The Philosophy of Humanism: Critical Review of the Humanist Worldview

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The Philosophy of Humanism
By Corliss Lamont (1902-1995)

Critical Review of the Humanist Worldview

Doctor of Religious Studies

Department Biblical Studies and Theology

Richard Jones

"There is no place in the Humanist worldview for either immortality or God in the valid meanings of those terms. Humanism contends that instead of the gods creating the cosmos, the cosmos, in the individualized form of human beings giving rein to their imagination, created the gods."

A worldview is a set of beliefs through which one interprets all of reality and provides a person with a means to explain the world around them. When evaluating the Humanist worldview, you do not go far before you run into Corliss Lamont and his book The Philosophy of Humanism. Educated at Harvard and Columbia, Lamont obtained his Ph.D. in philosophy from Columbia in 1932. During an active career that spanned nearly a century, he authored sixteen books and hundreds of pamphlets and taught at Harvard, Cornell, and Columbia. Lamont believed that teaching the proper philosophy was the only way to begin the long struggle toward peace. This "proper philosophy" according to Lamont was Humanism, a philosophy that is naturalistic, scientific, and democratic. His most famous works were The Philosophy of Humanism and The Illusion of Immortality.

In reviewing Lamont's book The Philosophy of Humanism, the intention of this article is to address how he formulates the Humanist worldview and how one might argue against these claims from a theistic worldview. Lamont argues from four basic perspectives: (1) mind (personality) and body, (2) reliance on reason and science, (3) from nature and the theory of the universe, and (4) ethics from a social and political (democratic) view for happiness, freedom, and progress for all mankind regardless of nationality, race or religion.

In further defining worldview, David Nobel refers to a worldview as "any ideology, philosophy, theology, movement, or religion that provides an overarching approach to understanding God, the world, and man's relation to God and the world." Nobel also says, "A worldview should contain a particular perspective regarding each of the following disciplines: theology, ethics, biology, psychology, sociology, law, politics, economics, and history." In Lamont's The Philosophy of Humanism, parallels can be seen by this definition of a worldview and how Lamont defines Humanism according to some, but not all, of these disciplines.

In forming the Humanist philosophy (worldview) about God (theology), Lamont provides ten central propositions to build his worldview: (1) all forms of supernaturalism is a myth and Nature is all there is, (2) man is a product of evolution, (3) ultimate faith is in man, (4) opposes determinism, fatalism and predestination, (5) ethics and morality goals are to provide happiness, freedom and progress, (6) individuals attain the good life by contributing to the welfare of the community, (7) developing the arts and the awareness of beauty, (8) far reaching social programs established worldwide, (9) the complete implementation of reason and the scientific method, and (10) in accordance with the scientific method, questioning all basic assumptions, even its own. Lamont's humanistic worldview places all his hopes in reason, science and politics as the only means to an end; no God, no hope, no future, only the here and now. Lamont's Humanism, then, can be defined as a religious worldview based on atheism. He must, like all worldviews, address the existence of God not only in his first proposition but intertwine the question of God's existence in all ten. If God does not exist, then man must find meaning in life from some other source – himself. According to Lamont's humanistic worldview, men have only one life to live and are responsible for their own happiness. Applying their own intelligence (without a supernatural source) and through cooperation with...
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