Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds Here’s a couple of examples of the sorts of things that humanists might disagree about. One would be the extent to which scientific knowledge is the one kind of knowledge that we need, some humanists would be committed to what traditionally philosophically has been called positivism, the idea that the only reliable knowledge is knowledge arrived at by the use of scientific method, by scientific hypothesis, observation and experiment to test hypotheses. Other humanists would say no there’s lots more to our understanding of the world and our understanding of our lives than just the kind of knowledge that science can give us.
Skip to 0 minutes and 50 seconds Many humanists would say for example that it’s equally important to draw on our shared tradition of the arts, of literature, which can give us a different kind of understanding, an understanding of our own lives perhaps and the significance of our lives, understanding what it is to be human, understanding what it is to fall in love, understanding what it is to grieve, understanding what it is to make moral choices, understanding what it is to deal with tragedy. so that would be one, not necessarily conflict but one contrast between different emphases within the humanist tradition.
Skip to 1 minute and 26 seconds Another example I think would be within the sphere of humanist ethics, humanist morality, I think there’s something of a contrast between humanists who think that a moral theory of some kind is what we need to give us a way of answering moral questions. Many humanists are drawn to utilitarianism, the idea that all values ultimately come down to the promotion of human happiness and the right action will always be that which does the most good to human lives in general.
Skip to 2 minutes and 6 seconds Other people, other humanists i think would be more suspicious of one single simple value or value approach, will be more inclined to draw on a diversity of values, recognise that our moral thinking is untidy, it’s pluralistic, that there’s not always a right answer, not always a simple solution. So, different conceptions of how we argue about moral issues and how we make moral decisions, again would be the sort of thing that humanists could disagree about but within a shared framework of reliance on human reason and human thought as the only way of tackling our moral questions.
Skip to 2 minutes and 51 seconds The diversity of views within humanism is part of its richness, it’s a central fact about the progress of human knowledge and human understanding that it grows through disagreement, through the ability of people to question one another, to question what they have previously thought, to argue with one another, to disagree, and through trying to hammer out their disagreements to arrive at conclusions which will stand up to rational examination. Humanism embodies that practice within itself, a practice of disagreement, of argument, and of learning from dialogue and disagreement. That diversity at the heart of humanism is part of its importance, part of its richness.
Diversity amongst humanists
In this video Richard Norman explores some of the areas in which humanists might disagree, and reflects upon the value of diversity within the humanist worldview.