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        a legacy of humanism
gary e. davis
December 8, 2007
     
     
In September, I surmised the possibility of using the etymology of ‘humanity’ to suggest an intuitional ethical naturalism, a surmise that echoes recent others in philosophical ethics. I will be getting into some of that up the road, on ethical intuitionism, ethical realism, and ethical naturalism. Indeed, that interest was silently backgrounding my posting on a normativity of ‘humanity’.

That kind of surmise isn’t basically simple-minded, since the theme is strongly corroborated by the history of humanism, which properly begins in our distant background of culturally-evolving creation of gods who mirror human aspiration for perfectibility (which has generative efficacy for social-evolutionary learning).

From Aristotelian eudaimonia (and the “people of The Book”) through Christian striving to embody God, then the neo-Classical Renaissances of early modernity, to the modernity of demands for educational opportunity—altogether: a legacy of longing for self-enhancement expresses our nature, our intrinsic interest in our humanity as such. Though history shows competing modes of that—self-interests, communitarian interests, theologized interests, etc., as well as overtly humanistic interests—a question of what all that’s a mode of invites a focus on the humanism of our humanity that so much recent history expresses.



I’m sorry I won’t be able to soon live through Charles Taylors new A Secular Age (896 pages!), though I’ve had a lovely time reading the “Introduction” to my copy of the book lately. I’ll express my promise to dwell with this someday by importing here some comment from elsewhere, last summer:

It seems to me that Taylor is seeking to explicate our historically shared devotion to finding spiritual/humanistic “fullness“ (his central notion, apparently) in life, that binds plural modernizations with the history of religious pluralism in north Atlantic societies (his geographical focus). By seeking to eventually explicate a post-secular fullness of life, he claims a third way between “Belief“ and anomic dis-Belief which appears to prospect a common ground for the future of cultural pluralism.

But I’m already seeking to go beyond “a secular age,“ working beyond a sense of our era in terms of secularity (which is a notion relativized to passed religious orientation, life, whatever). Getting beyond secularity is about finding the motive of our humanity in that humanity, evolutionarily appreciated and oriented by the futurity of the human interest (itself anthropologically deep-seated). Relative to such humanization, religious life (thus secularity) looks like a Moment in cultural evolution, whose nature was always already a humanization more profound (as a matter of its temporal horizon) than religious life ever imagined.

I’m living in an ambiance that is post-postmodern, inasmuch as “postmodernity“ was basically an improvisation of the 1980s against modernism and involved critique of specifically “modern” dogmas (in light of critiques of “metaphysics”—which are actually critiques of metaphysicalism, since there’s no escape from the issues of philosophical metaphysics—such as: What is time, causality, physicality, mathematical entities, etc.—thus, there may be durable cogency to resultant inquiries about such issues, immune to worries about metaphysicalism).

I suppose, then, that Lorenzo C. Simpson intends, in effect, a sense of postmetaphysicalism in his 2001 book (which I’ve wanted to dwell with) The Unfinished Project: toward a postmetaphysical humanism that was the topic of attention last May for most of an issue of Philosophy & Social Criticism.

Anyway, this posting is emblematic of my hope to give more attention to humanism as such, in a postmetaphysicalist, post-postmodernist sense—which would be relative to our cultural evolutionarity and the intrinsic interest of our nature to enhance our humanity.


a sense of humanitarian care

 


   
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