Humanist Values- Serving Humane Ideals

The fourth of the Humanist values from the 2003 Humanist Manifesto III has always seemed a little soft for me. It says, “Life’s fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals.” One supposes they meant it to be that way, since it can mean so many things to so many different people. Personally, I would be happier of it mentioned some concrete possibilities.

The sentiment is clear, in any event. There is reason to believe that ethical human beings do lead happier lives when they help other human beings do the same, which is the essence of value four. After a bit of looking around, I found the following on the American Humanist Association site:

Life’s fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals. We aim for our fullest possible development and animate our lives with a deep sense of purpose, finding wonder and awe in the joys and beauties of human existence, its challenges and tragedies, and even in the inevitability and finality of death. Humanists rely on the rich heritage of human culture and the lifestance of Humanism to provide comfort in times of want and encouragement in times of plenty.

There’s a bit more detail to that, something to take hold of. We need to integrate ourselves with society, i.e., other human beings, and do our best to make life in that society and for those people the best that it can be. We need to absorb the culture of our society, the societies around us, and those societies that came before us.

I fear that I am beginning to interpret here, so be aware that the rest of this is how I see it; your mileage may vary. It is only by understanding, to the best of our abilities, past and present societies and their culture that we can develop a mature societal view of how human beings can lead the most rewarding lives. Once we begin to understand that, we can begin to see ways that we can help those less fortunate than ourselves.

We must pay attention to the world around us, that larger macro world that includes all human beings and that micro world that contains the smaller world immediately adjacent to ourselves, no matter where it is geographically. When we find an issue or condition that is hurting humanity, we should work to improve that issue. When we find values that help humanity, we should do our best to spread them from our micro world into the macro world.

Participating in this way will result in positive feelings of personal value for each of us, knowing that we have done well for our society and its members. We will feel, as well, as if our life has had meaning much greater than anything material we have attained. And we will feel, as we enter our final moments, that we will be remembered by those that we have helped, and that our legacy will remain for a longer time than we have.


Humanist Values- Serving Humane Ideals — 6 Comments

  1. Michael, you wrote that you found this statement to be a little soft; “Life’s fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals.” I agree but would go further, it is wrong-headed and useless. Fulfillment can come from pure exploration without any goal of service to “humane ideals”. Pure scientific research, for example, is just to find out, without any preset goals. And let’s not forget and downgrade the sensual pleasures, no humane ideals there.
    Jefferson’s “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is far better. Individuals should have the liberty to pursue happiness, (pleasure), where ever they may find it (unless their pursuit is anti-social). In having individual liberty, humanity is served. (Jefferson, by the way, identified as an Epicurean.)
    The whole of HM III, when critically examined, likewise, falls apart. It’s a mess.

  2. When I am looking at these values of Humanism, my mindset may be different than yours. First, I compare them to similar value statements by organized religions. The Humanist value statement to which I am currently referring has a big leg up on “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

    I know you don’t like this particular Manifesto. I think there is value in it still, especially when compared to what religion has to offer. In these essays (there are more) I am trying to do two things. First, I am trying to flesh out the meanings of the sometimes cryptic statements they made. I don’t know if I am making them better or worse by doing so. Second, when I started, I was in a very charitable mood, intent on finding the good in things and not the bad. The latter is too easy to do, and I do too much of it. I may be doing better at satisfying this latter goal than I am doing at improving the scant material available in the Manifesto itself.

  3. To present it as Humanist Manifesto III, given the historical context, the writers had the obligation to produce a document that moved humanism forward.
    If they were not capable of doing so, they should have not taken it on themselves.
    I knew those guys from previous encounters, they had been a road block for years.
    It took Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens to clear the road. The transformation we are seeing now is because of them, “The Four Horsemen”, “new atheists”, “angry atheists”. Their books are Humanist Manifestos, beautifully written. -And the public responded.

  4. Perhaps.

    And before you replace all things before your four horsemen with their attitudes, and decide that they are totally responsible for the good in the world, consider what Humanist values should have to say about being unnecessarily nasty; your horsemen are as likely as not to run roughshod over their opponents as not. Again, I’m not saying they have the wrong ideas. Instead, I am saying that when the elevate themselves to be the only sensible people in the world, and when they feel the need to do their best to belittle people that do not believe as they do, they are moving to a position closer to that of the pope than that of a Humanist. It is a matter of degree.

  5. Let me clarify my stand on Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens. I believe them to be correct in terms of their facts and thought processes. Of course, very little about either is new. What IS new is that they have made themselves into stars, much in keeping with pop stars, rock stars, political stars, and football stars. I very much dislike the star system; it does not benefit society.

    As you have heard me say before, my quibble is not very often with individuals. They have clearly been duped by the seductive messages of organized religion. So, rather than beleaguering those who have been duped, I tend to beleaguer those that have done the duping. There is yet another reason why I will never be a star. 🙂

    A god may be the ultimate star, were there to be one. By taking up the mantle of star, Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens have begun the process by which they elevate themselves above the great unwashed masses. Our politicians are expert at that, as are the stars of music, film, and sport.

    I do not believe that lasting progress can be made by any of these stars. Instead, what has to happen is the changing of many minds. While these four stars have caused many people who already had no faith to adopt a formal lack of faith, I don’t think they have had much effect on the true believers.

    What will effect the true believers is the relentless application of logic, and the continuing spread of education. And, in my mind, no one is likely to change anyone’s mind while calling them a fool.

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