Talk:Humanitarianism

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List of people[edit]

This definition and the associated cateogory need to be refined to better assist the placement of the associated category Category:Humanitarian. It should not be so broad as to include everyone who does an act of good (Jonas Salk? Antoine de Saint-Exupéry?), nor in my opinion should it include academics and philosophers. Would like some clarification on the distinction between humanitarian and humanist. --Mmx1 15:11, 14 March 2006 (UTC)

The list of people is very, very, POV. Che Guevera?? I suggest removing the lists all together, and putting in a few (like 2 or 3) examples which can't be seriously questioned, e.g. maybe Albert Schweizer. Rocksong 08:00, 6 April 2006 (UTC)

Errhrrmhumahem. I agree, the list is too POV. If there is any list, it should be people who have helped define or promote the idea of humanitarianism. Chira 05:30, 27 May 2006 (UTC)

I also agree (to put it mildly). this article needs 1) a clear sense of the history of humanitarianism and 2) a complete revision of the philosophical and political underpinning (how, for example, is humanitarianism--which clearly relies on a relationship between benefactors and suffering others--the antithesis of "us vs. them"?) -- Junius49 12 January 2007

origin as the theological doctrine that Jesus Christ[edit]

I have reverted for several reasons: 1) confusion between humanitarianism and humanism, 2) source of humanitarianism is much older than Christian era, 3) no references. Joel Mc 04:55, 2 July 2007 (UTC)

Cannibalism?[edit]

Nothing needs to be said of the joke about vegetarians, vegetables, and humanitarians, right? --Damian Yerrick (talk | stalk) 20:51, 14 July 2007 (UTC)

And thus Damian Yerrick gave Uncyclopedia a really hilarious idea...--65.11.240.89 (talk) 00:46, 3 May 2008 (UTC)
Not just Uncyc. TV Tropes ran with it too: List of tropes with Wikipedia articles links Cannibalism in popular culture to I'm A Humanitarian. --Damian Yerrick (talk | stalk) 16:44, 12 May 2012 (UTC)

Sexism, and more[edit]

Shouldn't there be something in this about opposing sexism and something about the rights of all great apes? And the cannibalism can be removed, that part is preposterous, everyone opposes that. People who are/were definitely humanitarian are Einstein, Richard Dawkins and Isaac Asimov. Feyre 20:51, 18 August 2007 (UTC)

Humanitarianism[edit]

Feyre, I think you are confusing Humanitarianism with Humanism. They were humanists. —Preceding unsigned comment added by ChrisPB (talkcontribs) 00:14, 11 April 2008 (UTC)


Humanitarianism as Opposite of Misanthropy?[edit]

The link at the end of the page to the misanthropy article is unnecessary and inaccurate. Misanthropy is a nebulous range of philosophies, ranging from comedic to sociopathic. Humanitarianism is an expression of the fundamental golden rule; recognition of the need to help our fellow man. People can coherently adopt both humanitarianism and misanthropy as personal philosophies - I know I have.

In any case, it's not quite encyclopedic to list misanthropy as a true antonym to humanitarianism when it is not. MisplacedFate1313 (talk) 23:07, 5 July 2008 (UTC)

Inclusion of a "Criticism" section (?)[edit]

I propose that someone (who has a lot of time on their hands, or else is very quick, efficient, and thorough) add a section addressing the critics of humanitarianism that have arose since the late 20th century (although earlier ones, such as the Nazis and some Communists, may also be examined), such as theocratic terrorists, some conservatives, libertarians, objectivists (I remember Leonard Peikoff saying or writing something about "saving us from the humanitarians", or something to that effect), and even some leftists (esp. some of the most ecocentric of the environmentalists), nihilists, ethnocentrists, and other assorted anti-humanitarian misanthropic types. Note that not all misanthropes are anti-humanitarian per se, nor are all anti-humanitarians anti-altruist; indeed, it could be argued that some of the most virulent anti-humanitarians are in fact extreme altruists (when the Randian definition of altruism is approximated, i.e. the conventional "nice" definition is extended to include all those who sacrifice WHOLE victims for the sake of some alleged "higher cause" that they deem "higher" than the rights of their victims to live), and that what they are attacking is not altruism or collectivism, but rather, liberalism, tolerance, permissiveness, compassion, forgiveness, easiness, mediocrity, low standards, laziness, hedonism, and materialism (a prejudice or bias against all matter, but especially against all human flesh and mind, as opposed to the "mystical almighty spirit", whatever that may mean to them). See also (compare to) antihumanism. Shanoman (talk) 22:14, 1 August 2008 (UTC)

"such as the Nazis and some Communists"... uh-uh, and do not forget to add George Orwell to "the Nazis and Communists". Orwell said in his article "Rudyard Kipling" written in 1942: "A humanitarian is always a hypocrite, and Kipling's understanding of this is perhaps the central secret of his power to create telling phrases."... unless you assume that being a hypocrite is not a negative thing, which makes sense, since most today's self-proclaimed humanitarians will probably be proud to be called hypocrites. Maybe you should edit Wikipedia article about Orwell and since it would be hardly accepted to call him a Nazi or a Communist, describe him as a misanthropic type. Rozmysl (talk) 02:59, 31 October 2013 (UTC)

"Logical reasons"?[edit]

Any objections to removing the word "logical" from the first sentence? Or alternatively, can someone enlighten me as to what would constitute a "logical reason" for "bettering humanity"? Donnywithana (talk) 20:31, 2 December 2008 (UTC)

Recent Changes[edit]

JohnGreenwell and I have recently made some significant changes to the entry. I apologise for not summarising the changes in the 'Edit Summary' box; I'm new to Wikipedia editing and wasn't familiar with the convention.

The changes have involved the incorporation of significant new content. None of the excellent material already in the entry has been deleted. It has, however, been restructured slightly. This structure seems more logical and user friendly.

We're currently working on providing references - and links to other entries - for the newly incorporated content.

Tommibg Tommibg (talk) 02:04, 20 April 2009 (UTC)

Great work! Please go on... Best wishes. --Robert Daoust (talk) 14:20, 22 April 2009 (UTC)
This is a great idea. I have only had a chance to look rather quickly at the changes which is hard because you have made so many edits. At first glance, it looks good to me. I am not sure that it was good to take out the headings at the begining as both Pictet's and De Torrente's, particularly the latter, are related to the usage today of the term humanitarianism as the grounds for emergency response. It is true that Pictet's is more general, but it also points out a problem with the article in that there are no examples of that universality. I tried to put something like that in the International Humanitarian Law article but it needs more work on it as well. Today the work of the various Red Crescents, for example shows that humanitarianism is active where there is no Judeo/Christian tradition. I am traveling and away from libraries and my books for the good part of the next six weeks, but I will try and add to the references etc when I get back.--Joel Mc (talk) 14:37, 22 April 2009 (UTC)

Robert & Joel, Thanks for your encouragement. Joel, we appreciate your comments on the headings and the more general issue of including non-Western humanitarianism. At the moment, we're focusing our energies on doing the references for the whole entry. But will respond to your points fully asap. Regards, Tommibg (talk) 03:04, 24 April 2009 (UTC)

Picture[edit]

Can't a better picture be found? I mean a soldier with a gun illustrating humanitarianism? Steve Dufour (talk) 16:09, 10 May 2009 (UTC)

Steve, you're probably right. Lots of pictures need to be added and this one was the best I could find at the time. However, I wonder whether the combination of the soldier and a Red Cross flag doesn't capture the ambiguity of Humanitarian action today. What do you think? I'd be interested in any alternative you might suggest. Regards JohnGreenwell (talk) 05:56, 23 May 2009 (UTC)

I agree with John. The photo captures ambiguity. To draw this out, I've added a sentence to the caption explicitly referencing critiques of military involvement in humanitarian aid. --Whoosit (talk) 04:07, 25 June 2009 (UTC)

Angelina[edit]

Angelina Jolie as a notable humanitarian? Is it really appropriate? Angelina is movie star who occasionally works as a UN celebrity spokesperson. Can we reasonably compare her achievement to the lifetime work of Dunant or Schwietzer or Fry? --Whoosit (talk) 18:37, 18 June 2009 (UTC)

I agree; she is a significant promoter of humanitarian causes, but this is not the same as a humanitarian. I have removed her name. hgilbert (talk) 17:09, 22 June 2009 (UTC)
To make up for the lack of representation among 20th century humanitarians in the list of notables I've added Norman Bethune and Bernard Kouchner. --Whoosit (talk) 03:12, 25 June 2009 (UTC)

I completely agree with your comments regarding Angelina Jolie. Thanks Whoosit for the addition of Kouchner and Bethune. Also, for the revised caption of the photograph; it very adequately accounts for any potential incongruity... JohnGreenwell —Preceding unsigned comment added by JohnGreenwell (talkcontribs) 04:30, 10 July 2009 (UTC)

Diana[edit]

Is not the same true of Diana: that she was more a patron of charities than a humanitarian in the sense of this article? hgilbert (talk) 03:33, 23 July 2009 (UTC)

I would agree that the reasoning for Diana is the same as for Angelina, above. I'll remove her name. --Whoosit (talk) 17:39, 23 July 2009 (UTC)

Celebrity Activists[edit]

Here is a fairly even-handed commentary on what the author refers to as the "celebrity factor in humanitarian politics". Perhaps a section on celebrity activists is appropriate to this Wiki article, given their high visibility and influence on popular perceptions of humanitarianism. Thoughts? --Whoosit (talk) 16:36, 16 August 2009 (UTC)

Humanitarian is not opposed to religion[edit]

This article is an interesting essay but there seems to me to be a very strong PoV that humantitarianism is in some sense opposed to Christianity. This makes a nonsense of the claim that the aboliton of slavery was a "humanitarian" reform. In fact humanitarians may or may not have religious motivations, and this should be made clearer. Also there need to be more refs for the early part of the article. NBeale (talk) 02:16, 22 August 2009 (UTC)

I'm not sure I see what you're referring to but, please feel free & be bold. --Whoosit (talk) 15:33, 22 August 2009 (UTC)
OK I've made a bit of a start. But I've had to remove a whole section on Rationalism because it is so misconcevied I don't quite know where to begin. It's also not go a lot to do with Humanitarianism. However because there is some interesting material which might be re-usable I'd like to record that the section went:

===Rationalism===

With the Scientific Revolution, of the 17th century, came a new approach to ascertaining truth. Revelation had for centuries been dominant. Reason was only a subordinate ally.[1] Seventeenth century science displaced this primacy of revelation. Truth was discoverable by observation and was embodied in generalisations deduced from it. Science postulated a new idea of causation. Events resulted from physical laws applicable throughout the Universe and not from the irregular interventions by the deity to give effect to some supposed retributive purpose.[2] And the malign presence and intervening activity of Satan were equally inconsistent with the new idea of physical causation.[3]

Rationalism released the ethic of active compassion from contradictory, non-rational beliefs and values. Witchcraft was formerly widely accepted.[4] It had been endorsed by Pope Innocent VIII in a Papal Bull promulgated in 1484. Thousands of women were cruelly burnt between 1450 and 1550 in Northern Germany alone. Acceptance of witchcraft was sustained by the belief that the women were infected by the Devil. New Testament compassion could not prevail, nor could cruelty be condemned, or even recognised, in the face of this irrational belief. With rationalism, diabolical intervention was rejected, witchcraft withered, ending the cruel burnings of countless women. In another field, attitudes to the mentally ill had been affected by the belief that it was the devil rather than illness that had caused their mental condition. Medical science superseded this obscurantistism.

More generally rationalism had a pronounced impact upon Christian belief itself. It was here that its influence upon the humanitarian outlook was most profound. It led to an approach to scripture which, whilst still reverential, sought to understand its meaning. Protestantism denied the exclusive authority of the Church to determine that. The Bible became subject to scholarly examination. Erasmus’s Greek New Testament was a turning point. The historical background to the text was examined. Inconsistencies were recognized and reconciled.[5][6] It was natural to go beyond literalism. Increasingly, the focus turned to the God of Love in the New Testament rather than the Jehovah of the Old. The latter had been the transcendental God of Jean Calvin. Calvinism rejected the ethic of compassion. Salvation was reserved for the Elect.[7] Gradually the anti-humanitarian theology of Calvinism diminished and other Protestant sects, notably the Quakers, looked to the New Testament and the Gospel of Love for ethical guidance.[8][9]

Fundamentally, we owe it to rationalism, that after 150 years the cruelties of religious persecution ended. It was rationalism together with the idea of freedom of conscience [an important result of secular individualism, referred to below] that enabled Europe to achieve the toleration of differing religious beliefs in the following centuries.

Dei delitti e delle pene by Cesare, Marquis of Beccaria, published 1764.
What is evident is that the ethic of compassion and pity might be stilled by the existence of competing and strongly held social values. Medieval punishments were brutal. Not merely hangings but burning, boiling in oil, cutting out of tongues were common. Punishment in the Middle Ages was a mass of retributive cruelty. This remained the case beyond the Middle Ages and into the 18th century. These brutalities were accepted without protest because the retributive foundation of punishment was an unquestioned social value. The public nature of executions allowed the cruelty in human nature to be indulged in a way that was socially acceptable. As late as 1846, Dickens commented on his own reaction to the vast crowd attending the hanging of Courvoisier that, “I should have deemed it impossible that I could have felt any large assembly of my fellow creatures to be so odious.”[10]

The humanising of punishment did not come from the ethic of compassion but from rationalism. Cesare, Marquis of Beccaria, published his great work, Dei delitti e delle pene, in 1764, and asked what were the social objects of punishment. He approached the issue rationally, not theologically. He formulated principles which became applied throughout most of Europe leading to the abolition of the death penalty in many countries.[11] Another important humanitarian result of Beccaria's work was the abolition in many countries of torture as a means of procuring evidence.

In neither field was compassion neglected by the reformers but in neither case would compassion have activated reforms in the absence of the underlying foundation of the new rationalism.

NBeale (talk) 10:23, 23 August 2009 (UTC)


Hmmm... I see what you mean. NPOV issues + overly technical detail + questionable relevance. A discussion over the emergence of Rationalism has no need to be included in the article. That's what wikilinks are for...
I think it would be enough note the key changes in thinking that Rationalism brought about: scientific approach to nature led to the conviction that people could influence the progress of nature and society. Combined with the Christian ethic of compassion, this led to the idea that one could and should influence their society for the better. Also worthwhile to note the emergence of medical science. If you can do something on this, great, otherwise I might have time to put something together later in the week. Thanks for bringing this up--there are snags like this all through the article. --Whoosit (talk) 15:48, 23 August 2009 (UTC)

Lots of stuff which does not belong in this article[edit]

The vast majority of this article is about various social reforms, but makes no connection to Humanitarianism. Similarly, the impressive looking number of citations make no connection between Humanitarianism and various social reforms, from what I can see. For instance, the section on slavery has 14 citations (11 through to 24), but not a single one of them links the abolition of slavery to Humanitarianism: refs 11-15 give details of the slave trade, ref 16 is links to a writing of Wesley (a Primary Source); refs 17-20 are about the abolition of slavery in England but make no connection to Humanitarianism; 21 and 22 are two more Primary Documents; and 23 and 24 are about abolition of slavery in France and USA respectively. (This stuff would be fine in the Abolition of Slavery article but has no place here). These sections need to demonstrate a link to humanitarianism or be deleted entirely. Peter Ballard (talk) 06:07, 1 December 2009 (UTC)

I tend to agree. The entire article is in need of a major overhaul, and has been for a long time, as above talk entries indicate. I've been thinking about this for a long time but I'm afraid can't devote the time required right now. If you want to get a start, I will certainly be around from time to time to assist and offer comments. --Whoosit (talk) 13:51, 1 December 2009 (UTC)

Deleted "Notable Humanitarians" Section[edit]

Deleted list of humanitarians as contentious and largely irrelevant. Who is and who is not humanitarian is largely a PoV judgement. One person's humanitarian is another's colonialist exploiter. This list has been the site of PoV pushing and self-promotion for years, without serving to increase the understanding of the general reader. --Whoosit (talk) 07:28, 12 July 2010 (UTC)

No source[edit]

We are told that St. Paul was under Stoic influence, without the slightest source, reference or attempt at proof. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 94.30.71.244 (talk) 15:01, 26 March 2011 (UTC)

Foolish Exaggeration[edit]

A third of the way through the main article, mention is made of an 18th century writer, Cesare Beccaria. The section ends with: "He published his great work Dei Delitte e delle pene in 1764. Within a year his fame was worldwide."

His fame was not nation-wide. Nor was his fame even Europe-wide, and nor was it qualified as being wide-spread among the intelligentsia. Rather we are to believe that in the Andean highlands and on the Yangtze River plain, potato and rice farmers would pause from their labors and debate the merits of an obscure Italian text, within a year of its publication.

Who writes such stuff? Do they ever think?

Ertdfgcvb (talk) 14:35, 4 January 2012 (UTC)

Animal Rights Is Not Humanitarianism[edit]

The section, "Prevention of cruelty to animals," does not belong on this page. That is an entirely seperate thing, which probably has its own page. Just link it as another page viwers might be interested in. Animal Rights Activism is not a part of humanitarianism. Humanitarianism is solely about humans, hince it's root-word is human. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 174.22.251.138 (talk) 19:50, 9 May 2012 (UTC)

I removed it. And, if I ever catch anything not to do with humans on the HUMANitarian page again, I will delete it again. Animal Rights activism is not part of humanitarianism, it is a seperate issue. Humanitarianism is solely about the subject of humans. Anyone who cannot process this blatant fact needs to see a psychiatrist, because if you can't distinguih between a cat and a human, that literally constitutes as something wrong with your brain. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 174.22.251.138 (talk) 19:56, 9 May 2012 (UTC)

What about the long and well acknowledged tradition of 'humane' societies in humanitarianism? Please take more information, learn about the use of words with regard to etymology, respect other people, and be welcome to Wikipedia editing... --Robert Daoust (talk) 23:49, 9 May 2012 (UTC)

  1. ^ Tamas, R: "The Passion of the Western Mind",pp. 175-178. Pimlico, 1991.
  2. ^ Russell, B: "Religion and Science", page 100. Home University Library, 1961.
  3. ^ Redwood, J: "Reason, Ridicule and Religion", page 144/5. Thames & Hudson, 1976.
  4. ^ Bury, J.B: "A History of Freedom of Thought", page 49. Oxford University Press, 1952.
  5. ^ Bury, J.B: "History of Freedom of Thought", pp 105 -107. Oxford University Press,1952.
  6. ^ Gay, P. et al: "Great Ages of Man; Age of the Enlightenment", page 38. Time-Life International,1966.
  7. ^ "Westminster Confession" 1647. Retrieved April 21, 2009.
  8. ^ Hill, C: "The World Turned Upside Down", page 252. Penguin History, 1973.
  9. ^ Encyclopedia Britannica (1958), Volume 9, page 847.
  10. ^ Dickens, C: "Letter to the Daily News, 28th February 1846" in Blom-Cooper, L. (ed.): "The Law as Literature", page 385. The Bodley Head, 1961.
  11. ^ Radzinowicz, L: "A History of English Criminal Law", Volume 1, page 279. Stevens, 1948.