On Humanism

By Richard Norman

© 2004 – Routledge

184 pages

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Paperback: 9780415305235
pub: 2004-06-15
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About the Book

humanism /'hju:meniz(e)m/ n. an outlook or system of thought concerned with human rather than divine or supernatural matters.

Albert Einstein, Isaac Asimov, E.M. Forster, Bertrand Russell, and Gloria Steinem all declared themselves humanists. What is humanism and why does it matter? Is there any doctrine every humanist must hold? If it rejects religion, what does it offer in its place? Have the twentieth century's crimes against humanity spelled the end for humanism?

On Humanism is a timely and powerfully argued philosophical defence of humanism. It is also an impassioned plea that we turn to ourselves, not religion, if we want to answer Socrates' age-old question: what is the best kind of life to lead? Although humanism has much in common with science, Richard Norman shows that it is far from a denial of the more mysterious, fragile side of being human. He deals with big questions such as the environment, Darwinism and 'creation science', euthanasia and abortion, and then argues that it is ultimately through the human capacity for art, literature and the imagination that humanism is a powerful alternative to religious belief.

Drawing on a varied range of examples from Aristotle to Primo Levi and the novels of Virginia Woolf and Graham Swift, On Humanism is a lucid and much needed reflection on this much talked about but little understood phenomenon.

Reviews

'This outline of the humanist philosophy of life by Richard Norman is first class. It covers the history, philosophy, morality and meaning of humanism with extreme clarity … a book of great lucidity, considerable thought and grace.' – New Humanist

'Balanced presentations like this are indeed welcome … This is a good book: a book to make one think. It is enjoyable as such, but it might also be included as a reading for a Philosophy of Religion course.' – Philosophical Investigations

About the Series

Thinking in Action

'Three of the first batch deserve high praise: On Immigration and Refugees, by the great logician (and campaigner for racial equality) Michael Dummett; On Belief, by that master of postmodern paradox, Slavoj Zizek; and On the Internet by Hubert L Dreyfus.' - Boyd Tonkin, The Independent

'
This is clearly an important series. I look forward to reading future volumes.' - Frank Kermode, author of Shakespeare's Language

'
Both rigorous and accessible.' - Humanist News

'
The series looks superb.' - Quentin Skinner

'An excellent and beautiful series.' - Ben Rogers, author of A.J.Ayer: A Life

"Routledge's Thinking in Action series is the theory junkie's answer to the eminently pocketable Penguin 60s series.' - Mute Magazine

'Routledge's new series, Thinking in Action, brings philosophers to our aid.' - The Evening Standard

'A welcome new series by Routledge.' - Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society

Thinking in Action
is a major series that takes philosophy to its public. Each book in the series is written by a major international philosopher or thinker, engages with an important contemporary topic, and is clearly and accessibly written. The series informs and sharpens debate on topics as wide ranging as the internet, religion, the problem of immigration and refugees and the way we think about science. Punchy, short, and stimulating, Thinking in Action is an indispensable series of books for anyone who wants to think seriously about major issues confronting us today.

Edited by Simon Critchley, New School University, USA and Richard Kearney, Boston College, USA

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PHI000000
PHILOSOPHY / General
PHI010000
PHILOSOPHY / Movements / Humanism