What Is Secular Humanism? Paperback – 1 Apr 2006
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About the Author
Paul Kurtz (1925-2012), professor emeritus of philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, was the author or editor of more than fifty books, including "The Transcendental Temptation, The Courage to Become, "and" Embracing the Power of Humanism, " plus nine hundred articles and reviews. He was the founder and chairman of Prometheus Books, the Institute for Science and Human Values, the Center for Inquiry, the Council for Secular Humanism, and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. He appeared on many major television and radio talk shows and lectured at universities worldwide.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The substance of Kurtz's argument is the book's second half, "A New Paradigm" (in the first half, he offers a quick look at the history of humanism). According to Kurtz, the humanist paradigm has six main characteristics: (1) a scientific method of inquiry; (2) a naturalistic cosmology; (3) a nontheistic orientation; (4) a commitment to naturalistic ethics; (5) a commitment to democratic forms of governance; and (6) a commitment to international cooperation. It might be argued that several of these characteristics aren't really unique to humanism. But to give Kurtz his due, his point seems to be that the convergence of them all constitutes secular humanism.
In discussing these six characteristics, Kurtz especially shines in his treatment of naturalism and naturalistic ethics. In discussing naturalism, for example, he points out that "nature cannot be reduced simply to its material components; a full account also must deal with the various emergent levels at which matter is organized and functions" (pp. 26-27). In doing so, Kurtz avoids simplistic reductionism. When it comes to his defense of naturalistic ethics, Kurtz summarizes his position of objective relativism, which he elaborated on in his Forbidden Fruit: The Ethics of Secularism (reprint, 2008), and argues that "three key humanist virtues are courage, cognition, and caring--not dependence, ignorance, or insensitivity to the needs of others" (p. 38).
Kurtz concludes his book with an excellent four-page bibliography. All in all, probably the single best short introduction to secular humanism available.