Thursday, December 20, 2007

Beyond Humanism?

I say again and again that atheism is not a world view or philosophy. It's just "not theism"; a disagreement with god talk that is only useful in our current overly religious social context. So what is my world view? How do I classify my system of ethics? I like the ideals of Secular Humanism, and Humanism in general, but the central focus on "human" has always bothered me.

I like Peter Singer’s ideas of extending our compassion to creatures beyond our own species. If you are an atheistic naturalist then you should understand there is no clear border between humans and other animals, so why shouldn’t the golden rule and other common sense ethical principles extend to them as well?

The Secular Humanist list of affirmations does say: "We want to protect and enhance the earth, to preserve it for future generations, and to avoid inflicting needless suffering on other species." However that idea is not directly implied in the term "Humanism".

Yes I am a hypocritical meat eater, but I might not always be. I’m still mulling things over. Can anyone think of a name for a positive ethical philosophy along the lines of Humanism, but with a broader scope to include all sentient creatures with the capacity to suffer?


B said...

But aren't you just quibbling over semantics. For example, when we say an animal has been abused, we say it was treated inHUMANEly. It seems that what the word humane signifies has taken on additional meanings, so why can't the exceptionally similar word "humanism" do the same? Unless you want for everyone to go around calling themselves animalists, but then wouldn't the fungi feel left out? (and animalist also sounds slightly dirty to me)....

that atheist guy said...

Of course I am quibbling over semantics. I love quibbling over semantics!

What if we met aliens which were even more "humane" than humans?

How about "compassionist"? Ooh... over 12 thousand Google hits!

Linda said...


Good question. I tried to come up with something, but I couldn't. You know, whenever we categorize something and put a label on it, we end up building a box around it. Then people end up either conforming or rebelling against that box. Or making sub-boxes within that box. It always happens.

I think if we came up with the most perfect and ideal word, it still would not be quite perfect.

How about a symbol? Or a word that is not even a word.... an enigma that's all warm, fuzzy, friendly, and full of love?

I don't know... *shrug*