The Devil and Secular Humanism: The Children of the Enlightenment

The Devil and Secular Humanism: The Children of the Enlightenment

The Devil and Secular Humanism: The Children of the Enlightenment

The Devil and Secular Humanism: The Children of the Enlightenment

Synopsis

This volume clarifies the nature of humanism by exploring historical and current thought. The development of humanist ideas is viewed as an important part of the development of the philosophy of democracy and science. Often the object of attack and suspicion by fundamentalists, conservatives, and traditional religionists, humanism here receives clear and responsible treatment. Humanism is approached as a legitimate philosophic, ideological, and religious alternative, a party to the current struggle for a postmodern life philosophy. This text examines humanism in a more comprehensive way than most current literature.

Excerpt

Ordinarily, I would introduce myself. Since, however, my experience is woven into the chapters that follow, this would be redundant. But I do want to begin with thanks to my many colleagues and friends who, over the years, have enriched my life and work. There are hundreds of them. Since they play a role in the story that follows, and since naming some would risk ignoring others as significant, let me express a deeply felt gratitude to all of them. I trust that my criticisms of Humanism will not be overly offensive. They are offered in a spirit of reconstruction and from an abiding faith in Humanist values.

Repeatedly, I have found myself drawn back to the Enlightenment. I had not expected it to play so major a role in my analysis. Years ago when I did some research on Condorcet under the guidance of Horace Kallen and Saul Padover at the New School, I was fortunate to become familiar with Enlightenment ideas and thinkers. I drew upon that experience as I developed my current thinking. As I tried to understand the virulence of the attack on Humanism, I came to understand that Enlightenment values were really the enemy of Humanism's attackers. Most particularly, the Enlightenment trinities -- liberty, equality, and fraternity and life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness -- set the modern world on a career that has yet to run its course. It is understandable that these values should be felt as dangerous to those who are privileged, or to those for whom liberty and equality are sources of insecurity. The confrontation of our age -- and it will carry into the twenty-first century -- is between those who enjoy the modernism the Enlightenment set in motion and those who fear the possibilities that . . .

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