Humanism (from Latin “homo” – a person, “humanus” – human, human, “humanitas” – human nature):
- the movement of educated people, formed in the Renaissance, predominantly in Italy, united by “interest in antiquity”, studying and commenting on the monuments of ancient classical literature (primarily Latin);
- a special type of philosophical worldview, in the center of which is a man with his earthly deeds and accomplishments, with his inherent abilities and inclinations, with characteristic norms of behavior and relations.
In the broadest sense of the word, humanism is a benevolent attitude towards a person, asserting his freedom and dignity, regardless of any social functions and roles he performs, which sees him as an independent source of creative forces. In modern scientific literature, humanism is understood to mean, on the one hand, the totality of anthropological and human sciences (in this sense K.Levi-Strauss speaks of “three kinds of humanism”, consistently including the study of Greco-Roman antiquity, the civilizations of the East and pre-literate cultures primitive peoples); on the other hand, the phenomenon of spiritual life, which goes far beyond the scope of the West European Renaissance alone (for example, for N. Konrad, the Renaissance humanism is only one of the historical forms umanizma that existed in ancient times, the Middle Ages, in the East).
But no matter how widely this concept is interpreted in modern historical science, it owes its origin primarily to the cultural practice of the Renaissance, which began – as a result of turning to antiquity – a completely new (secular) culture, in many respects opposed to the culture of the Middle Ages, with its domination of religion and the Church in spiritual and worldly matters. It is in this era that culture gradually begins to separate from the cult (a process called secularization of reason and culture), acquiring an independent significance and value.
If some Western historians (for example, P. Christel) see in the humanism of the Renaissance only a technical term, denoting a certain pedagogical and cultural program, a set of disciplines of the humanitarian profile (grammar, rhetoric, history, poetics, ethics). Polemicizing with this, give this phenomenon, first of all, a philosophical meaning, seeing in it a fundamentally new in comparison with the medieval understanding of the nature and purpose of man. According to Burkhardt, “it was in Renaissance Italy that man and man were first fully cognized in their deepest essence. Already this alone is enough to imbue with eternal gratitude to the Renaissance. The logical concept of the human (Menschheit) has existed for a long time, but only the Renaissance fully understood the essence of this concept. ”
Unlike ancient cosmocentrism and medieval theocentrism, the new European humanism advocates an anthropocentric picture of the world in which man occupies an independent (“median”) place between God and nature, heaven and earth. In a series of diverse knowledge of the external world and God, humanism considered the knowledge of the nature of man itself as the highest and the only accessible kind of knowledge for people, affirming the priority of humanitarian knowledge in front of the natural sciences, on the one hand, and medieval scholasticism, on the other. According to Petrarch, one of the first Italian humanists, “why know the properties of animals, birds, fish and snakes if you do not know or do not want to know the nature of man, for which we are born, where do we come from and where are we going” (quoted by Garen E Problems of the Italian Renaissance).
Man is seen as a free being capable of creating himself, attaching to himself that nature, which he desires as a subject of cognition and activity, resting in his actions on his mind and creative potencies. This was the main discovery of humanism, which was developed in the rationalistic thought of the New Times, which affirmed the decisive importance of the human mind both in the knowledge of the world and in the creation of socio-political forms of human community. This tradition has had the greatest influence on the development of social and philosophical thought – the humanistic ideal of the individual as a free individual, capable of self-creation and creativity, gave birth to a dream of a society in which this ability will be fully realized in life, which led to the emergence of the first communist utopias (T. Mor, T. Campanella).
The theme of the crisis of humanism and, accordingly, the criticism of the basic attitudes of humanistic consciousness becomes prevalent in the 19-20 centuries at the postclassical stage of the development of philosophical thought, caused by doubt in the ability of man in the conditions of modern society to maintain the position of a free and autonomous subject. Already F. Nietzsche declared war on everything “too human”, seeing in modern times the end of Christian culture and the coming into the world of the “Superman” with his “will to power” (however, the question of Nietzsche’s attitude to humanism is still controversial). In the 20th century, for romantic and conservative critics of Western civilization, humanism is one of the reasons for a sharp decline in the spiritual level, a break with the moral, religious and aristocratic values of medieval society. The antidote to the mass character of culture H. Ortega y Gasset considered “the dehumanization of art”, the destruction of external likelihood in an artistic work. The main flaw of humanism is the separation of man from God, in the affirmation of “humaneness” (as opposed to “God-manhood”), which ultimately leads to the self-destruction of man and the drying out of his creative forces, the emergence of nihilism (Nietzsche) and socialism (Marx).
In other variants of social and philosophical thought, humanism retains the value of the fundamental cultural value from the standpoint of which the criticism of capitalism as a society that excludes true freedom and autonomy of the person, subordinating it to the power of rationally organized forces in the face of financial and industrial corporations, political bureaucracy and electronic media . This critique is characteristic of many left-wing trends and various representatives of neo-Marxism, in particular, the Frankfurt School (M.Horkheimer, T. Adorno, G. Marcuse), neo-Freudianism (E. Fromm), etc.
The tragic fate of humanism in the modern world is the central theme of existentialism. According to M. Heidegger, the inconsistency of the new European humanism lies in its absolutization of human subjectivity as a condition for the cognition and conquest of the external world through science and technology, in the forgetfulness of the “truth of being” by man, which only makes its existence worth living. The man’s task is not to impose his will on the existent, but only to listen to the voice of “being”, as it sounds in the language, joining the sacredness of the real world. This generally antihumanist position of Heidegger is opposed by the point of view of Jean-Paul Sartre, who treats existentialism as humanism, meaning by this the freedom of everyone in solving his destiny: existential humanism, unlike the classical one, appeals to man not as a generic being (transcendental or absolute subject ), but as a concrete individual in the uniqueness and uniqueness of his existence.
The line of “theoretical anti-humanism,” excluding from the analysis of society and culture an attitude toward human subjectivity, dissolving a person in various kinds of structures, is represented in modern philosophy by structuralism and poststructuralism. Although the founder of structural anthropology K.Levi-Strauss denied his involvement in anti-humanism, it was in the bosom of this direction that the unconditional primacy of impersonal and objective structures over individual and collective actions of man was proclaimed. This attitude led in poststructuralism to the thesis of “the death of a man” in various “discursive practices” (M. Foucault), to the technique of postmodern “deconstruction” (J. Derrida), which excludes any values and ideological landmarks and goals.
The search for new forms of humanism, consistent with the spirit of the times, is conducted in modern Western philosophy, as in the so-called neo-paganism of the “new right”, as well as in Christian – Catholic and Protestant – thought (K. Bart, Richard Niebuhr, P. Tillich), the not-humanistic project of “integral humanism” J. Maritain. The discussion around humanism and its fate in the modern world indicate not only the deep crisis experienced by this worldview but also its timeless significance for the whole history of humanity.