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Ethnographic Humanism

Migrant Experiences in the Quest for Well-Being

Anne Sigfrid Grønseth and Robin Oakley

The articles in this volume reinforce the power of ethnographic humanism, of anthropology in action. The focus is on the relationship between macro political forces and their influence on the varied experiences of health in advanced industrial capitalist contexts. Our approach views migrants as capable agents negotiating new lives for themselves and confronting the challenges they face. We strongly advocate socially informed policy that offers at minimum recognition to migrants as full fledged members of the new society that they have voluntarily or involuntarily migrated to.

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Motsamai Molefe

In this article, I motivate for the view that the best account of the foundations of morality in the African tradition should be grounded on some relevant spiritual property – a view that I call 'ethical supernaturalism'. In contrast to this position, the literature has been dominated by humanism as the best interpretation of African ethics, which typically is accompanied by a direct rejection of 'ethical supernaturalism' and a veiled rejection of non-naturalism (Gyekye 1995: 129–43; Metz 2007: 328; Wiredu 1992: 194–6). Here primarily, by appeal to methods of analytic philosophy, which privileges analysis and (moral) argumentation, I set out to challenge and repudiate humanism as the best interpretation of African ethics; I leave it for a future project to develop a fully fledged African spiritual meta-ethical theory.

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Bridging the Heterogeneity of Civilisations

Reviving the Grammar of Islamic Humanism

Bassam Tibi

This article states an intercivilisational conflict between Europe and Islam and argues that it can be resolved through cross-cultural bridging and sharing grammars of humanism in the pursuit of an international morality. The plea for a revival of the suppressed tradition of Islamic humanism, and of the rationalist thought of al-Farabi, Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd among others, acknowledges that today there is no one uniform Islam. Today, the global competition between humanism and absolutism in Islam is also pertinent to the future of European identity, given Europe's proximity to the Islamic neighbourhood and the global migration emanating therefrom. While greater civilisational identity politics can be a source of conflict, such conflict can be overcome through a dialogue based on a common humanist heritage, and by bridging the international system of states to an international society, people of different civilisations can be brought closer to one another.

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Faith beyond Belief

Evangelical Protestant Conceptions of Faith and the Resonance of Anti-humanism

Omri Elisha

This article explores the cultural significance of faith among US evangelical Protestants. It is argued that evangelical conceptions of faith provide an idiom for expressing religiosity that transcends conventional notions of belief, which alone do not account for the ideals of evangelical subjectivity. Through an analysis of group rituals in a Tennessee megachurch, along with a discussion of the historical roots of evangelical theology and the growing influence of charismatic Christianity, the article highlights an emphasis on radical intersubjectivity that calls upon the faithful to submit to the totalizing authority of divine agency. It is further argued that evangelical conceptions of faith feature a strand of anti-humanism that resonates with the increasingly authoritarian politics of the post-welfare era, which are explored in relation to the growing phenomenon of altruistic faith-based activism.

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Susan Stedman Jones

This paper explores the nature of Durkheim’s theoretical language concerning the whole and the individual. I look at the questions of holism and individualism throughout his thought, but I particularly focus on ‘L’individualisme et les intellectuels’, where he enters the debate over the Dreyfus affair, espousing the language of intellectual and moral right. I examine the historical and philosophical background of this and the tensions between individualism and socialism, within neglected aspects of French political history. Here a new language of individuality and right was forged, not simply through the pressure of events, but through a re-thinking of socialist holism from within a philosophical tradition.

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Wu Wei East and West

Humanism and Anti-Humanism in Daoist and Enlightenment Political Thought

Eric Goodfield

Some contemporary authors have witnessed the flourishing of the Sinophilia of the Early Enlightenment and the direct impact of Daoist and Chinese thought on the ideas of Spinoza, Leibniz, Voltaire, Quesnay and the philosophes and have proceeded to make overt connections between the Daoist notion of 'non-action' or Wu wei and Enlightenment doctrines of laissez-faire. In contrast to such approaches, I argue that these frequent conceptual comparisons have often been inappropriate where touchstone humanist notions devoid of the Dao de Jing's fundamental spiritual and metaphysical commitments are brought forward as evidence of interconnection.

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David E. Cooper

Among the general educated public, the question whether humanism and science are antagonists would receive various answers, primarily because the question itself would be variously taken. There are those who, echoing F.R. Leavis’s retort to C.P. Snow’s call for ‘two cultures’, would insist that science has little or no place alongside humane studies in the education of the civilised person. But there are those – members, perhaps, of the British or American Humanist Association – who would insist that humanism in the modern world just is scientific humanism. The appearance of a necessary opposition between these two groups would, however, be illusory. The followers of Leavis have in mind by humanism the pursuit of the literae humaniores and their descendants, such as history. This is the humanism intended when the word was coined, early in the nineteenth century, to refer to the pursuits of the Renaissance umaniste. Members of the BHAor AHAhave something different in mind: humanism as a practical concern with human well-being which eschews religious and other ‘supernaturalist’ doctrines. Clearly a humanist in this second sense need not exclude science from a central place in education. Conversely, a Leavisite humanist need not subscribe to the antireligious viewpoint of Humanist Associations.

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Raymond Suttner

Non-racialism is examined in relation to the concepts of race, generic humanism and universalism in order to establish conditions under which non-racialism can be implemented as an emancipatory concept. Denial of the salience or even the existence of the concept 'race' and also tendencies to organise on the basis of race essentialism are examined. It is accepted that race does not exist at an ontological level, in that it is not required for the constitution of the human subject. But race does exist historically and socially. To ignore its existence in addressing the question of non-racialism would be to deny the validity of the experience of racial inequality. At the same time, organisation on the basis of race, while sometimes motivated by strategic considerations, carries the danger of slippage and a permanent racialised identity. The post-1994 period is seen as opening the road to universalism and thus removing the basis for strategic essentialism.

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An Intellectual Genealogy of the Revolt against “Esprit de Système”

From the Renaissance to the Early Enlightenment

Jeffrey D. Burson

This article suggests the further resituating of the origins of the early European Enlightenment in what William J. Bouwsma has called the “waning Renaissance.” The waning Renaissance was more than simply a Neoplatonic reaction first against humanism and second against a moribund Aristotelianism. Instead, it bequeathed to the early Enlightenment a chastened, initially less optimistic humanism among scholars whose work prepared the way for the eighteenth-century aversion to system-building, and a greater respect for meticulously circumscribed, useful certainties. This article argues that the “waning Renaissance” derived from the increasingly pervasive perception by writers that eclectic systems fusing Hermeticism, scholasticism, and humanism represented an overweening confidence in the ability of humankind to perfect the natural and human orders. In diverse ways, this article contends that the reactions to such overconfidence by John Calvin, Francis Bacon, the Paduan Aristotelians, and Galileo foreshadowed early Enlightenment skepticism and empiricism.

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'All Is Not Dead'

Philip Larkin, Humanism and Class

Antony Rowland

‘All is not dead’ originates from a lesser-known sonnet printed in Larkin’s Collected Poems, entitled ‘A slight relax of air where cold was’. The reason behind the poet’s refusal to print it in an individual collection is indicated by his comment in the margin of the manuscript version: ‘Look at Keats silly old fool’ (MS 6, 7.i.62). Despite Larkin’s harsh evaluation of its literary value when contrasted with a ‘master’ sonneteer, it deserves citing in full, since it illustrates both the critical debates that now surround his work, and my argument that he struggles with humanism in a post-war context