Sunday, 7 June 2015

History of Humanism

John Coss gave the May meeting at GMH.

The talk was divided into the four headings of: A. Humanism – meaning and language B. Key themes of humanist thinking C. Some key thinkers in the development of humanist thought D. Organised humanism 

The first of these, Humanism – meaning and language, covered both the modern interpretation and the evolution of humanist thinking through its notable phases: ancient Greek and Roman thinking; Renaissance humanism; Enlightenment humanism; the 19th century ethical movement. It also covered an overview of 19th century activists like Owen, Carlisle and Holyoake, and included an explanation of words related to humanism, e.g. freethinking and secularism. 

Moving on to Key themes of humanist thinking John expanded on: non-belief; rational explanation and scientific thinking; freedom, individualism and secularism; non-religious morality; and human rights. 

The talk then went on to cover Some key thinkers in the development of humanist thought, e.g. Epicurus - ancient Greece, Erasmus - the Renaissance, Hume - the Enlightenment, J S Mill - 19th century, and Abraham Maslow - 20th century. Women and Humanism was also discussed in this part of the talk.  

Lastly John gave an overview of the history of Organised Humanism in England. It covered the organisations we know today, e.g. the BHA, the National Secular Society and the Rationalist Association, some of the key buildings like South Place Chapel and Conway Hall, and a brief history of the Freethinker publication.

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