it is a wide held belief that the birth of humanism was solely a European affair, the fact was that intellectual thought from other continents such as Africa and Asia contributed significantly as well. He also notes that during enlightenment, the universal Man did not encompass all humans but was shaped by gender and race. He thinks that the shift from man to human is a process that started during enlightenment and is still ongoing. Also, Crosson noted that enlightenment, especially in Britain during scientific revolution, produce not only the notion of universal man and an optimism that reason will prevail over religious superstitions, but also gave birth to pseudoscientific ideas such as race that shaped European history. He gives the paradigm of Africa; Africa was a contribution to knowledge until renaissance, but was disregarded afterwards.

Egor Myznik

Humanism & Morality

Humanism has a secular approach to morality. Humanism rejects supernatural sources of morality, because of their inconsistencies and because it rejects extra-natural phenomena in general. The popular belief religion is linked to morality is highlighted by Dostoevsky’s axiom in The Brothers Karamazov; “if God does not exist, then everything is permitted” and its suggestion chaos will ensue if religious belief disappears. According to humanists, if people act only out of fear, blind adherence to a dogma, or expectation of a reward, it is a selfish motivation rather than morality.

The humanist attitude towards morality has changed through the centuries. During the modern era, starting in the 18th century, humanists were oriented towards an objective and universalist stance on ethics. Utilitarian philosophy, which aims to increase human happiness and decrease human suffering, and Kantian ethics—acting only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law—shaped the humanist moral narrative until the early 20th century. Because the concepts of free will and reason are not based on scientific naturalism, their influence on humanists remained in the early 20th century but was reduced by social progressiveness and egalitarianism.

Contemporary humanism considers morality a natural phenomenon that evolves with and around society. Morality is seen as a tool aiming for the flourishing of human rather than a set of doctrines. John R. Shook wrote;

Humanism is that ethical philosophy which regards humans and their moralities naturalistically; understands the proper functioning of morality and culture for their contributions to human flourishing in this life; regards every human being as equally worthy of moral treatment and protection; respects how people are highly social and need communal encouragement and support; promotes the capacity of intelligence for evaluating and modifying morality and wider cultural ways; privileges individual dignity and autonomy over the necessary but subordinate goals of cultural or political groups; and encourages ethical ideals promoting human intelligence and flourishing that all cultures can reasonably support.

Larm Rmah

Along with the social changes nations faced in the late 20th century, humanist ethics evolved to be a constant voice supporting secularism, civil rights, personal autonomy, religious toleration, multiculturalism, and cosmopolitanism.

Personal humanist interpretations of the meaning of life vary from the pursuit of happiness without recklessness and excesses to participation in human history and connection with loved ones, living animals, and plants. Some answers are not far from those of religious discourse if the appeal to divinity is overlooked. Humanist professor Peter Derks identifies the features that contribute to the meaning of life; having a purpose in life that is morally worthy, positively evaluating oneself, having an understanding of one’s environment, being seen and understood by others, the ability to connect emotionally with others, and a desire to have a meaning in life. Humanist professor Anthony B. Pinn places the meaning of life in the quest of what he calls “complex subjectivity”.

Pinn, who is advocating for a non-theistic, humanistic religion inspired by African cultures, says seeking the never-reaching meaning of life contributes to well-being.

Markus Spiske

Humanity & Virtues

Love has many different definitions ranging from a set of purely biological and chemical processes to a religious concept. As a character strength, love is a mutual feeling between two people characterized by attachment, comfort, and generally positive feelings. It can be broken down into 3 categories: love between a child and their parents, love for your friends, and romantic love. Having love as a strength is not about the capacity to love, as such, it is about being involved in a loving relationship.

Love, in the psychological sense, is most often studied in terms of attachment to others. A degree of controversy surrounds defining and researching love in this way, as it takes away the “mystery of love.” Because love is mysterious, to an extent, it is most often studied in terms of attachment theory, because it can be studied in the way across ages. In infants, attachment is studied through the Strange Situation Test. Attachment to an individual, usually the mother, is determined by how distressed the infant becomes when the mother is taken out of the experimental setting. There are several models of adult attachment including the Adult Attachment InterviewsAdult Attachment Prototypes and more. Generally adult attachment models focus on the mental representation of the visible signs of attachment seen in infants.

Evidence in support of the benefits of love are seen in the negative affect states that result from lacking love. Orphaned children have been targeted in studies about negative attributes resulting from lack of attachment. A study by Smyke and others found that children raised in an environment that didn’t allow children to become attached to their preferred caregivers experienced attachment disorders. Additionally, individuals who develop securely attached have a lower likelihood of depression, high-self esteem, and less likelihood of divorce.

Matt Collamer

Kindness encompasses most related terms that evoke feelings of altruism, generosity, helpfulness and a general desire to help people. That is, a disposition for helping humanity. The following statements are from the Values in Action (VIA) psychological assessment, aimed at determining people’s strengths in kindness: others are just as important to me, giving is more important than receiving, I care for the ungrateful as well as the grateful. Kindness, as a part of humanity, is deeply rooted in philosophical and religious traditions, each having words for the altruistic love aspect of kindness, such as agape in Greek, chesed in Hebrew, and the Latin word philantropia, the root of the word “philanthropy.” Kindness is so valued as a strength beyond religious and theoretical concepts that it is advocated through school community service programs and national programs like AmeriCorps. Additionally, while gender differences in kindness are statistically significant, they are minimal, and the methods of testing used may not always have construct validity.

The strength of kindness is most often measured on a case by case measure and not usually as a trait. The Self-Report Altruism Scale and the Altruism Facet Scale for Agreeableness Measure of the Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R) psychological assessment are often used to ask people how often they engage in altruistic behaviors and gauge their concern for others. The former, however, only asks about 20 specific altruistic acts, leaving out a wide range of altruistic behaviors.

There are numerous benefits from kindness and altruism on both sides of the action. For some, the motivation to be kind comes from a place of egoistic motivation, and thus the benefit to them is the positive affect state they receive from the action. Another study found that the process of being kind develops pro-social skills in children, which positively effects their attachments and relationships. Additionally, volunteerism in the elderly has shown to lead to decreased risk of early death, and mental health benefits. One thing to note is the difference between altruism as a trait (Trait Theory) and as an act.

Ben White

Social intelligence is the most modern of the three strengths associated with humanity. The Character Strengths and Virtues (CSV) psychological assessment defines social intelligence as the ability to understand “relationships with other people, including the social relationships involved in intimacy and trust, persuasion, group membership, and political power.”

Intelligence has many psychological definitions from Weschler’s intelligence to the various theories of multiple intelligence. The CSV divides intelligence into hot and cold, hot intelligence being those intelligences related to active emotional processes. (338) Individuals with high social intelligence are very self-aware, and effective organizers and leaders. Additionally, it combines elements of the other two hot intelligences, personal and emotional intelligence. Personal intelligence being the internal counterpart to social intelligence and emotional intelligence being the capacity to understand emotions. The CSV highlights three social intelligence measurement scales: Factor Based Social Intelligence Tasks, Psychological Mindedness Assessment Procedure, and Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional intelligence Test.

Social Intelligence research is limited, however, there is much literature on the characteristics associated with social intelligence. Zaccaro et al. found social intelligence and perceptiveness to be integral to effective leadership; that is, good leaders are “social experts.”

Emotional intelligence, too, plays a role in leadership. Another study found that emotional intelligence enables leaders to better understand their followers, thereby enhancing their ability to influence them.


Orbital Planet Revolution

As the humankind is evolving and beginning a new cycle through ages of Renaissance and Enlightenment, we should individually ask ourselves what it means, to us, to be hue-man. And stand by our natural values.

The Tao, which others may call Natural Law or Traditional Morality or the First Principles of Practical Reason or the First Platitudes, is not one among a series of possible systems of value. It is the sole source of all value judgments. If it is rejected, all value is rejected. If any value is retained, it is retained. The effort to refute it and raise a new system of value in its place is self-contradictory. There has never been, and never will be, a radically new judgment of value in the history of the world. What purport to be new systems or…ideologies…all consist of fragments from the Tao itself, arbitrarily wrenched from their context in the whole and then swollen to madness in their isolation, yet still owing to the Tao and to it alone such validity as they posses.

– C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man
Laurence BL
Chief Editor

3L – ART MAG is a citizen’s initiative fighting for liberty of the press, humanity and the (he)artist involved in its ascension.

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