Humanism and Politics

Oh yes – I am going there!

The United States Presidential Election is just a couple of weeks away. I am sure that all my readers are probably pretty opinionated about it. I am not planning to use this space to tell you who I think you should vote for. I respect you too much for that. Instead, I wanted to visit the idea of what political humanism might look like and why.

One of my friends, who is Portuguese living in America, shared this with me.  It is an article titled “Beyond Right and Left: A Humanist Approach to Politics.” It was published in 1995 in the Humanists in Canada winter edition. The gist of the essay is this: “It is time we buried both libertarianism and socialism as world views, and sought an approach to politics more compatible with the premises of modern scientific humanism. Let us show the rest of society that we can do better!”

This resonates with me because I dislike both libertarianism and socialism even though I agree with the principles underlying each approach.  I am apparently not alone in feeling this way. As Pat Duffy Hutcheon, the author of the essay, points out, Socialism and libertarianism are both flawed because their underlying assumptions about what and who humans are – isn’t scientifically correct.

He argues that Humanists should push us beyond these fundamentally flawed approaches to politics and instead encourage a better understanding of humans as socially embedded autonomous individuals.
Which brings me to the next thing I want to link you too -

The RSA is the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. They are a Humanist organization (founded in 1754) pushing for a 21st century enlightenment grounded on the concept of humans as socially embedded autonomous individuals.  

How does this concept of the human as a socially embedded autonomous individual change how we think about social policy?  Yes – autonomy is good. But social connection and responsibility is good too. What we come up with is that it’s not either/or that works, but both together are necessary for human flourishing.

But enough about what I think. What do you think?

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