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  “humanism”: personism
gary e. davis
September 20, 2020
  personal flourishing

Being “human” is about being a person.

I’ve gone further into that: being “oneSelf.” But the basic reality is that we’re persons to ourselves and to each other, not especially giving attention to an abstract humanness, except relative to minimal entitlements (“human rights”)
or deserved compassion (“humanitarian” care), in light of those entitlements fairly appreciated by others.

Yet, culture has been highly regarded in “humanistic” terms; and “humanities” are appreciable as a vast part of educational excellence.

So, I suggest appreciating ‘human’ as a trope for what “human” is really about:
the integral psychalogical kind of life which thrives when enabled by concerted attention, which loves actively being, and which is the nature of Our evolving.

history of ‘humanism’

I want to briefly consider the legacy of ‘humanism’ (the term) relative to what it’s really about: personal flourishing.

Apparently, ‘humanism’ first turns up in English during the early 19th century as “1 a: devotion to the humanities” (M-W Unabridged), a notion that traces back
to the European Renaissances and their “discovery” of Greek and Latin literatures (def. 1 b, in short).

That’s amazing because the inspiration of humanism is higher educational, not suggesting some essential character of being Human—as if humanism is about being especially human. Or rather: being especially human is to be devoted to higher education.

That’s explicit in specialist Robert Grudin’s definition of humanism for Encyclo-pedia Britannica: “system of education and mode of inquiry…,” which Grudin traces back to Classical Latin “umanisti” or Renaissance teachers of Classical literature, teaching “humanitas” or development of virtue in terms of high literacy.

The essence of being human is to love educated individuation. The idea of human-ism is that devotion to cultural sophistication is integral to being well: “The pos-sessor of humanitas,” writes Grudin, “was of necessity a participant in active life,” exemplifying a “complementarity of action and contemplation…in fine balance.”

Alas: A conception of pragmatic virtue is idealized by Renaissance humanism— which was political “in the broadest sense of the word…”
It included not only realistic social criticism but also utopian hypoth-eses, not only painstaking reassessments of history but also bold reshapings of the future. In short, humanism called for the compre-hensive reform of culture, the transformation of…society…into a new order that would reflect and encourage the grandest human potent-ialities. Humanism had an evangelical dimension: it sought to project humanitas from the individual into the state at large.
Unsurprising, then, is that English transposed the appeal of devotion to human-ities to social life: “2 : devotion to human welfare : interest in or concern for humankind : humanity : humanitarianism”; then normed that: “3 : a doctrine,
set of attitudes, or way of life centered upon human interests or values.”

Already during the Renaissances onward, appeals of high individuation through cultural wealth were differentiated from mere socialization.

Especially appealing here is that taking the humanities to heart in all their wealth (an awesome bricolagy of flourishing cultural life) invites a protean sense of personhood or personness of plural selfidentity which is highly individuating.


next—> “humanity”



  Be fair. © 2020, gary e. davis