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Humanism has been a term in use since the 18th century for different, sometimes contradicting intellectual currents in various historical forms, among which Renaissance humanism stands out as a concept. What they have in common is an optimistic assessment of mankind's ability to find a better form of existence.

A social and, in particular, educational ideal is designed, the realization of which should enable every person to develop the best possible personality. This is linked to criticism of existing conditions that, from a humanistic point of view, oppose this goal. With regard to the concrete content, there are great differences between the individual concepts of humanism, which result from the differences in basic anthropological assumptions. In particular, there is a contrast between the models that emerged from the tradition of Renaissance humanism and alternative designs of modernity, which see themselves in opposition to traditional humanism and have little in common with it, but stick to the term humanism as a self-designation.


Renaissance humanism was a broad educational movement that resorted to ancient or ancient ideas. The Renaissance humanists hoped for an optimal development of human abilities through the connection of knowledge and virtue . Humanistic education should enable people to recognize their true destiny and, by imitating classic models, to realize an ideal humanity and to shape a corresponding form of society. The humanistic concept of life, which was linked to the ancient Roman concept of humanitas , appeared as an alternative to the traditional, medieval image of man, which was strongly oriented towards God and the hereafter. The Renaissance humanists sharply distinguished themselves from the late medieval scholastic scholarship.

The humanistic movement, which focused on ancient writings and works of art as classic educational goods, spread from Italy to Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries, but lost momentum in the course of the 16th century. It influenced all parts of the world with a European influence. It received a new impetus in the 18th and 19th centuries from the flourishing neo-humanism in Germany , which was primarily based on Greek antiquity and shaped higher education in German-speaking countries. A concomitant phenomenon was the enthusiasm for Greece, which also had a political effect in philhellenism .

Criticism of the one-sided orientation of neo-humanism towards antiquity and “classical” Greek culture came from different sides. In the English-speaking world, the German enthusiasm for Greece was partly perceived as the "tyranny of Greece over Germany". Advocates of an equal modern language education like Friedrich Paulsen turned against the preponderance of classical language teaching in the humanistic grammar school, which was then gradually pushed back.

The concept of humanism has experienced new forms in existentialist philosophy as well as in Marxism and real socialism , whereby completely new approaches led to a sharp demarcation from “classical” humanism. Anthropocentrism , the concentration of interest and efforts on people and their uniqueness, in contrast to worldviews that focus on God or the whole of nature or the human form of life as just one of many, can be seen as a connecting element of old and new approaches grasp.

Meanings and problems of the term humanism

Origin and traditional uses of the term

The German term humanism was first used by Friedrich Immanuel Niethammer in the 1808 book Der Streit des Philanthropinismus und Humanismus in the theory of educational teaching of our time . He defends the Greek classical-oriented education against the practical-technical education at the Realschulen . The practical benefit should not only be in the foreground. Humanistic education provides young people with classic patterns that contribute to an aesthetic, moral and spiritual development. According to Niethammer, the Logos thematized by the Greeks led man beyond his raw nature to the spiritual. Only then was his true humanity established. The Logos who incarnated in Jesus Christ ( Jn 1:14  EU ) is at the same time the original principle of human education.

In addition to the original, epoch-spanning meaning of the term humanism, which was coined by Niethammer, another one emerged in the course of the 19th century: As a cultural-historical epoch term, it was also used to denote the long transition from the late Middle Ages to the early modern period . For the first time in 1841 Karl Hagen spoke of "humanism" in this narrower sense. In 1859 Georg Voigt published the standard work The Revival of Classical Antiquity or the First Century of Humanism , which contributed significantly to the establishment of the special historical use of the term.

What the traditional uses of the term have in common is that the image of man and the ideal of education of leading Renaissance humanists and their attitude towards antiquity are understood as a core component of what constitutes “humanism”. The traditional, “classical” humanism in the narrowest sense only includes the educational movement in the Renaissance epoch. In a broader sense, this also includes all later concepts up to the present day, the representatives of which referred to the tradition of Renaissance humanism and adopted and developed its main ideas. The common main feature of all traditional directions is the idea of ​​a timeless model of ancient patterns.

In view of the central importance of Roman models for the content of modern humanism, these models themselves - primarily Cicero - are sometimes counted as humanism. Cicero can also be regarded as a “humanist” from the point of view that humanists are admirers and imitators of classics : His reception of Greek literature and education is in some respects comparable to the relationship of the Renaissance humanists to ancient Roman culture. That is why some works of research literature speak of an ancient “Roman humanism”. The application of the term “humanism” to phenomena in Roman intellectual history has met with approval from a number of researchers, but has also met with criticism and has not become generally accepted. One objection is that a humanistic attitude does not correspond to the Roman mentality. Parallels to modern humanism in high medieval literature have led to the fact that there is also talk of "medieval humanism".

For the advocates of a cross-epoch use of the term that also includes ancient models, the connecting element - the specifically humanistic - is a concept of humanitas that encompasses both “humanity” in the sense of a humane attitude and linguistic-literary education. In this way, humanism does justice to both the ethical and the intellectual component of being human. The debates on modern humanism also deal with the two aspects of humanity and an idealistic upbringing and education, although their weighting fluctuates.

Range of more recent readings

The cultural-historical concept of humanism is juxtaposed with a multitude of concepts newly developed in the 19th and 20th centuries, the representatives of which understand “humanism” not to be a phenomenon of a closed epoch or a mere canon of conventional educational goods, but a socio-political program designed to cope with current challenges and to help shape the future. The new approaches not only appear as individual philosophical manifestations, but also in the form of broader currents. Partly they move in traditional ways, in that they tie in with the basic ideas of the Renaissance humanists and neo-humanism, partly they distance themselves emphatically and break completely new ground. Walter Rüegg distinguishes six directions:

  • the idealistic humanism , aiming at the "harmonious idealism of the Greek people" (including the re-establishment in Werner Jaeger's Paideia);
  • the liberal-democratic humanism of a dialectical, positivist and pragmatic tinge , which has its sights on the generally educated, enlightened and professionally successful citizen in the modern world;
  • the Marxist humanism , which aims to overcome the alienation of man by capitalist working conditions and exploitation;
  • the integral humanism , which brings together in his humanity the tradition of Catholicism (in the form of association of antique rational thought with Judeo-Christian child of God) with the new tasks in a secularized society;
  • the biblicist humanism Protestant origin, whose humanity relies solely on the Bible, but this meeting religiously different Humanism views space are;
  • the existential humanism , the preset images of man rejects consistently, for the free development of individual existence in orientation but remains dependent.

Criticism of imprecise and unhistorical use of terms

The variety of conceptual concepts, interpretations and socio-political uses that have been associated with humanism in the recent past underlines on the one hand the timeless aura and attractiveness of this term, but on the other hand also makes it appear iridescent to the point of arbitrariness. This was sometimes harshly criticized, for example by the Romanist Ernst Robert Curtius in 1960:

“How shadowy the term humanism has already become today can be seen from the fact that most people can no longer imagine anything specific under it. In the first post-war phase - from the armistice to the currency cut - few buzzwords were as worn out in public discussion as humanism. Hinz and Kunz pretended to be able to supply the audience with it. How many Erasmus students were there in Germany at that time. One should respect those who always have been and who have committed themselves to it. But there were few of them among the new business cycle humanists. "

The view that only a humanism aimed at the initial constellation can correctly grasp the term was recently emphasized again by Volker Reinhardt . As a phenomenon of European cultural history, humanism was limited to the period between 1350 and 1550 and then perished. Other uses based on equating humanism with humanitarian are unhistorical and distorting the meaning. The “real” humanists were “gifted polemicists, self-profilers, segregators and marginalizers in every respect”. For them the degree of perfection of the respective Latin was the measure of moral perfection. "From this glorification of language and this cult of language, however, the mental movements that see themselves as neo-humanistic or are addressed as" modern-humanistic "are very far removed."

Epochs of "classical" humanism

Ancient roots

The starting point for the formulation and dissemination of ideas that were later called “humanistic” was the ancient Roman term humanitas (“humanity”). The word, derived from the adjective humanus (“human”), is first attested in the script Rhetorica ad Herennium from an unknown author , which was published in the early 1st century BC. Was created. There, the characteristic of humanitas is compassion, which is considered a special quality of human beings, which sets their nature apart from animal savagery and cruelty. In this sense, humanus was used earlier in Roman comedy. In the Latin colloquial language, a mild, compassionate person was called “human”, whereby the connotations “amiable”, “friendly”, “benevolent” and “helpful” could resonate. Such an attitude was more likely to be expected of the cultured, noble residents of the city of Rome than of the rural population, which is why the adjective was given the connotations "metropolitan" and "educated" (" urban ") early on .

The meaning of humanitas was mainly shaped by Cicero , who later became the most important ancient initiator of Renaissance humanism. No other Roman author placed so much emphasis on this term as Cicero. For him, too, the aspect of philanthropy was important, which he found as a connoisseur of Greek literature in the Greek term philanthrōpía (" philanthropy "). He was impressed by the ideal of philanthropy, which he considered to be a specifically Greek achievement. In this sense, he stated that humanity was not only practiced by the Greeks, but also went out from them to the other peoples. Hence, now that the Romans ruled Greece, they owed the Greeks especially humane treatment.

At the latest with Cicero, however, in addition to the traditional main meaning of humanus and humanitas, another one that even came to the fore. According to his understanding, humanity not only included benevolent "humanity", but above all education. He was concerned with the realization of an educational ideal that was linked to the Greek paideía . In his educational goal, however, Cicero set a different accent than the Greek models, in that he used humanitas to emphasize the peculiarity of the specifically human (in contrast to the animal and the god). According to his conviction, “human nature”, that which is human, that which distinguishes people, was to be cultivated. The Greek classics had no special expression for this element of that which was peculiar to and only characterizing man. There was no ideal of perfect humanity in the Greek thought of classical times, since the human was primarily perceived as something fundamentally deficient in comparison to the divine. The Roman humanitas , in which the two elements philanthropy and education merged, represented a new creation.

The ability to communicate in language at a high level, which was a primary educational goal, played a central role in this understanding of humanity. It showed itself in public life - in politics and in the legal system - as eloquence, in everyday private dealings as urbanity, that is, as courtesy, wit, grace and ease in expression, which reflected a serene attitude. In addition to the ability to use the language confidently and to convince others, the philosophical character formation, the acquisition of virtues such as mildness, justice and dignity were a main element of the pursuit of humanitas in the sense of Cicero. Generosity was also part of it.

In the Roman Empire , Seneca took up the concept of humanitas , but narrowed it down by only considering the ethical objective as essential.

Renaissance humanism

In a narrower sense, humanism is the intellectual climate of the 15th and 16th centuries that turned away from the Middle Ages and scholasticism . A distinction is made between the Renaissance as the comprehensive cultural, scientific and social change between the Middle Ages and modern times and humanism as the educational movement that accompanied the change and gave it important impulses.

Spokesmen of the humanist movement sharply and contemptuously distinguished themselves from the past of the preceding centuries, which was beginning to be called the “Middle Ages”. Their enthusiastic turn to antiquity corresponded to the condemnation of the "middle" times, perceived as dark and barbaric. However, this ostentatiously emphasized side of the humanistic self-image conceals the fact that there was also a broad continuity between the Middle Ages and Renaissance humanism. A smooth transition to the new era could be seen among other things. a. in the phenomena of late medieval “pre-humanism” (pre-humanism, protohumanism). In modern research, the aspect of breaking with the past is sometimes emphasized ( Remigio Sabbadini , Eugenio Garin ), and sometimes the aspect of a continuation of medieval approaches, which in some respects even appears as a seamless continuity ( Ernst Robert Curtius , Paul Oskar Kristeller ).

When the Byzantine Empire went through crises that threatened its existence in the late Middle Ages and finally perished in 1453 with the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans , numerous Byzantine scholars fled to Italy and brought an abundance of Greek manuscripts to the West. It was only with the inclusion of Greek language and literature that the humanistic canon took on its full form. The invention of printing was also useful in the endeavors of the humanists. He helped her works to spread and introduced her ideas to the whole learned world.

Ancient culture was imitated as unsurpassable. The study of ancient literature and philosophy served to ensure a self-contained education and to free oneself from theological and philosophical preliminary decisions. The uomo universale , standing above the class structures, embodied the ideal image of man. As early as the 15th century, educated circles saw themselves as humanistae , that is, humanists. The term humanista appeared for the first time in 1490 in a vernacular letter. It describes the Graecists, Latinists, poets and orators who devoted themselves to the studia humanitatis and who regarded Cicero and Quintilian as role models, especially in rhetoric . This scholarly movement wanted to renew the ancient image of man.

The life-affirming and creative individual has been rehabilitated. The Italian humanists glorified man from the conviction that man, as the image of God, is the highest in all creation. The most famous and influential humanist of the early modern period was Erasmus of Rotterdam , whose philosophia christiana relativized the overemphasis on rhetorical culture. In 1514 he translated the New Testament into Greek for the first time in Basel . Neither Philipp Melanchthon's foundation of Protestant education nor the Jesuit school system are conceivable without humanistic influence. Georg Voigt had already recognized humanism as an educational movement in all its complexity before Jacob Burckhardt .

Renaissance humanism was sponsored by the Popes. With Pope Pius II they themselves provided an important humanist. The scholastic criticism of the humanistic reform theologians, who advocated a reform of the ruling theology, shaped many later reformers. The partially immoral way of life of the church superiors and priests resulted in a more or less pronounced anti-clericalism .

When developing his early Protestant hermeneutics, Philipp Melanchthon relied on the humanistic tradition of rhetoric.

The decline of Renaissance humanism occurred in the course of the 16th century, among other things, because it was no longer viewed by representative intellectuals as being out of date.

Dutch late humanism

Justus Lipsius

In the age of Reformation and religious schism in Europe, the work of the undoubtedly most important humanist of his time, Erasmus of Rotterdam , which aimed at peace and reconciliation, was unable to maintain itself . His works were banned by the Catholics in 1559. However, especially in the course of the Dutch liberation struggle against the Spanish crown, they remained an important source of inspiration for his learned compatriots, who in turn provided far-reaching impulses, especially in parts of Europe that were affected by the Reformation. One of the most important exponents of late Dutch humanism was Justus Lipsius , who followed the stoic tradition of European humanism and , as a teacher of practical reason, especially through his work De Constantia, he became an educator of the state and Calvinist princes. They also included Joseph Justus Scaliger , the founder of an ancient scholarship that was not solely based on philology , and Hugo Grotius , who introduced Erasmic thinking into jurisprudence and expanded legal awareness to include the right to humanity and the right of peoples to peace.

The orientation of Dutch late humanism to stoic ideas could be based on Erasmus, who was even more attracted to the writings of Seneca than to those of Cicero. The ecclesiastical condemnation of Erasmus and his writings turned neoicism into a moral doctrine which, with the appeal to Erasmus and his non-denominational humanistic program, met both secular thinking and a science that was detached from ecclesiastical supervision.

The influence of late Dutch humanism in early modern Europe was diversified and developed particularly in the Brandenburg-Prussian state. His father Georg Wilhelm , who had converted to Calvinism , sent the later Great Elector Friedrich Wilhelm to Leiden to study the writings of Seneca for three years . Thus a long-lasting tradition of Calvinist-Puritan and Stoic-moral orientation arose among the Brandenburg Hohenzollern , which also became the guideline for Prussian officer training and for the Prussian civil service. The catalog of practical virtues based on this included manliness, obedience, loyalty to the state, fulfillment of duty, honesty, constancy and perseverance as well as trust in God.

According to Günther Böhme, late humanism had a profile that strongly deviated from Platonic-Christian humanism due to its Protestant-Roman character. Among other things, through the discrediting of the churches, through the politicization of the public, through the bourgeoisisation of the state and administration, through the penetration of vernacular languages ​​and through a rationalism based on reason as a human creative force, it is a multifaceted humanism. "The perspectives that open up from its continued impact and the Erasmic tradition point to neo-humanism, which will renew the Greek tradition."

Since the beginning of modern times, the Stoic teachings have been easily accessible in Greek from Epictetus , Marcus Aurelius and Diogenes Laertios, and in Latin from Cicero, Persius and Seneca. Updated by Lipsius, Grotius and Pufendorf , Neostoicism, together with Epicureanism and skepticism, formed a new level of reception of ancient philosophy , on which the Hellenistic authors came to the fore. According to Hubert Cancik , stoic terms and arguments played a significant role in the educational theory of the 18th century and for the theory of natural law : “The emphatic and positive use of the word 'man' and the overdetermined word humanitas - humanité - humanity come from this tradition . "

From humanistic legacy to new humanism

While humanism as pedantic book scholarship may have fallen into disrepute at the end of the 16th century and gave way to other intellectual currents such as rationalism , progressive thinking and historicism , the interest in ancient cultural documents and figures did not break away even outside of the usual school education, but rather was maintained and revived in the 17th and 18th centuries in largely Catholic France, for example, by writers and poets such as Bruyère , Fénelon , Molière , Corneille and Racine and by enlightenment thinkers such as Montesquieu , Voltaire , Diderot and Rousseau . During the French Revolution , the urge for freedom broke through in antique decor: “You wear the Phrygian hat as a symbol of freedom, you put Brutus busts everywhere , you imitate ancient festivals. People like streets and cities are given ancient names. "

Schiller, Wilhelm and Alexander von Humboldt, Goethe

While the French humanistic tradition did not neglect Greek antiquity, but still favored Romanism much more strongly, a vehement interest in ancient Greek art and culture arose in education-oriented circles in England and especially in Germany in the 18th century. Several factors can be considered to explain this particular preference: Unlike in the case of France, the Roman Empire only extended to parts of what would later become Germany; the beginnings of German history were linked with the liberation of the Teutons from Roman rule. "The Reformation," says Hans Oppermann , "further contributed to bringing large parts of Germany into a new opposition to everything that was called Rome and was Roman." In the areas covered by the Reformation, Greek was given the language of New Testament has a special meaning. In the epoch of Sturm und Drang there was also a preference for the original genius and everything original at the expense of any imitation or derivation “second hand”. This made the Romans second choice to the Greeks and Latin to ancient Greek: “This special meaning of Greek is infinitely deepened, the experience of Greece itself moves into the center of German culture in the great neo-humanism movement of Winckelmann and Wilhelm von Humboldt. [...] 'Searching the land of the Greeks with the soul' - that is definitely the attitude of the adepts of neo-humanism, whereby the 'land of the Greeks' at least approaches the rank of a secularized kingdom of God. "According to Oppermann, the said Greek experience got the New humanists a pseudo-religious accent, the new humanism took on the character of a religion of mankind.

Pioneering in 1755 was Johann Joachim Winckelmann's writing, Thoughts on the Imitation of Greek Works in Painting and Sculpture , especially in the hymnic sentences:

“The general excellent characteristic of the Greek masterpieces is finally a noble simplicity and quiet greatness, both in position and in expression. Just as the depths of the sea remain calm at all times, no matter how raging the surface, the expression in the figures of the Greeks shows a great and sedate soul for all passions. "

The outer and the spiritual beauty are therefore united in the sculptures of the Greeks, the beautiful and the good according to the Greek educational ideal of Kalokagathia are inseparably linked.

Johann Gottfried Herder

The letters for the advancement of humanity , written by Johann Gottfried Herder in connection with the impulses of the French Revolution, contain a clear reference back to stoic ideas. Herder derives from people's gift of reason on the one hand and their various weaknesses on the other hand the willingness and necessity of mutual help as well as the need to educate the individual and the human species. According to Cancik, stoic cosmology, anthropology and ethics can give the individual a firm footing. The humanity threatened by bestiality, cruelty and destructiveness must be counteracted through education. According to Cancik, the key to Herder's concept of humanity lies in the expressions humanity, humanity, human rights, human obligations, human dignity, and human love .

According to Martin Vöhler, Herder gave the term humanity sustained dissemination in German-speaking countries. Herder's perspective was a cosmopolitan one . He criticized slavery and exploitation as well as colonialism and racism . In the 114th Humanitarian Letter he opposed the crimes against humanity perpetrated by the supposedly cultivated nations of Europe: “Call the country where Europeans came and not yourself through interference, through unjust wars, avarice, fraud, oppression, disease and have sinned harmful gifts to unprotected, trusting humanity, perhaps down to all aeons! "

Wilhelm von Humboldt, portrait statue by Bertel Thorvaldsen, 1808

The development of an overall theoretical concept of neo-humanist education as well as its anchoring in state institutions was the work of Wilhelm von Humboldt . On the one hand with Schiller and Goethe, who developed in Sturm und Drang and soon to be celebrated as "Prince Poets" , on the other hand they were related to the leading classical philologists of his time, Humboldt also propagated the study of the Greeks as an effective means of intellectual, ethical and personal development from an aesthetic point of view: “In the Greeks we have a nation in whose happy hands everything that, according to our intimate feeling, preserves the highest and richest human existence, had already matured to its ultimate perfection; we look back on them as on a human tribe formed from nobler and purer material, on the centuries of their heyday as on a time in which nature, which emerged even fresher from the workshop of the creative forces, had retained its relationship with them even more unmixed ”.

In the course of the Prussian reforms under King Friedrich Wilhelm III. Humboldt was entrusted with the reorganization of the state education system as head of the section of culture and public education and within a few months set in motion new curricula and the foundation of the Berlin university , which today bears his and his brother's name, on the basis of his new humanist educational ideal . Many contemporary intellectuals were influenced by it and advocated it, for example Hegel in 1809: “If we accept that one can start from the excellent, then the literature of the Greeks and then that of the Romans has the basis for higher studies to be and stay. The perfection and glory of these masterpieces must be the spiritual bath, the profane baptism, which gives the soul the first and inalienable tone and tincture for taste and science. "

Until the end of the 19th century, Humboldt's neo-humanist orientation played an important role in grammar schools as well as in higher education. Since the middle of the century, however, the timeless validity of the idealized image of Greece has been increasingly questioned and challenged by the change to an industrial society with changed skills requirements.

“Third humanism” and humanistic educational tradition in the 20th century

Werner Jaeger , lithograph by Max Liebermann (1915)

The most important representative of the so-called Third Humanism was Werner Jaeger . The term Third Humanism - after Renaissance humanism and neo-humanism - comes from a speech given in 1921 by the Berlin philosopher Eduard Spranger , with whom Jaeger was friends and who worked with him for the ancient languages ​​and a philosophy of education : “But a difference between our humanism, which one could call the third compared to the second, lies in the breadth of searching and understanding that we moderns are able to muster. "

Jaeger derived the justification for an intensive revitalization or necessary rescue of the humanistic educational idea from changing circumstances and challenges: "The percentage of the population who really has an inner share in the traditional intellectual property of our nation is increasing in the light of the factory mass production of popular science and the introduction of cinema, radio and pocket microscope on the school year after year. With the well-known exceptions, the most powerful economic strata of our people, the working class and big business, are alien to the foundations of our human culture, and in some cases even hostile to it. The middle class, however, with whom these interests were hereditary and, if not without fluctuations, were most securely protected until recently, is ground between the great millstones of the modern economy. ”“ The engine of the professional machine ”grasps the spirit of the adolescents and earlier and earlier feed him with benefit-related "civilization knowledge" at the expense of spiritual individuality and free spiritual development. This leads "to the rationalistic emptying and flattening of life, to brutal reactions from raped nature, to the unhealthy hypertrophy of the sense of gain and pleasure, to the abolition of the intellectual independence of state and culture." Overcivilization on the one hand and flight from civilization on the other hand ultimately annihilated culture. Because this is not an external apparatus or formless inwardness, but "the brightest knowledge of the spirit about itself and secure rest in its form, purposeless being and ability." All real education is humanistic: "Education of man to man."

According to Jaeger, however, the culture has its origins in Greece. The Greeks passed on all their intellectual creation as inheritance to the other peoples of antiquity. For Jaeger, humanism begins with the adoption of Greek culture in the Roman Empire. The Greek idea of ​​education was then continued in Christianity in an independent way. The structure of resumption is constitutive for every manifestation of humanism. For Jaeger, occidental history becomes a series of renewals of the Greek idea of ​​education. The concept of culture of Greek origin, based on the idea of ​​pure human education, justifies for all peoples of the "Hellenocentric culture area" - starting with the Romans - not only a historical dependency, but includes a "spiritual penetration with Greek culture".

Paideia is at the center of Jaeger's educational idea . The entirety of Greek culture is an expression of the endeavor to shape people. The highest work of art to be created is therefore man. “Every expansion of Greek knowledge, every great advance, leads to an expansion of education. Comedy, tragedy, rhetoric, journalism and philosophy reverberate through the passionate cultural battle for education. It becomes the center of public life. ”The Greeks would have viewed things“ organically ”. You would have seen the individual as part of a whole . It was only through this that they were able to create the term “nature”. With this the interest in the laws that worked in the things themselves was connected. The norms for the personal guidance of the soul and for the building of the community arise from the insight into the laws of the human being.

In ancient language studies as a spirit-forming force in the sense of Wilhelm von Humboldt, Jaeger continued to see “the most stable basis for a humanistic education for young people.” The combination of formal spiritual training with a modern cultural awareness based on ancient foundations results in “the view of creations of decisive, timeless size . “The idea of ​​such a youth education is certainly high; however, a lot would already be achieved if only this or that of it was realized in an impressive way.

Humanism in Society and Politics

Since the end of the 16th century, the idea of ​​having a share in a republic of the learned (French: République des Lettres ) developed among humanists and late humanists . In a sense, you belonged to a class of intellectually independent people who developed their own traditions. This included the maintenance of the Latin language, the letter culture and a bourgeois way of life. Behavioral theory and moral education according to the specifications of Justus Lipsius , however, also aimed to train people to be fit for life through academic education that on the one hand promoted the human educational process of the individual, but also included the basics for specific vocational training. "On the one hand, education becomes a private matter, an area of ​​retreat into the beautiful world of the classicism of an imaginary perfection, and on the other hand, it becomes the public's cultural claim, the basis of probation in the service of the general public."

The relationship between humanism and its supporters and the emergence of modern natural sciences was exciting and at the same time stimulating. The Dutch late humanist Hugo Grotius provided important impulses for legal development. In the 20th century, humanistic psychology emerged as a separate psychological school. Forms of political humanism have also been developed and socially organized in divided Germany since the middle of the 20th century .

The “third humanism” initiated as a remedy against the decline of education in Germany, especially by Werner Jaeger after the First World War , had failed to have the intended effect, so that a broadly effective revival of ancient Greece as a core educational asset failed due to the real circumstances and challenges of the time. In a dispute with Jaeger, who strived for a political humanism, but failed, Bruno Snell pleaded for an action-oriented political humanism. While Jaeger's approach provided neither commitment nor obligation and thus remained merely an academic attitude, for Snell political humanism was about meaningful experiences which, despite all the differences in historical preconditions, might result in exemplary images from which something could be learned. He pointed out that the American Declaration of Independence , and even more so the United States Constitution, was based on ancient foundations, citing aspects of the preamble such as the concern for justice, internal peace, common defense, general welfare and the sustainable safeguarding of freedom. Their formation and first political importance owed these guiding principles which in Sparta acting Tyrtaios and the Athenians Solon in the 7th or 6th century BC. Chr.

According to Snell, the difference between aesthetic and political humanism is that with the former one has the great, exemplary classical works, which, however, defy theory; for political humanism, on the other hand, one has theoretical ideas, which, however, were insufficiently realized in antiquity. "But it is the same in both cases that something won by the Greeks shows beyond itself, that it is something to be won again and again."

Humanism and science

The beginnings of modern natural sciences in the 16th century were in a tense but also fruitful relationship to humanism. This was shown u. a. in the separation of the two spheres with regard to the subject matter or educational offer. Just as the humanistic curricula in schools initially offered no room for natural sciences, the other way round, natural scientific research did the same: it was as unwilling to deal with human imponderabilities as, on the other hand, the humanities were not prepared to subject humanity to any natural law.

Nevertheless, there are also interdependencies between conditions and effects. On the one hand, the intensive study of ancient writings extended not only to poetry and philosophy, but also to the most important works and the like. a. by Euclid , Apollonios of Perge , Archimedes and Pappos . In addition, humanistic philology, with its text-critical and comparative methods, taught a rational way of thinking, impartiality and the scientific examination of facts. Latin as the uniform language of science and scholars also determined the terminology of the natural sciences. On the other hand, humanists also favored the mother tongue for use in administration and in popular education. As technicians and practitioners also pursued the natural sciences and converted them into technologies, the dissemination of scientific literature in the national languages ​​was promoted. This was increasingly used in the natural sciences.

Botany , zoology and mineralogy developed in the course of the philological preoccupation with the ancient texts not only on the basis of technical and practical interest, but also with the help of the humanistic interest in the conscientious presentation of traditional knowledge. In the 16th century there were numerous editions of Euclid's geometry, the Naturalis historia (natural history) of Pliny and the medicine of Dioscurides . Galen's works were published in a total of 660 editions by 1598.

In the reality to be explained by its regularities and in the rejection of metaphysics, there was a common interest of the differentiating humanities and natural sciences. They opposed the “mystification of the knowledge of salvation” by theologians and church princes as well as against the pragmatic rulership of the secular princes. They brought about the zeitgeist "by enforcing the free opinion of independent intelligentsia between the politically declining papacy, the rising nation state and the university that is fixated on servitude, and by winning back knowledge 'free of domination' '.

Right development under the sign of humanism

It was late Dutch humanism that combined the concept of humanity in international law with a stoic moral awareness. In creating a new legal order in the world, human reason became essential. “The bourgeois educational consciousness learns to deal with nature in a different way, analogous to the understanding of nature in the natural sciences. The world is no longer sacrosanct creation; and from a nature ordered according to 'natural' laws the 'natural' right of man is read. "

Based Erasmian ideas developed Hugo Grotius in his work On the Law of War and Peace , the international law . In the course of secularization , jurists succeeded the clergy as pioneering authorities in a world order that was no longer mainly ecclesiastical. For a century, jurisprudence and with it the humanistically developed and expanded Roman law came to the top in the ranking of the sciences. This resulted from the creation of a legal history including systematic source criticism as well as from the development of a concept of natural law and the connection between natural and international law. Grotius himself concluded: "Natural law is so immutable that even God cannot change it."

Humanistic psychology

The humanistic theories in psychology were largely shaped by Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers . The personality develops with the aim of realizing itself. The own skills and talents should be developed in order to realize the inner potential. The striving for self-realization is at the same time the “organizer of all the different forces, whose interplay uninterruptedly creates what defines a person ... This innate striving for self-fulfillment and the realization of one's own unique potential is a constructive guiding force that every person in general positive Behaviors and motivated to further develop the self. "

"Real Humanism" in the GDR

Oriented on the model of real humanism presented by Karl Marx ( see below ), the transformation of bourgeois humanism, formerly “a matter of a ruling minority”, into a mass affair was propagated in the German Democratic Republic : as a “decision to actively participate in the endeavors of our time to change what already exists and to replace it with something better, ”said Heinrich Deiters . “If we look back at the history of mankind since the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, we discover the sources from which the new humanism was mainly nourished. It is the struggles of all progressive people for a secure peace and for a democratic state order, the struggles of the working people against the remnants of feudal property relations and monopoly capital, the struggles of the colonial peoples for their political independence. ”In contrast to the idealistic predecessor, real humanism develops his program “from full reality and applies it to full reality.” Thus, the opposition between spirit and matter is eliminated, and man is now treated as a unity.

Humanistic engagement in the Federal Republic of Germany

"Happy Human", symbol of the International Humanist and Ethical Union

In the Federal Republic of Germany, which had been involved in the European unification process since the early 1950s and which, after the devastatingly failed National Socialism, also embarked on other political and ideological shores, the revival of a humanist commitment began under new auspices of civic associations in self-organization.

The non-denominational Humanist Union founded in 1961 , which is mainly committed to the protection and enforcement of human and civil rights, aims above all to implement the requirement to respect human dignity and the right to free development of the personality. The priority areas of activity include dealing with violations of civil rights and promoting political participation.

The Humanist Association of Germany is a member of the European Humanist Federation , which was founded in 1993 as an amalgamation of various older freethinkers and humanist associations. Primarily important to the members is the commitment to human rights, peace, gender equality and a scientific explanation of the world. They reject all dogmatism and favor dialogue on the basis of rationally comprehensible reasons. The guiding principles include worldliness, self-determination, solidarity and tolerance. According to the self-assessment, the main fields of activity are practical help in life, upbringing, education and culture.

Since 2004 the Giordano Bruno Foundation has been advocating the further development and dissemination of the concept of evolutionary humanism . Foundation board member Michael Schmidt-Salomon published the book Manifest des evolutionary humanism in 2005 , which was widely distributed with a sold circulation of 50,000 copies.

The Humanist Party, founded in 2014, is committed to the values ​​of humanism, transhumanism and evolutionary humanism . In their opinion, life in a humanistic society is regulated exclusively by mutually agreed norms that result from a critical, rational and scientifically founded examination of reality. According to the understanding of the party, humanistic politics serves people and not religions, ideologies, dogmas or collectives. You see the citizen as enlightened and self-determined.

Novel concepts of humanism in modern philosophy

Karl Marx

From a Marxist point of view, the “classical” humanism based on the tradition of the Renaissance appears as a bourgeois worldview. She is accused of showing no interest in the social issue. The proletariat remains excluded from humanistic education. Access to culture and especially literature is only guaranteed for a privileged minority. Nevertheless, Karl Marx took up the term humanism and filled it with new content as part of his teaching. He equated communism with atheistic humanism. Communism abolishes private property, which is an expression of human self-alienation.

Communism is therefore the “real appropriation of human nature by and for man; therefore as a complete return of man, consciously and within the whole wealth of previous development, as a social , d. H. human people. This communism is as perfect naturalism = humanism, as perfect humanism = naturalism, it is the true resolution of the conflict between man and nature and with man, the true resolution of the conflict between existence and being, between objectification and self-affirmation, between freedom and necessity, between the individual and the species. "

Jacques Maritain

The Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain advocated Christian humanism in the 20th century. But this is only integral when man is grasped in his true essence, in his bond with God and his renewal through God. The modern conceptions of humanism should be connected with the doctrine of being developed by medieval scholasticism .

Jean-Paul Sartre

In his works, published before 1945, Jean-Paul Sartre took a critical stance on humanism or withheld it. It was only in the essay L'existentialisme est un humanisme, published in 1945 , that he acknowledged his own concept of humanism, existentialist humanism . This humanism emphasizes human responsibility. For Sartre, existentialism is "a doctrine of action". He designed a humanism in the guise of modernity: existence precedes essence . Man enters the world and only then does he design or invent himself. Man is nothing other than what he makes himself into in his total freedom. Therefore he is also responsible for what he is. This gives him his dignity. Life has no meaning a priori . Man chooses his morality , it is his creation and invention. Man creates a role model with himself . Man is nothing other than his life. He is the sum of his actions, relationships and ventures. It only exists to the extent that it realizes itself.

“There is no other universe than a human one, the universe of human subjectivity . This connection of transcendence that makes people - not in the sense in which God is transcendent, but in the sense of transcendence - and subjectivity in the sense that man is not included in himself, but is always present in a human universe, that is it what we call existentialist humanism. "

Sartre described his concept as a “humanism of need”, which he opposed to the “humanism of work” - the idea of fair performance - as an alternative. The humanism of need is the only one that has all of humanity as its object; it is based on the principle that need and not merit create justice ( needs-based justice ). The elimination of merit breaks the last barrier that separates people.

Erich Fromm

In the years from 1961 to 1978 Erich Fromm published several essays and speeches that were published in the anthology Humanism as a real utopia . According to Fromm, alienation is the disease of modern man. Man becomes an idolater who worships the work of his own hands. He is only busy working to be able to consume. He wants a lot instead of being a lot. Striving for power, lust for pleasure, and possessions displace love, joy, and personal growth. Anxiety is associated with an inability to love. Modern man flees into an empty bustle. In place of the traditional values ​​of the good , the beautiful and the true , which served the development of the human being, the technological value has taken place: the technically possible becomes an end in itself; if something is technically possible, it will be done.

According to Fromm, one should become aware of the humanistic alternative . Humanism assumes the feeling, living, suffering and thinking human being as the central category. “With this frame of reference, the meaning of life consists in the full development of human powers, especially that of reason and love, in transcending the narrowness of the self and in the development of the ability to give oneself , in the full affirmation of life and of all living things in contrast to the worship of all mechanical and dead things. ” One can gain contact with the whole, universal human existence through the unconscious :

“But if we have contact with the whole person in us , then there is nothing foreign. There is no longer any condemnation of others out of a feeling of their own superiority […] Today, people face a choice: Either they choose life and are capable of a new experience of humanism, or the new 'one world' will not succeed. "

The Love is the master key with which the doors can be opened for personal growth. The practice of love is the most human activity, which makes man completely human and is given to him for the joy of life.

Julian Huxley

In the work Evolutionary Humanism , published in Germany in 1964 , Julian Huxley presented the concept of the same name. From Huxley's point of view, science is able to explain not only biological evolution, but also inorganic developments such as the evolution of stars on the one hand, and human and social developments on the other, within the framework of a general theory of evolution. Huxley sees humans as the highest product of evolution, which is also able to control evolution and, for example, through genetic engineering in humans, to advance it. Nonetheless, he recognized that scientific findings are always prone to errors and therefore need to be corrected and that ethical-political norms are also subject to a historical development process.

Daisaku Ikeda

The Japanese thinker Daisaku Ikeda presented a humanism draft that develops a universal humanism in connection with Eastern and Western tradition and proposes it as a model for the world community.

Mouhanad Khorchide

The Austrian professor Mouhanad Khorchide advocates an Islamic interpretation of humanism.


Cultural and philosophical criticism

Martin Heidegger responded to a request from the French philosopher Jean Beaufret in 1947 with his letter on "humanism" . He accused classical humanism that in its determination of the human being as a reasonable subject, the actual dignity of the human being had not yet been experienced and that it had not set humanity high enough. Philosophy had already degenerated into metaphysics with ancient Greek thinkers. The essence of man must be experienced more initially. Heidegger's fundamental criticism of humanism does not only concern a historical development that is regarded as fatal, but amounts to the demand that humanism be abandoned as a misguided approach from the start.

Helmuth Plessner criticized humanism from the perspective of historicism : The history of one's own and foreign cultures has shown that the self-conception of human beings in the sense of an idea of ​​what human beings should be, has been created by human beings themselves historically and under culturally contingent assumptions was, so could not lay claim to general validity. Experience shows “that man's self-conception as a self-conception, as a person in the sense of an […] 'idea' itself means a product of its history, the idea of ​​man, humanity are conceptions conquered by 'people', to whom fate everything created is prepared to perish [...]. "

He opposes this with an anthropology that focuses on the essential unfathomable nature of man: what man is cannot be fathomed, because man is not a closed, but an incomplete being. This insight also ends the arrogance of a missionary Christian-European culture, which thinks that it has to bring humanity to other cultures first.

Michel Foucault asks himself how one can live as a free person. He bets that “a person disappears like a face in the sand on the seashore”. For Foucault , “the human being” is an epistemological figure of thought and only one element in an overall context that necessarily precedes the subject. The subject can no longer be the origin of all knowledge and truth. Foucault sees the dark side of the Enlightenment in humanism:

“By humanism, I understand the totality of the discourses in which the occidental person was persuaded: Even if you do not exercise power, you can very well be sovereign. [...] The better you submit to the power that is over you, the more sovereign you will be. Humanism is the totality of inventions that has been built around these subjugated sovereignties: the soul (sovereign over the body, subjected to God), the conscience (free in the realm of judgment, subjected to the order of truth), the individual (sovereign Owner of his rights, subject to the laws of nature or the rules of society). "

For Foucault, humanism is nothing more than a secularization of idealistic thoughts. There is neither a human being nor objective and universal human rights. There is also no supra-historical norm that can determine the essence of man. Humanism is the deceptive attempt at self-justification, which is intended to distract from the fact that man, like all living beings, is concerned with mere functioning without any higher ends. Foucault rejects the idea of ​​humanism that man can be an end for himself.

It is not man who takes the place of God, but the system. In fact, one thinks within an anonymous and compelling system of thought of a particular language and epoch. The freedom still championed by Sartre is ultimately an illusion. With this knowledge the idea of ​​man becomes superfluous. It is only an obstacle to seeing the real connections. The most burdensome legacy that fell to us from the 19th century was humanism. All the political regimes of the East or the West bring their bad goods through under the flag of humanism: “All these heart-crying, all these claims of the human person, of existence are abstract: d. H. cut off from the scientific and technical world, which is our real world. What turns me against humanism is the fact that it is only the screen behind which the most reactionary thinking takes refuge [...] The attempt that some of our generation are currently making is therefore not to stand up for man to use science and against technology, but rather to show clearly that our thinking, our life, our way of being up to our everyday behavior are part of the same organizational scheme and therefore depend on the same categories as the scientific and technical world. "

Religious criticism

Christian criticism of humanism opposes the anthropocentric, as “secular” approach of the humanistic models, which is seen as incompatible with the Christian concept of a God-centered life. Christian critics of humanism not only disapprove of the unfaithful, sometimes anti-religion attitude of many humanists, but also reject “Christian humanism”, in which they see an attempt to harmonize the incompatible. In the English-speaking world, secular humanism ("worldly humanism") is a battle term in disputes about religion and Christianity.

The Protestant dogmatist Karl Barth believed that one should first and foremost speak of God's humanism: God's love for man. Man as the being created by God should open himself out of his earthly reality into the mystery of his origin. In doing so he experiences the sanctification of grace , the humanism of God. The secular humanisms are actually superfluous. They are only "abstract programs" in relation to man's filiation with God as proclaimed in the Gospels.

For the evangelical theologian Rudolf Bultmann , who was very influential in the 20th century, humanism is a belief in the nobility of man as a spiritual being. The spirit is realized in what is true, good, and beautiful. These ideas determined science, law, and art. Humanism makes the world the home of man. On the other hand, for Christianity the world is the alien. The Christian faith evacuates man. God as simply beyond is separated from the world. Man as a sinner needs grace because he is not what he should be. The grace of God frees man from himself and makes him a new creature. The Christian faith therefore does not need humanism, rather there is a contradiction. The individual Christian is dependent on humanism because it makes the world controllable through science, law and art.

Criticism of the “outdated” character of traditional humanism

In the 20th and 21st centuries, the classic humanistic ideal of education was often criticized as being out of date and unrealistic. Even among classical scholars, its feasibility was and is judged skeptically. For example, Uvo Hölscher found that in view of an “ailing humanism”, the claim to acquire humanistic education through traditional language teaching was a “donkey quixote”.

Volker Reinhardt thinks that Renaissance humanism has perished because it could no longer explain the historical development and could no longer solve the problems of the time. Therefore, it is "anachronistic and hopeless to want to revive such canons of values ​​and worlds of imagination that have been lost due to their unsuitability in later epochs that are completely foreign to them."

Criticism of the idealization of ancient models

One reproach, which was directed against the high school classes that were still strongly influenced by neo-humanism in the 20th century, concerned the image of antiquity that was conveyed to the students and thus had a significant influence on the ideas of a broad, educated public. The new humanist image was criticized as idealizing and thus unhistorical; an antiquity as it was represented by many humanistic high school teachers never really existed.

The leading Graecist Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff (1848–1931) found that the undifferentiated glorification of antiquity as the norm could not withstand the research results. He stated: “Antiquity as a unity and as an ideal is gone; science itself has destroyed this belief. "

Hans Blüher , who was fundamentally in favor of humanistic education, dealt in detail with the problem of idealized antiquity in his treatise Die Humanistische Bildungsmacht , published in 1927 . He said that through classicism, in Germany especially through the influence of the Weimar Classicism , a "solidification of humanistic education" occurred. As a result, she “came to a standstill in her human-promoting power” and, instead of educating the youth, devastated “entire fields of mental activity”. Blüher illustrated this thesis on the basis of an analysis of Goethe's play Iphigenie auf Tauris , which at that time, in his words, was "a common topic of the usual senior teacher education". Artificial characters, alien to life, which never existed in antiquity and could never have existed in any other way, were created and presented to young people as role models. An erroneous image of antiquity, shaped by " Winckelmann's view of the 'noble simplicity and quiet greatness' of the Greeks and their 'happy temperaments'", "came into the hands of the epigones and senior teachers". This resulted in an "education to be mendacious, bent and lopsided". Nevertheless, the humanistic grammar school is and will remain a “guarantor of European culture”: “Leading Europeans (...) should only be educated at a full grammar school. If you don't know what Europe is, you don't have a say either. ”What is needed first, however, is a radical reform of humanistic education.

Simultaneously with Blüher, Egon Friedell also criticized the neo-humanist educational tradition that had prevailed since the 18th century in a similar sense. In the second part of his cultural history of the modern age , published in 1927 , he gave a chapter programmatically entitled The Invention of Antiquity and stated: “We know today that antiquity was not ancient. (...) What remained behind the so-called humanistically educated from antiquity are some dead costume pieces (...) We know today that the Greeks with the sun eye and the Romans with the arch forehead never existed, because it is quite impossible that there were such People at any time and in any place. ”New humanism constructed a“ caricature and puppet of Hellenism ”. Incidentally, the very idea of ​​imitating classic models is a rejection of one's own creativity and a testament to poverty, also a rejection of the true spirit of the admired Greeks, which was not imitative but inventive.

A few years later, the British Germanist Eliza Marian Butler came out with a fundamental criticism of the neo-humanist influence on German literature since the 18th century. In 1934 she published her study The Tyranny of Greece over Germany , which received a lot of attention in the English-speaking world. Butler said that fantasies had been cultivated about ancient Greece, which had disastrous effects. Significantly, leading representatives of an unrealistic classicist ideal themselves have never been to Greece.

Possible present meaning and future prospects

A contemporary humanistic education cannot simply copy historical models or simply promote antiquity as a model. At the same time, humanism researcher August Buck advocates making the experiences of antiquity usable for the present in view of the diverse permeation of European culture with ancient elements. Besides and after the ancient “anthropology”, which for so long stood at the center of humanistic education, the scientific knowledge of the ancient world could be made fruitful for the present and the future. Buck refers, among other things, to Werner Heisenberg's study Thoughts of Ancient Natural Philosophy in Modern Physics , which says:

“Above all, there are two thoughts of the first Greek philosophers that still determine the path of the exact natural sciences and that can therefore claim our interest above all. The belief in the structure of matter from the smallest indivisible units, the atoms, and the belief in the meaningful power of mathematical structures. "

Jörn Rüsen understands humanism as “a cultural orientation of human life that takes its decisive aspects from an interpretation of human existence”. In the sense of Kant's categorical imperative , humans are not a means for the purposes of others, but are gifted for their own ends and each endowed with their own dignity. Rüsen sees the cause of humanism in the present as vacillating between loneliness and the ability to be revived. A future-proof humanism, which would have to include the fundamental characteristic of cultural difference in the globalization process, is possible, but bound to certain conditions:

  • Supplementing the image of man with the inhumanity potential that emerged drastically in the 20th century;
  • adaptable assertion of the universal validity claim of human and civil rights through their "historicization into an open development process";
  • Overcoming the ethnocentric elements in humanistic anthropology from critical recognition of the diversity of traditions and cultural diversity ;
  • Humanization of reason in intercultural discourse;
  • Reintegration of nature into the self-image of humans as a cultural being: “After all, we humans always take nature in the form of our body into our cultural activities and into the human or inhumane self-productions of our self. We also remain nature where we soar to the heights of spiritual self-purpose. "

The philosopher and action artist Philipp Ruch has been formulating an "aggressive humanism" with the Center for Political Beauty since 2009, because the German human rights organizations "do weak, discouraged and (in terms of their benefits) extremely questionable". Criticism of the moderate, compromise-ready approach in the struggle for human rights ("The main instrument of German human rights organizations is the press release. It prefers to appeal, protest and riot.") Is the central concern of the Center for Political Beauty.

The question of how the contemporary orientation of a humanism of the present could or should be, arises not only in the light of its historical-occidental career, but recently also under the impression of conceptually and substantively challenging derivations such as transhumanism and posthumanism . For the former, humans are an unfinished product of biological evolution that needs to be optimized, for example with genetic engineering or with the use of “consciousness and intelligence enhancing” drugs and diets. For posthumanism, on the other hand, the conventional human being represents an obsolete model that is being overtaken by his technical creations and giving way to artificial intelligence and robots as the new driving forces of evolutionary history.

In contrast, Peter Cornelius Mayer-Tasch claims, in the spirit of humanistic self-determination and personal responsibility, that the right relationship between creatures and creation is maintained. There is an often unrecognized but fundamental difference between the selective use of scientific developments and the submission to their laws. The prerequisites for the self-determined development of human dignity in the humanistic sense include the unavailability and unpredictability of life, mortality, frailty and fallibility of human beings. Moral affirmation and negation can only result from the interplay of experiences from the sunny and dark sides of life, as can the development of compassion and a sense of responsibility. According to Mayer-Tasch, the posthumanist program is a mistake for humanists trained on the principle of measure and middle: “The creation and realization of meaning is reserved for people made up of body, soul and spirit. It is he who not only conceives the machines, but always reprograms them. ”The desirable upright walk of humans into a future, however uncertain, is particularly possible in harmony with humanistic evaluations and attitudes to be further developed.

Humanistic organizations

Important humanist organizations in Europe are Humanists UK , the Humanist Association of Germany , the Humanist Association of Austria , the Human-Etisk Forbund , the Giordano-Bruno-Foundation , the Alliance of Humanists, Atheists to Agnostics and the Atheistic Religious Society in Austria . In the United States, the Council for Secular Humanism and the American Humanist Association are important; internationally, the International Humanist and Ethical Union . In Bavaria, above all, the Federation for Freedom of the Spirit arose from historical tradition.

See also


Overview representations

General introductions and overall presentations

Renaissance humanism

Late Humanism, New Humanism and Third Humanism

New approaches of modernity

Christian humanism

  • Josef Sellmair: Humanitae christiana. History of Christian Humanism . Ehrenwirth, Munich 1950.
  • Herbert Rüssel: Shape of a Christian Humanism . Sabat publishing house, Kulmbach 2016, ISBN 978-3-943506-34-1 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Humanism  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. For the early use of the term, which began with Niethammer, see the detailed article Humanism in: Hans Schulz, Otto Basler: Deutsches Fremdsprachebuch , 2nd edition, Vol. 7, Berlin 2010, pp. 459-465, here: 459f. and the documents specified there. For Niethammer's concept of humanism, see Florian Baab: What is humanism? , Regensburg 2013, pp. 28–33.
  2. Florian Baab: What is humanism? , Regensburg 2013, p. 34f.
  3. Michael Zichy : The humanistic educational ideal. In: Forms of Education. Insights and perspectives. Frankfurt am Main u. a. 2010, pp. 29-42.
  4. ^ For example, in Eckard Lefèvre: Humanism and humanistic education . In: Humanismus in Europa , Heidelberg 1998, pp. 1–43, here: 3–13. Lefèvre believes that “the Romans were the first humanists” (p. 7). This is how Wolfgang Schadewaldt also judges: Humanitas Romana . In: Rise and Decline of the Roman World , Vol. I 4, pp. 5–62, here: 61: "All motifs of modern humanism are represented in the humanitas Romana, including the romantically idealized worship of the Greeks". See also John Christes: Cicero and Roman Humanism . In: Humanismus in Europa , Heidelberg 1998, pp. 45–73; Heinz Haffter: The Roman Humanitas . In: Hans Oppermann (Ed.): Römische Wertbegriffe, Darmstadt 1967, pp. 468–482, here: 482; August Buck: Humanismus , Freiburg 1987, p. 13.
  5. Hellfried Dahlmann: Römertum und Humanismus . In: Hans Oppermann (Ed.): Humanismus , Darmstadt 1977, pp. 279–293.
  6. ^ Paul Gerhard Schmidt: Medieval Humanism . In: Humanismus in Europa , Heidelberg 1998, pp. 75–88.
  7. For the modern use of the term in a non-traditional sense, see the detailed article Humanism in: Hans Schulz, Otto Basler: Deutsches Fremdsprachebuch , 2nd edition, Vol. 7, Berlin 2010, pp. 459-465, here: 460f. and the documents compiled there.
  8. ^ Walter Rüegg: The Humanism Discussion. In: Hans Oppermann (ed.): Humanismus , Darmstadt 1977, pp. 310–321, here: 311–318 (first published in 1954).
  9. ^ Ernst Robert Curtius: Büchertagebuch , Bern / Munich 1960, pp. 65ff.
  10. Volker Reinhardt: Comment: From the death of humanism. A well-meaning reply. In: Adrian Holderegger u. a .: humanism. His critical potential for the present and the future , Basel 2011, p. 325 f.
  11. See on the early history of the concept François Renaud: Humanitas . In: Historical Dictionary of Rhetoric , Vol. 4, Tübingen 1998, Sp. 80–86, here: 80f.
  12. Cicero, Ad Quintum fratrem 1,1,27. Cf. Heinz Haffter: The Roman Humanitas . In: Hans Oppermann (Ed.): Römische Wertbegriffe, Darmstadt 1967, pp. 468–482, here: 482.
  13. ^ François Renaud: Humanitas . In: Historical Dictionary of Rhetoric , Vol. 4, Tübingen 1998, Sp. 80–86, here: 81f. Cf. Eckard Lefèvre: Humanism and humanistic education . In: Humanismus in Europa , Heidelberg 1998, pp. 1–43, here: 9–11; Johannes Christes: Cicero and Roman humanism . In: Humanismus in Europa , Heidelberg 1998, pp. 45–73, here: 55. Rudolf Rieks offers a research overview: Homo, humanus, humanitas , Munich 1967, pp. 14–23.
  14. ^ See the overview by Alfred Noe: Humanism. General . In: Historical Dictionary of Rhetoric , Vol. 4, Tübingen 1998, Sp. 1–6, here: 2f. and Lewis W. Spitz: Humanism / Humanism Research . In: Theologische Realenzyklopädie , Volume 15, Berlin 1986, pp. 639-661, here: 654-657.
  15. ^ Manfred Fuhrmann: Education. Europe's cultural identity , Stuttgart 2002, p. 20.
  16. Olaf Meynersen: humanism as recurring European cultural principle . In: Gymnasium 101, 1994, p. 148ff.
  17. Friedrich Klingner: Humanity and Humanitas . In: Friedrich Klingner: Römische Geisteswelt , Stuttgart 1979, p. 716.
  18. Clemens Menze: Humanism, Humanity . In Historical Dictionary of Philosophy , Vol. 3, Basel 1974, Sp. 1218.
  19. Kaspar Elm: Anti-clericalism in the German Middle Ages . In: Peter A. Dykema, Heiko A. Oberman (eds.): Anticlericalism in late medieval and early modern Europe , Leiden 1993, p. 5 ff.
  20. ↑ In detail on Melanchton's relationship to humanism Wilhelm Maurer : The young Melanchthon between Humanism and Reformation , Vol. 1: The Humanist , Göttingen 1967 (reprinted as one-volume study edition Göttingen 1996). For more recent literature see Siegfried Wiedenhofer: Formal structures of humanistic and Reformation theology in Philipp Melanchthon , volumes 1 and 2, Bern a. a. 1976; Stefan Rhein: "Italia magistra orbis terrarum". Melanchthon and Italian humanism . In: Michael Beyer u. a. (Ed.): Humanism and Wittenberger Reformation , Leipzig 1996, pp. 367–388, here: 375, 383; Peter Walter : Melanchthon and the tradition of the “studia humanitatis” . In: Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte 110, 1999, pp. 191–208.
  21. Günther Böhme: History of the impact of humanism in the age of rationalism , Darmstadt 1988, p. 224.
  22. Günther Böhme: History of the impact of humanism in the age of rationalism , Darmstadt 1988, p. 216f.
  23. Lipsius' effect extended u. a. on the political education of the Swedish royal family, on German university operations, in Denmark and England, but was also noticeable among the Habsburgs as well as in France, Spain and Italy. (Günther Böhme: History of the Impact of Humanism in the Age of Rationalism , Darmstadt 1988, p. 239.)
  24. Günther Böhme: History of the impact of humanism in the age of rationalism , Darmstadt 1988, p. 245f.
  25. Günther Böhme: History of the impact of humanism in the age of rationalism , Darmstadt 1988, p. 254.
  26. Hubert Cancik : The foundation of humanity in Herder. On the reception of antiquity in the 'Letters for the Promotion of Humanity'. In: Martin Vöhler / Hubert Cancik (ed.): Humanism and Reception of Antiquity in the 18th Century. Volume I: Genesis and Profile of European Humanism , Heidelberg 2009, pp. 113–126, here: 121 f.
  27. August Buck: Humanismus , Freiburg 1987, pp. 289-340; Quote p. 342.
  28. ^ Hans Oppermann: European humanism and Germany. In: Hans Oppermann (ed.): Humanismus , Darmstadt 1977, pp. 511-520, here: 514-516 (first published in 1957).
  29. ^ August Buck: Humanismus , Freiburg 1987, p. 348; there also the Winckelmann quote.
  30. Hubert Cancik: The foundation of humanity in Herder. On the reception of antiquity in the 'Letters for the Promotion of Humanity'. In: Martin Vöhler / Hubert Cancik (ed.): Humanism and Reception of Antiquity in the 18th Century. Volume I: Genesis and Profile of European Humanism , Heidelberg 2009, pp. 113–126, here: 113 f., 119, 126.
  31. Quoted from Martin Vöhler: From 'humanity' to 'humanism'. Herder, Abegg and Niethammer. In: Martin Vöhler / Hubert Cancik (ed.): Humanism and Reception of Antiquity in the 18th Century. Volume I: Genesis and Profile of European Humanism , Heidelberg 2009, pp. 127–144, here: 136. Over a period of six years, Herder wrote a total of 124 “Letters for the Promotion of Humanity”, which were published in ten collections. (Ibid, p. 129)
  32. Quoted from August Buck: Humanismus , Freiburg 1987, p. 384.
  33. Quoted from August Buck: Humanismus , Freiburg 1987, p. 376.
  34. August Buck: Humanismus , Freiburg 1987, p. 388 f.
  35. ^ Eduard Spranger, The current state of the humanities and the school , 2nd edition, Leipzig 1925, p. 7 (first published in 1922).
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