Humanism is a philosophical stance that emphasizes the value
and agency of human beings, individually and collectively. The concept of
humanism refers primarily to a system 0f thought, which focuses on the
autonomy of the individual. Humanism is a doctrine according to which man is
point of departure and point of reference of human action. Humanism was a
product of Renaissance and reformation in Europe and found its fullest
expression in the American and French Revolutions.
Ancient India And Humanism
Human-centered philosophy that rejected the supernatural may also be found
circa 1500 BCE in the Lokayata system of Indian philosophy. Nasadiya Sukta,
a passage in the Rig Veda, contains one of the first recorded assertions of
agnosticism. In the 6th century BCE, Gautama Buddha expressed, in Pali
literature a skeptical attitude toward the supernatural.
Since neither soul, nor aught belonging to soul, can really and truly exist,
the view which holds that this I who am world
, who am soul
shall hereafter live permanent, persisting, unchanging, yea abide eternally:
is not this utterly and entirely a foolish doctrine.
Humanism is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as:
an outlook or system of thought concerned with human rather than divine
or supernatural matters. A belief or outlook emphasizing common human needs and
seeking solely rational ways of solving human problems and concerned with
mankind as responsible and progressive intellectual beings
Humanism expresses that human being has great potentiality and if developed
fully, one can reach to the greatest height, provided one gets proper
opportunities to develop. Gandhi ji, Russel and Tolstoy were great humanists
of the twentieth century.
In humanist thought, man becomes free in his private life. He was not only
unique but also different and could not be reduced to the other. Man
acquired inherent natural right to decide the rules of moral living. Man
claimed freedom in the public domain and asserted the right to choose his
Human beings are in complete charge of themselves, they will decide their
own values and they are materialists. Everyone wants to be a freeman.
Everyone occupies a unique position, in communion with oneself, everyone is
alone, and responsible for his actions. The final decision in all matters
now rests with the individual. Since man has the capacity to decide true and
false as he is endowed with reason, he has a right to choose his political
regime. Democracy is the only legitimate form of government as it is based
on the idea of willing subjects. Thus, humanism has links with the
materialism, individualism and democratism.
M.N. Roy's Radical Humanism In India
M.N. Roy gave a clear expression to the idea of humanism. Manavendranath Roy
whose original name was Narendranath Bhattacharya was born on 21st March,
1887 at Arbalia in Bengal. He was a revolutionary and a member of Juganther
Party and went to other countries to secure arms. He came in touch with
Marxism in the USA. He joined the Socialist Party of Mexico and he made it
the Communist Party of Mexico and he became the founder of the first
Communist Party outside Soviet Union.He became a prominent member of
In his later life, he was well-known as a radical humanist. Radical Humanism
was also known as scientific humanism. It undertook a scientific approach
for understanding man and his place in the world. So it was called
scientific humanism. It is known as materialism or monistic naturalism whose
characteristics are naturalism, determinism and monism.
Naturalism asserts the existence of nature and holds that everything that
exists including man is a part of nature. Determinism implies that the
universe is governed by certain objective laws, that the process is orderly
and that events do not take place without a cause. Nothing is left to
chance. So it leads to the following conclusion. The universe works on a
deterministic manner. This is called monism. Man is made of superior matter.
He has a rational mind. He is gifted with reason.
Man is a part of nature. He lives in society. But, society does not possess
consciousness. It does not know what is good and bad. It is not a biological
being. Man has all these characteristics. So between man and society, man is
important. He is the measure of everything. Social development means
development of all people living in the society. In other words, society,
State, government, etc. exist for the welfare of man. He is the end and the
society is the means. It exists to guarantee his freedom and to protect his
liberty. In short, he asserts the sovereignty of man.
Roy regarded man as central. He wrote:
freedom is the supreme value because the urge for freedom is the essence
of human existence.
Roy accepted humanism because humanists had always approached life from the
assumption of the sovereignty of man. It is man's unique capacity of
knowing, as distinct from the common biological activity of being aware,
which endows him with powers, not to rule over others, but to create freedom
for the benefit of humanity. All citizens are equal members of the society.
Humanism believes that society consists of individuals, good and bad; those
who can co-operate and those who cannot, and those who can inflict injury
and those who cannot. All of them can coexist in a framework of plurality.
The State should protect them all and should be so organized that the
individual becomes an end in itself. The State, science, technology, etc.
are all means of an end, namely, to enable individuals to flourish; they are
not ends in themselves; they cannot be allowed to dominate human life.
Submersed Humanism is a system of views based on respect for the dignity of
man, concern for his welfare, his all round development and creation of
favorable conditions for social life. The humanism that we have seen in
thoughts of contemporary Indian philosophers is different from the western
Western humanism is mostly intellectual, economic and political in nature.
But the Indian humanism is primarily spiritual. The Indian humanism does not
take man to be material being but as one with spirit, mind, life and body.
It aims at the fulfillment of the aspirations which are physical, vital,
mental and spiritual in nature.