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This content is taken from the Humanists UK's online course, Introducing Humanism: Non-religious Approaches to Life, with Sandi Toksvig. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 11 seconds A humanist approaches the question of how to live a life that’s full of meaning and significance, a life of real value to the person living it, and to the people with whom the humanist has relationships, by thinking about this question of what it is to be human. We learn a great deal about human nature from literature, from history, from philosophy, from psychology, from learning as much as we can about the commonalities among human beings, and about the great diversities that separate human beings from one another also.

Skip to 0 minutes and 44 seconds We learn a great deal about the human condition from those same sources, from history and politics and psychology and philosophy, because the human condition is one which has many opportunities in it, of course, for good things, and for pleasure and for happiness. But also there’s a lot of struggle, and there can be sadness, there can be grief. After all, the people we care about die and we ourselves are mortal. And so to think about this rich panoply of aspects of what it is to be human, to be reflective about it, is to answer a great question asked by Socrates a long time ago.

Skip to 1 minute and 17 seconds Socrates asked the question: How should we live? What sort of people should we be? And the answer that he gave was not specific to any one person, or any one way of life, it was a very general answer.

Skip to 1 minute and 29 seconds He said: The kind of life truly worth living is the life thought about, the considered life, the chosen life. And so what’s distinctive about the humanist approach to living, is that acceptance of that deep responsibility to take charge of one’s choices, and to try to live a life which is creative, and which is good to live.

Skip to 2 minutes and 4 seconds When you consider that the humanist challenge is to take responsibility, to think for yourself, to try to work out how you can make your life a really meaningful and valuable one, it might seem life quite a tough challenge. But there is indeed a great deal of help here. One is the tradition in literature, in history, in philosophy from which we can learn so much about these matters, but there are also our friendships and our loves and our families and communities, from whom we learn a great deal too.

Skip to 2 minutes and 35 seconds The idea of humanism as a kind of conversation we have with ourselves and with other people; a conversation which helps us get insights into this business of being human, which helps us to make the choices that are particularly well adapted to our own personal talents and capacities for living really meaningful and worthwhile lives. That’s a resource we can make use of all the time.

Skip to 3 minutes and 0 seconds We are, after all, social animals, we human beings, and we can help one another and learn from one another, especially if we are reflective and thoughtful about everything that we hear, everything that we read, everything that we see - we can put all that inside to work in making lives that are genuinely good and worthwhile ones.

Skip to 3 minutes and 28 seconds There isn’t a one-size-fits-all model of what makes such a life. In fact, all the great ideologies of history, the great political ideologies, the great religions, have all offered one-size-fits-all models. But given the diversity of human nature, and the different talents and capacities we have for creating meaningful lives, it must be the case - and this is something that humanists recognise with joy really - that there are as many possible good lives as there are people to create them. So when you think about the meaning of life, what you have to remember is that, the meaning of your life is what you make it.

The good life

AC Grayling explains a humanist approach to how we should live.

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This video is from the free online course:

Introducing Humanism: Non-religious Approaches to Life, with Sandi Toksvig

Humanists UK