- Most generally, any philosophy concerned to emphasize human welfare and dignity, and optimistic about the powers of unaided human understanding. More particularly, the movement distinctive of the Renaissance and allied to the renewed study of Greek and Roman literature: a rediscovery of the unity of human beings and nature, and a renewed celebration of the pleasures of life, all supposed lost in the medieval world. Humanism in this Renaissance sense was quite consistent with religious belief, it being supposed that God had put us here precisely in order to further those things the humanists found important. Later the term tended to become appropriated for anti-religious social and political movements. Finally, in the late 20th century, humanism is sometimes used as a pejorative term by postmodernist and especially feminist writers, applied to philosophies such as that of Sartre, that rely upon the possibility of the autonomous, self-conscious, rational, single self, and that are supposedly insensitive to the inevitable fragmentary, splintered, historically conditioned nature of personality and motivation.
Philosophy dictionary. Academic. 2011.
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