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Rationalist humanism, or rational humanism or rationalistic humanism, is one of the strands of Age of Enlightenment. It had its roots in Renaissance, as a response to Middle Age religious integralism and obscurantism. Rationalist humanism tradition includes Tocqueville and Montesquieu, and in the 19th century, Élie Halévy.
Other strands of the Enlightenment included scientific naturalism. In the mid 20th century, rational humanism represented also an alternative for those that did not embrace Sartre's existentialism. In the late 20th century, it has sided against the equiparation of human rights with rights to other animal species.
- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1978) A World Split Apart Harvard Class Day Exercises, 8 June 1978. Also here  and here "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-06-25. Retrieved 2013-04-16. quotation:
I refer to the prevailing Western view of the world which was first born during the Renaissance and found its political expression from the period of the Enlightenment. It became the basis for government and social science and could be defined as rationalistic humanism or humanistic autonomy: the proclaimed and enforced autonomy of man from any higher force above him. It could also be called anthropocentricity, with man seen as the center of everything that exists.
The turn introduced by the Renaissance evidently was inevitable historically. The Middle Ages had come to a natural end by exhaustion, becoming an intolerable despotic repression of man's physical nature in favor of the spiritual one. (...) This new way of thinking (...) did not admit the existence of intrinsic evil in man nor did it see any higher task than the attainment of happiness on earth. (...) a total liberation occurred from the moral heritage of Christian centuries with their great reserves of mercy and sacrifice. (...) The West ended up by truly enforcing human rights, sometimes even excessively, but man's sense of responsibility to God and society grew dimmer and dimmer.
- Janaway, Christopher (1999) The Cambridge Companion to Schopenhauer p.404
- Anderson, Brian C. (1997) Raymond Aron: the recovery of the political, p.170
- Aron (1978) quotation:
I belong to the school of thought that Solzhenitsyn calls rational humanism, and says has failed. This rationalism does not imply certain of the intellectual or moral errors that Solzhenitsyn attributes to it. Montesquieu maintains a balance between the Eurocentrism of the Enlightenment and historicism. (...) In what sense can we decree the failure of rational humanism? The rationalist is not unaware of the animal impulses in man, and of the passions of man in society. The rationalist has long since abandoned the illusion that men, alone or in groups, are reasonable. He bets on the education of humanity, even if he is not sure he will win his wager.
- Carruth, Gorton (1993) The encyclopedia of world facts and dates, p.932
- Jacques Derrida The Animal that Therefore I Am pp.104-5, quotation:
Writing against those who denounce the calling into question of humanist axiomatics on the subject of the animal as an “irresponsible deconstructionist drift ,” she [Élisabeth de Fontenay] offers this reminder:
Those who evoke the summar injuria [an allusion to Nazi zoophilia and Hitler’s vegetarianism] only in order to better make fun of pity for anonymous and mute suffering are out of luck, for it happens that some great Jewish writers and thinkers of this century were obsessed by the question of the animal: Kafka, Singer, Canetti, Horkheimer, Adorno. By insisting on inscribing that in their work, they will have contributed to an interrogation of rationalist humanism and of the solid ground of its decisions. Victims of historic catastrophes have in fact felt animals to be victims also, comparable up to a certain point to themselves and their kind.
- Raymond Aron (1978) Pour le Progrès. Après la chute des idoles, in Commentaire n.3 (autumn 1978) p.233-ff. English translation: For Progress, in The College - The St John's Review, St John's College's StudentsReview, vol.31, n.2, January 1980.
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