The Humanist Frame

The Humanist Frame

The Humanist Frame

The Humanist Frame

Excerpt

This book is an attempt to present Humanism as a comprehensive system of ideas. It is no sudden venture, but the natural outcome of a long process of gestation and development, begun more than half a century ago in an attempt to reconcile or integrate various aspects of my life -- my biological training, my twin loves of nature and poetry, my wrestlings with the problems of morality and belief, and continued in the effort to extend the concept of evolution over the widest possible range of phenomena.

The idea of evolution had kindled my imagination while I was still at school. As an undergraduate I became a firm Darwinian. As a young teacher, the first public lecture I gave was on the evolutionary relativism of the senses, the second on the critical point or discontinuity between biological and human evolution. In the twenties I became concerned with the idea of progress, as an evolutionary movement in a certain definable direction; and with religion as a general human function, not necessarily involving a belief in God or in revelation.

In the thirties, thanks to visits to East Africa, the USSR and the TVA, I became interested in human ecology and overall planning, and worked with PEP (Political and Economic Planning) on various projects, including the place of the arts in national life, and (later) the world population problem. During the war I joined a private group whose discussion of post-war aims had some influence on current thinking; and as Romanes Lecturer at Oxford, attempted to explore the relations of ethics and evolution.

After the war, my unexpected appointment as Secretary-General of the Preparatory Commission for Unesco brought me into collision with the divergent ideologies at work in the international world. Believing that the Organization would work more efficiently on the basis of an agreed set of general ideas and principles, I tried to outline such a basis in a pamphlet entitied 'A Philosophy for Unesco': but it speedily became apparent that no single system of ideas could be acceptable to any United Nations Agency in the world's state of ideological chaos.

My subsequent period as Director-General made me realize what a vast quantity of knowledge was lying about unused, for lack of any such 'philosophy', and indeed of any agreed system of concepts and ideas to order the disorderly facts and put them to useful work; and after . . .

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