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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.

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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars 6 reviews
47 of 54 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Pay attention to the page count 4 May 2007
By M. Gibbs - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was really looking forward to this book and had it on pre-order for months. Unfortunately, I never noticed that it was only 42 pages long. Actually, there are only 25 pages of content. 25 pages for $9.95!?!? I didn't realize I was paying almost $10 for a leaflet. There are much better, meatier introductions to Secular Humanism out there.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A small but packed book 7 Jun. 2008
By Kerry Walters - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are few American philosophers better qualified to write on secular humanism than Paul Kurtz, and his What Is Secular Humanism? attests to that fact. This small book, which is actually the text of an article Kurtz wrote for the New Encyclopedia of Unbelief, is a very good primer on the conceptual structure of secular humanism. Perhaps because he's a philosopher, Kurtz doesn't merely offer assertions and descriptions (as other introductory texts on humanism--e.g., Jim Herrick's Humanism: An Introduction--do). Instead, he seeks to provide arguments that defend humanism's basic conclusions.

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.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very short and simple 29 Aug. 2010
By Chris L. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was very dissapointed with how thin this book was, but I figured I would give it a shot. I laughed when I saw how large the print was and how big the margins were. Also the author filled the books with unneeded photos. This book is more like a flyer on the subject and should really be free. Decent info, but not much of it.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction to Humanism! 2 Oct. 2009
By R. Baldwin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I would like to add my voice to Kerry Walter's review that stated above, "All in all, probably the single best short introduction to secular humanism available." This is the perfect summary of secular humanism in all its aspects and agenda for a better world. Yes, there are "meatier" books, but for someone without a lot of time who wants to really know what this movement is all about, Kurtz's little book is just what they need! It's the most comprehensive short book I have encountered on the subject, and I highly recommend it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Are there ethical values and principles nonreligious individuals can live by? 6 Oct. 2007
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Are there ethical values and principles nonreligious individuals can live by? Secular humanism attempts to address these principles and thus is an essential acquisition for any collection strong in linking spirituality to ethical and moral behavior patterns. It provides a blend of science, philosophy, ethics and spirituality that offers up new insights into both spiritual and humanistic behavior choices: perfect for college-level library acquisition and debate.
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