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The term “ humanitarian ” is almost always associated with the meaning of “charitable, selfless, generous, etc. behavior towards the poor and those in need” (→ humanitarian aid ). In international law, it describes the “protection of people from existential threats” (→ humanitarian intervention ).

The word humanitarianism describes a "philanthropic disposition , mindset". In the German-speaking area, however, the term has a rather negative coloring.

Humanitarianism in debate

Jean Pictet regards humanitarianism as "a developed, rationalized form of love and justice". Konstantinos Delikostantis pointed out that humanitarianism in the sense of Pictet could have fatal consequences for the understanding of humanity and human rights . For him, in Pictet's elevation of humanitarianism to the basis of an internationalized humanity, there is the risk that the social-demonistic endeavors contained therein overshadow and distort all other positive intentions of humanitarian thought. Even Arnold Gehlen saw in humanitarianism a danger, namely when this an ethical supremacy stressful and other ethoses displacement. Gehlen's accusation of humanitarianism essentially relates to the linking of humanitarianism with mass eudaemonism and hypertrophic moralizing . In addition, Gehlen criticized that, in the guise of humanitarianism, particular interests were presented as global concerns. Vilfredo Pareto interpreted humanitarianism as a sign of the decline of the respective ruling elite, and Raymond Aron also believed that humanitarianism was a possible sign of the decline of Western society. Some left theorists (related to Gehlen) criticize the aspect of humanitarianism precisely because it is used as an instrument of imperialism and that aid does not get to the root of the problem.


  • Johannes Paulmann (Ed.): Dilemmas of Humanitarian Aid in the Twentieth Century. (= Studies of the German Historical Institute London). Oxford University Press: Oxford 2016. ISBN 978-0-19-877897-4 ; Review on h-soz-kult

See also

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Egon Haffner: “Humanitarism” and the attempts to overcome it in Nietzsche, Scheler and Gehlen, Würzburg 1988, p. 16.
  2. ^ Matthias Pape: Humanitarian intervention. On the importance of human rights in the United Nations, Baden-Baden 1997, p. 26.
  3. ^ Tilman Just: Ethical Conflicts in Humanitarian Aid. Shown with special consideration of the humanitarian aid situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina 1992-1995. Heidelberg 1998, p. 125.
  4. Konstantinos Delikostantis, Modern Humanitarism. To determine and criticize a contemporary interpretation of the idea of ​​humanity, Mainz 1982
  5. ^ Arnold Gehlen: Morality and Hypermoral. A pluralistic ethics, ed. by Karl-Siegbert Rehberg, Frankfurt am Main 2004, 6th edition (1969).