Definition of humanism in US English:



  • 1An outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters. Humanist beliefs stress the potential value and goodness of human beings, emphasize common human needs, and seek solely rational ways of solving human problems.

    • ‘The roots of ethnology lay, in turn, in the traditions of natural history, moral philosophy and humanism.’
    • ‘Teaching humanism would be one important step towards ensuring that school education reflects their views.’
    • ‘This has something to do with humanism, and humanist rationality.’
    • ‘At the beginning of university, I was influenced by rationalism and humanism.’
    • ‘I've always believed in the twin values of rationalism and humanism, but humanism has often felt as though it got short shrift in our community.’
    1. 1.1 A Renaissance cultural movement which turned away from medieval scholasticism and revived interest in ancient Greek and Roman thought.
      • ‘He read Latin and Italian literature, and he promoted Renaissance humanism in England.’
      • ‘Of the forces springing from the European Renaissance, humanism and the influence of classical learning came first.’
      • ‘Renaissance humanism did not necessarily promote natural philosophy, but its emphasis on mastery of classical languages and texts had the side effect of promoting the sciences.’
      • ‘Renaissance humanism gradually replaced the medieval scholastic tradition from which it emerged.’
      • ‘If there is any one aspect of the Renaissance that can be said to have been characteristic, that must surely be the movement known as humanism.’
    2. 1.2 (among some contemporary writers) a system of thought criticized as being centered on the notion of the rational, autonomous self and ignoring the unintegrated and conditioned nature of the individual.
      • ‘The Party, on the other hand, frowned upon too much individualism, too much humanism practiced by any of its members.’
      • ‘Enlightenment humanism freed the individual from the status quo of natural identity, allowing humanity to reach beyond self, to change rather than simply be.’
      • ‘Historically, however, this tension has been a highly creative one, helping develop both a more rational humanism and a science of humanity compelled to address the exceptional character of human nature.’
      • ‘The ideology that did most to sustain capitalism was humanism, the belief in man as the free, autonomous origin of history.’
      • ‘Critics of humanism have for centuries declared that freethinkers once departing from religion have abandoned morality.’