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Humanism: An Introduction [Paperback]

Jim Herrick , Clifford Harper
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 July 2003
Humanism is a philosophy that emphasizes the value of human life in all its creative potential within a secular context. Humanism is skeptical of religious beliefs and relies on science as the basis for understanding the universe. Although humanism has become most fully developed in the West, its origins lie throughout the world, and this perspective is shared by people from many different cultural, ethnic and racial backgrounds.
In this succinct, informative, and enlightening introduction to humanism, Jim Herrick, a leading humanist advocate in Great Britain, provides a very readable account of the guiding principles, history, and practice of humanism in today’s world. Herrick surveys the tradition of humanism as it developed over many centuries, its skepticism toward belief in God and an afterlife, humanist values and arguments for morality outside of a religious framework, its attitude of tolerance toward different lifestyles and belief systems, its endorsement of democratic political principles, its strong ties to science, its evaluation of the arts as an exploration of human potential, and its concern for environmental preservation and the long-term sustainability of the earth.
In conclusion, Herrick briefly describes the various humanist organizations throughout the world; particular causes championed by humanists (women’s rights, racial and sexual equality, freedom of speech and information, and education, among others); and the future of humanism.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Paperback: 105 pages
  • Publisher: Rationalist Press Association (1 July 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0301003017
  • ISBN-13: 978-0301003016
  • Product Dimensions: 20.4 x 14.4 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,982,466 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Humanism 12 May 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A fascinating subject matter. Written very clearly and objectively. An easy read along the lines of live and let live. Putting over points without decring religious beliefs.
No problems with order.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Like trying to pick up a piece of wet jelly 24 Mar 2014
By M. D. Holley TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Or alternatively, we could subtitle this book 'In search of a point of view.'

Good things first. This is a much better introduction to humanism than Peter Cave's truly awful attempt. It is easy to read, non dogmatic and makes many interesting and thought provoking points. There is little I would disagree with, except some political points which are rather left wing for my taste (this means they are VERY left wing) and which have little to do with humanism anyway. I found the section on the history of humanism very interesting.

It remains however a rather academic work, and like A C Grayling's latest book, puts a lot of emphasis on the individual working things out, in an intellectual way, for him or herself. In this it excludes most of the human population from accessing humanism, which is a pity.

On the down side, the author reminds me very much of a butterfly - extremely difficult to pin down. Much of the text is full of unresolved questions. Often when making a point, the author will follow this with an alternative point of view and leave the matter open. I am sure this type of approach earns points from the academic establishment, but it has limited value in the real world. I kept wanting to ask, in my frustration - 'yes, but what do YOU think?'.

In the end, I found the whole thing rather depressing. Jim Herrick's vision doesn't go much further than trying to 'make life a bit more bearable' and refusing to take a position on anything.

So overall worth reading, given the shortage of good titles on this subject, but hardly a strong recommendation for humanism generally.
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5.0 out of 5 stars If you're a newcomer, start from here 6 Mar 2014
This book delivers what it promises: a clear, concise presentation of the humanist outlook. As a general introduction, it poses many of the questions that humanists grapple with: What are good and evil? Should neo-Nazis be given the right to free speech? Is the value of nuclear power greater than the risk of pollution or accident? Should RE in schools be abolished? Should someone who wishes to die be helped to do so? But appropriately, given its aim and scope, it leaves the deeper exploration of these problems to other writers. Well organised into short chapters focusing on separate aspects of the topic – e.g. humanism and morality, humanism and science, humanism and the environment – it's lucid, informative, open-minded and fair, and a useful springboard to further exploration.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.8 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Overview of Humanism 31 Aug 2005
By Blue Meanie - Published on
Filled with quotes from historical humanists, this small guide packs a persuasive argument for walking a moral patch without the crutch of religion. The book traces the history of humanism and analyzes the philosophy in relation to morality, science, religion, politics, and the arts. An excellent read for anybody interested in the question: "Is it possible to be good without God?"
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breaking Down Humanism 13 Jan 2007
By William Broadwater - Published on
Humanism, An Introduction is just that - an introduction, albeit a good one. Author Jim Herrick, a British Humanist advocate, outlines the main points of Humanism simply and clearly. He breaks down Humanism so that it can be easily understood. He explains Humanism's take on morality, religion, politics, science, the arts, and more. The book also contains a brief history of Humanism and it's outlook for the future.

The author's unifying outlook on Humanism is commendable: he declines to get involved in delving into the differences between different kinds of Humanism, preferring instead to highlight the philosophy's unifying features. This is good because emphasizing the unity of the worldview is more useful than pointing out differences, especially in an introduction. A central idea is that Humanism is an atheistic/agnostic outlook on life that emphasizes values and requires thinking and reason. Anyone looking for a clear, simple introduction to the philosophy of Humanism should benefit by reading this book.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit too sketchy, even for an introduction 7 Jun 2008
By Kerry Walters - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Introductory books are difficult to pull off. On the one hand, you want to present the subject matter in a way that novices can comprehend. But on the other hand, you don't want to dumb-down what you're writing about. As anyone knows who's ever tried to write an introductory text, this isn't an easy course to navigate.

Jim Herrick ambitiously offer an introductory exploration of a huge subject in his Humanism: An Introduction. Although Herrick is a good stylist and clear author, the result is mixed. He's at his best when discussing the history of humanism (chapter 2), humanistic responses to religion, morality and politics (chapters 3-6), and humanism and the environment (chapter 9). But he seems out of his depth in his exploration of humanism and science (chapter 7), his discussion of humanism and the arts seems platitudinous (chapter 8), and his rundown of institutionalized humanism (chapters 10 & 11) is boringly skip-worthy and way too long (taking up a full one-fifth of the book). Moreover, even the better chapters are short on argument and long on declaration. Finally, the book lacks a bibliography to guide further reading, an essential for any introductory volume.

So although Herrick's book isn't awful, there are better short introductions to humanism. Paul Kurtz's terse What Is Secular Humanism? (2007) may be the single best place to start. It's accessible but rigorous. Corliss Lamont's The Philosophy of Humanism (reprint, 1997) remains a classic, although dated in some sections. Margaret Knight's and Jim Herrick's Humanist Anthology From Confucious to Attenborough (1995) is a decent collection of primary sources. Finally, for those with a taste for Continental approaches, Sartre's Existentialism Is a Humanism (reprint, 2007) can't be beat.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Overview of a Multifaceted Topic 19 Jan 2009
By Brian R. Hill - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Humanism is a term that often appears in the media but which is seldom defined. "Humanism: An Introduction" by Jim Herrick could very well provide just about everything the average person would ever need to know about humanism. Short, succinct, and very readable chapters cover humanism plays its part in morality, religion, science, the arts, and even the environment. Chapters at the book's end tell of humanistic organizations' history and purposes. The chapter "Humanist Action and Humanist Living" tells how humanistic attitudes and values can be implemented outside the realm of academia.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Humanism: An Introduction 24 Aug 2007
By Tinker - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is an overview of what Humanism is and it is done in a simple, concise way I would recommend it to anyone who is curious as to what Humanism is.
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