The End Of Humanism?

No, I don’t mean humanism in the sense of benevolence or the opposite of misanthropy, nor even in the sense of a godless ethical philosophy. I am using it more in the much older sense of Classical literature and thought in opposition to medieval Christianity. This was code for discussing human beings as they really are, as opposed to how godbotherers thought they ought to be; discussing them warts and all, their motivations, passions and stupidities.

Now this Latinity has been a long time a-dying, but the process is just about done. And I would suggest that the end of humanism is the direct cause of the rise of female chauvinism and the infinite self-exculpation it involves. Because with it has gone the whole habit of thinking about human motivations, passions and stupidities, about human virtues and vices as such, divorced from the plumbing of their possessors.

In Matthew Arnold’s terminology, the Greeks have lost and the Hebrews have won; that is, the pursuit of truth and beauty has failed in the face of the fanatical judgmentalism of those certain of their divine mission to improve everybody else – other of course than themselves, who need no improving. The heirs of Calvinist Geneva cannot listen to anything about human motivations, passions and stupidities, about human virtues and vices as such, because to them there is no such thing as a general human nature, only the me (good) and the not-me (bad). Virtues and vices, motivations, passions and stupidities, all the humanist concerns, are of no interest next to such a potent source of self-satisfaction.

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