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Shermer on the humanist movement, and on libertarianism
Posted: 24 March 2007 09:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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First, for Occam…. OMG!

Now, Mriana:

AHA: Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.


Very short and overly vague, BUT does admit that humanism is a “progressive” philosophy.  Without supernaturalism is 1/2 of that story, so my “informed by scientific naturalism” is more the whole picture. 

We don’t have a “responsibility to lead ethical lives” because that would imply free will. We live the best we can, based on our environment and its play on our genetic dispositions.

The greater good of humanity is a nice thought, but what does it mean?  Who’s greater good, and are all people entitled to the same greater good?  The humanist manifestos go further in this way, and we can extrapolate from them, the times we live in (and the authors of the manifesto’s live/live in), physical science, social science and more what constitutes the greater good of humanity and what might lead to it (and what certainly won’t).

CSH: Secular Humanism is a way of thinking and living that aims to bring out the best in people so that all people can have the best in life. Secular humanists reject supernatural and authoritarian beliefs. They affirm that we must take responsibility for our own lives and the communities and world in which we live. Secular humanism emphasizes reason and scientific inquiry, individual freedom and responsibility, human values and compassion, and the need for tolerance and cooperation.


Humanism IS a way of thinking, but so is naturalism which is humanism’s informant, so how to we islolate humanism from other isms? 

What IS the best in people and how do we bring it about?  Without some ideas here, the sentiment is nice but useless. 

If we reject authoritarian beliefs, we must reject the modern State.

This definition has the same problem with Free Will and responsibility as the AHA’s.

Tolerance and cooperation, and freedom are good things, but what are these other “human values,” and how do we balance ‘individual freedom’ with ‘cooperation,’ and why does this definition ignore those things in modern society which are the blood of society - politics and economics? 

A bit less vague than the former, but does not take into all the other things written about humanism…

Taking into consideration the overall body of humanist thought, as well as an understanding of past and present societies, and ideas about how to reach humanist goals, I have thought up this “working” definition…

Mriana, do you see the difference between mine and the big tent versions above?

“Humanism is a sociopolitical world view, informed by scientific naturalism, which holds that human societies are healthiest if founded on non-hierarchal democratic principles.  Accordingly, a humanistic society - in recognizing universal interconnectedness - promotes cooperation in all areas of life, the peaceful and fair allocation of natural and human-made resources, and a commitment that individuals be encouraged and aided in achieving their fullest potential while in turn nurturing the larger society.”
 
SeculiTerminus

Science is a method, not a set of dogmas or doctrines.

Yes.  And this is why having humanism be “informed by scientific naturalism” prevents it from becoming a set of dogmas or doctrines.

SeculiTerminus

In the same way, it seems to me it would be perfectly fair for people to call themselves humanists even if they didn’t necessarily buy into a particular economic scheme.

Yes, again.  As I said, I have only offered a few economic schemes as suggestions - such as Parecon and Inclusive Democracy. I do not know if these are good enough to work as they are set up to, but they - and other schemes found within certain styles of socialism or anarchism - are worth serious consideration because we have not had actual socialism or libertarian-socialism or much of anarchism in the modern era (for many different reasons, not the least of which are problems inherent in feudalism, capitalism and the State).

However, we DO know enough about capitalism and the State to understand how unhumanistic they are, and that at least the former needs to be swept into the dustbin of history.


SeculiTerminus

You may argue that that scheme is incorrect or less effective than another, but I don’t understand how that would necessarily prove that someone isn’t a humanist.

By what sort of society it produces, and NOT according merely to its “efficiency” (and capitalism is great at accumulating wealth for the few, but is otherwise very wastefull and hardly efficient… or effective). 

And motives are not enough if the actions cause pain and disaster for most of the populace.

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Posted: 24 March 2007 03:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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[quote author=“Barry”]Now, Mriana:

AHA: Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.


Very short and overly vague, BUT does admit that humanism is a “progressive” philosophy.  Without supernaturalism is 1/2 of that story, so my “informed by scientific naturalism” is more the whole picture.

[quote author=“Barry”]Mriana, do you see the difference between mine and the big tent versions above?

“Humanism is a sociopolitical world view, informed by scientific naturalism, which holds that human societies are healthiest if founded on non-hierarchal democratic principles.  Accordingly, a humanistic society - in recognizing universal interconnectedness - promotes cooperation in all areas of life, the peaceful and fair allocation of natural and human-made resources, and a commitment that individuals be encouraged and aided in achieving their fullest potential while in turn nurturing the larger society.”

Touche’  I must admit, I like your definition better and it is more precise than the others.  It even summerizes what is in the Humanist Manifesto 2000, that Paul Kurtz wrote recently.

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Mriana
“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 24 March 2007 05:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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[quote author=“Barry”]
[quote author=“SeculiTerminus”]Science is a method, not a set of dogmas or doctrines.

Yes.  And this is why having humanism be “informed by scientific naturalism” prevents it from becoming a set of dogmas or doctrines.

[quote author=“SeculiTerminus”]In the same way, it seems to me it would be perfectly fair for people to call themselves humanists even if they didn’t necessarily buy into a particular economic scheme.

Yes, again.  As I said, I have only offered a few economic schemes as suggestions - such as Parecon and Inclusive Democracy. I do not know if these are good enough to work as they are set up to, but they - and other schemes found within certain styles of socialism or anarchism - are worth serious consideration because we have not had actual socialism or libertarian-socialism or much of anarchism in the modern era (for many different reasons, not the least of which are problems inherent in feudalism, capitalism and the State).

However, we DO know enough about capitalism and the State to understand how unhumanistic they are, and that at least the former needs to be swept into the dustbin of history

Yes, I agree; and I apologize, I had gotten the impression that your point was that if someone wasn’t a proponent of ParEcon or Inclusive Democracy, then that person wasn’t a humanist, since other economic systems were inferior or antihumanistic.

[quote author=“Barry”]
[quote author=“SeculiTerminus”]You may argue that that scheme is incorrect or less effective than another, but I don’t understand how that would necessarily prove that someone isn’t a humanist.

By what sort of society it produces, and NOT according merely to its “efficiency” (and capitalism is great at accumulating wealth for the few, but is otherwise very wastefull and hardly efficient… or effective). 

And motives are not enough if the actions cause pain and disaster for most of the populace.

Also, I agree with you here. The point I was trying to make was merely that if someone wasn’t aware of a better alternative, than they could hardly be blamed for not adopting it. While a tourniquet is best, a band-aid is better than nothing; someone could be libertarian as well as humanist if, to the best of their knowledge, libertarianism is the best solution economically.

I also agree with Mriana that your definition of humanism seems much better-crafted. I remember reading the paragraphs of description at the AHA site and still wondering what exactly it was that humanists believed in. I wonder if there’s any way to persuade them to adopt a version more like yours..?

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Posted: 25 March 2007 04:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Re. capitalism, as I have said at other times on this site, the problem with it comes from the unbridled, laissez-faire form of it. If it is well controlled and regulated, it is beneficial—indeed, one of the great inventions of humankind. As such, I see no essential conflict between capitalism and humanism. The conflict is, arguably, between laissez-faire capitalism and humanism.

To learn more about how capitalism works and should be regulated, I would definitely suggest reading Paul Krugman’s essays.

Re. Barry’s “non-hierarchical” society, the question is how precisely to cash that out. One might argue that contemporary democracies are “non-hierarchical” in the sense that they are (at least in principle) “nations of laws and not of men”, and in that they do not recognize hereditary political power. They are nations of “we the people” rather than of royalty and the church.

... or at the very least they strive for this sort of political end. We can argue that as humanists we should be pushing for a fuller realization of these ideals, as I think we should.

But I have a feeling from our past conversations that Barry would interpret “non-hierarchical” in a much more radical sense than that, which is why I would term Barry’s sort of humanism “radical humanism”, to distinguish it from the goals of other humanist organizations. Although he has claimed here not to be an anarchist, at other times on this site he has embraced explicitly anarchist ideals. This leaves me in some confusion as to what his political aims really are.

So at any rate, the question boils down to what precisely one means by “non-hierarchical”. If it is left vague for a reason (i.e. to allow for “big tent” humanism), it isn’t problematic.

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Posted: 26 March 2007 10:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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SeculiTerminus

I also agree with Mriana that your definition of humanism seems much better-crafted. I remember reading the paragraphs of description at the AHA site and still wondering what exactly it was that humanists believed in. I wonder if there’s any way to persuade them to adopt a version more like yours..?

Thanks Seculi, its a start in the right direction, I think.  I might write an essay for The Humanist about this, or for their peer-review journal and suggest it.  I do not know that they are ready and willing to be this precise as they also need a bit of a big tent to keep the funds coming in—they still operate in a capitalistic society.  I am fairly sure that CSH won’t adopt this definition any time soon.

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Posted: 26 March 2007 11:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Doug:

Re. Capitalism, as I have said at other times on this site, the problem with it comes from the unbridled, laissez-faire form of it. If it is well controlled and regulated, it is beneficial—indeed, one of the great inventions of humankind.

Yes, Doug.. You have said it many times, and I still think you are wrong :wink: 

Regulated capitalism has failed, and unless you can point to a way to make it work, I cannot consider your argument a good one.

Doug:

As such, I see no essential conflict between capitalism and humanism. The conflict is, arguably, between laissez-faire capitalism and humanism.

ONLY if regulated capitalism worked, and thus far it has not.. For reasons inherent to markets and capitalism itself.

Doug:

To learn more about how capitalism works and should be regulated, I would definitely suggest reading Paul Krugman’s essays.

And I would suggest reading Joel Kovel, Robin Hahnel and others to see why Krugman is ‘old school’ and wrong.

Doug:

Re. Barry’s “nonhierarchical” society, the question is how precisely to cash that out.

“Cash that out?” How capitalistic of you LOL

Doug:

One might argue that contemporary democracies are “nonhierarchical” in the sense that they are (at least in principle) “nations of laws and not of men”, and in that they do not recognize hereditary political power. They are nations of “we the people” rather than of royalty and the church.

Too bad that is incorrect.  The US is a VERY hierarchal democracy.  Religion or royalty are not the only means of domination.

Doug:

... or at the very least they strive for this sort of political end. We can argue that as humanists we should be pushing for a fuller realization of these ideals, as I think we should.

Never happen where there is a power elite which almost NEVER represents “we the people” and instead, big business and power.

Doug:

But I have a feeling from our past conversations that Barry would interpret “nonhierarchical” in a much more radical sense than that, which is why I would term Barry’s sort of humanism “radical humanism”, to distinguish it from the goals of other humanist organizations.

No, I think I have a sound definition of humanism based on the progression of humanist thought.  It so happens that I think the humanist organizations have much correct, but are too conservative and traditional to offer a truly relevant to today definition of humanism (though as I’ve said, some come closer than others).

Doug:

Although he has claimed here not to be an anarchist, at other times on this site he has embraced explicitly anarchist ideals. This leaves me in some confusion as to what his political aims really are.

My politics combine elements of anarchism, libertarian-socialism, inclusive democracy and ecosocialism… and maybe more???

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Posted: 26 March 2007 09:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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The conflict between humanism and libertarianism is that libertarianism is indifferent to individuals who fall by the economic wayside (those below the poverty level in the Western world, most of the third world). Libertarian individuals might have compassion for those people, but they support a system that made it in the first place.

Libertarianism undermimes democracy because it lets corporations and the ultra-wealthy have more power than governments. When I vote at an election, my vote is worth as much or as little as anyones, but I could boycott a corporation for many lifetimes and not have a whisper of an effect if it is supported by the wealthy.

There’d be all sorts of other reasons to oppose libertarianism if you are also a humanist, but many of my objections depend on my understanding of libertarianism to be closely aligned with laissez-faire capitalism.

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Posted: 27 March 2007 05:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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Metaphor:

There’d be all sorts of other reasons to oppose libertarianism if you are also a humanist, but many of my objections depend on my understanding of libertarianism to be closely aligned with laissez-faire capitalism.

Yes, I agree.  American Libertarianism, conservatism, neoconservatism, neoliberalism and free-market (laissez-faire) capitalism are all very similar on the political economic side of things .. where they differ may be on SOME of the social political questions of society.  But our economic system often determines our social system.

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Posted: 08 April 2007 01:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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:wink: I have no problem with libertarians being humanists,but they have a flawed ethics as others have pointd out,one that does not see what is good or bad for the individual,but for an unfactual ideology.

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Fr. Griggs rests in his Socratic ignorance and humble naturalism.He might be wrong!His cognitive defects might impact his posting. Logic is the bane of theists.‘Religion is mythinformation.“Reason saves, not that fanatic Galilean!
  ’ Life is its own validation and reward and ultimate purpose.”

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Posted: 13 April 2007 05:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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I have no problem with libertarians being humanists

You wouldn’t :(

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Posted: 14 April 2007 11:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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Brilliant repartee and logical argument there, Barry. raspberry

Occam

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Posted: 14 April 2007 06:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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Occam:

Brilliant repartee and logical argument there, Barry. 

Thanks!  I thought it was quite obvious based on past posts by Mr. Skeptic, so it was very logical indeed.  Thanks for noticing!

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Posted: 16 September 2007 06:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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Occam - 23 March 2007 12:53 PM

The sky is falling.  I agree with Barry’s earlier post.  :D

If you dig out the AHA Humanist Manifesto III (written by Paul Kurtz before he left them), and the platform of the Libertarian party you’ll see major differences. 

The Libertarians are much more oriented toward self-interest and self-sufficiency.  If you can’t pay for a service, you don’t deserve it, and this includes those presently supplied by government, e.g., roads, education, police, fire, emergency services, etc.  All services would be supplied according to the free market.  That means no control of radio and television, and utilities would cost what the market could bear.

Central to, or at least a good part of Humanism, in my view, is humanitarianism - respecting and caring for others. 

Occam

I agree with Michael Schermer’s comments at the beginning of the post [thanks D.J.].  I think there are degrees or levels to both ‘humanitarianism’ and ‘libertarianism’.  To the extent that “Manifesto Humanism” means contributions to humanitarian concerns are voluntary, it is more compatible with libertarianism.  To the extent that it is meant to empower some self-selected group to make decisions on what is good for ‘humanity’ it is not.  And it probably depends on who writes the manifesto.

The message of the New Atheists like Dawkins might be considered libertarian because people make their own choices rather than an ecclesiatical elite.

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Posted: 17 September 2007 11:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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What is a “Liberal”? Today, the term is not understood in depth. Libertarians are a subset of “Liberal”. They agree with the Marxists. Intellectuals have formed a consensus opinion. Both arguments have been victorious, because all three notions are correct! The theories complement one another. Classes are a fact. The solution is in the details—free markets with a social safety net—to catch those unable: to be productive citizens. The details are the substance of the debate. What is the magnitude and quantity? How to administer the safety net? The strong will adapt. What to do with the weak? Capitalists are Marxists: who are on the side of the bourgeois. A liberal and libertarian believe the government should not be interlopers into Private life. The scope of government and state property have champions on the right and left. A corporate executive desires a mercantile system—giving their enterprise an advantage—by coercion from the state, which is not free markets. The notions and policies agreed opinion by liberals, libertarians and conservatives are orders of magnitude greater than their differences. The consensus is truly amazing. The brutal abuse of the early industrial era has been mostly reformed in the developed world, which was the inspiration of the Marxist radicals. Mercantilism is a very strong force today, and the social justice issues have been mostly reformed. Finally, we are in a neo-ideological or post-modern global free market system. Free markets are not chaos or a free for all. Contracts must be enforced, public safety… Finally, I have attach no label to myself. Find out what works, experiment then implement—feed back, reform, recursion. The struggle never ends—progress or retrogress.

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Posted: 18 September 2007 08:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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brad,

for the most part, I agree with what you said. Check out Chomsky’s Government in the Future. If you havent already. Its a short read but interesting

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“Unsustainable systems can’t be sustained.” ~ Robert Jensen

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