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The Philosophy Of Humanism: Critical Review Of The Humanist Worldview

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The Philosophy of Humanism

By Corliss Lamont (1902-1995)

Critical Review of the Humanist Worldview

Doctor of Religious Studies

Department Biblical Studies and Theology


Richard Jones

"There is no place in the Humanist worldview for either immortality or God in the valid meanings of those terms. Humanism contends that instead of the gods creating the cosmos, the cosmos, in the individualized form of human beings giving rein to their imagination, created the gods."

A worldview is a set of beliefs through which one interprets all of reality and provides a person with a means to explain the world around them. When evaluating the Humanist worldview, you do not go far before you run into Corliss Lamont and his book The Philosophy of Humanism. Educated at Harvard and Columbia, Lamont obtained his Ph.D. in philosophy from Columbia in 1932. During an active career that spanned nearly a century, he authored sixteen books and hundreds of pamphlets and taught at Harvard, Cornell, and Columbia. Lamont believed that teaching the proper philosophy was the only way to begin the long struggle toward peace. This "proper philosophy" according to Lamont was Humanism, a philosophy that is naturalistic, scientific, and democratic. His most famous works were The Philosophy of Humanism and The Illusion of Immortality.

In reviewing Lamont's book The Philosophy of Humanism, the intention of this article is to address how he formulates the Humanist worldview and how one might argue against these claims from a theistic worldview. Lamont argues from four basic perspectives: (1) mind (personality) and body, (2) reliance on reason and science, (3) from nature and the theory of the universe, and (4) ethics from a social and political (democratic) view for happiness, freedom, and progress for all mankind regardless of nationality, race or religion.

In further defining worldview, David Nobel refers to a worldview as "any ideology, philosophy, theology, movement, or religion that provides an overarching approach to understanding God, the world, and man's relation to God and the world." Nobel also says, "A worldview should contain a particular perspective regarding each of the following disciplines: theology, ethics, biology, psychology, sociology, law, politics, economics, and history." In Lamont's The Philosophy of Humanism, parallels can be seen by this definition of a worldview and how Lamont defines Humanism according to some, but not all, of these disciplines.

In forming the Humanist philosophy (worldview) about God (theology), Lamont provides ten central propositions to build his worldview: (1) all forms of supernaturalism is a myth and Nature is all there is, (2) man is a product of evolution, (3) ultimate faith is in man, (4) opposes determinism, fatalism and predestination, (5) ethics and morality goals are to provide happiness, freedom and progress, (6) individuals attain the good life by contributing to the welfare of the community, (7) developing the arts and the awareness of beauty, (8) far reaching social programs established worldwide, (9) the complete implementation of reason and the scientific method, and (10) in accordance with the scientific method, questioning all basic assumptions, even its own.

Lamont's humanistic worldview places all his hopes in reason, science and politics as the only means to an end; no God, no hope, no future, only the here and now. Lamont's Humanism, then, can be defined as a religious worldview based on atheism. He must, like all worldviews, address the existence of God not only in his first proposition but intertwine the question of God's existence in all ten. If God does not exist, then man must find meaning in life from some other source Ð'- himself. According to Lamont's humanistic worldview, men have only one life to live and are responsible for their own happiness. Applying their own intelligence (without a supernatural source) and through cooperation with one another, they can create a world of perfect peace and harmony. In developing the Humanist worldview then, Lamont must establish the coherency of his worldview based on whether or not God exists around every proposition presented.

When approaching the subject of Humanism, one must realize the immensity of the task to present arguments against the worldview presented by Lamont. As Christians it is not our job to win the Humanist to Christ through our eloquent argumentation but to be ambassadors of the Holy Spirit who works through us to present a coherent message of the gospel. We must, however, be prepared to remove roadblocks for the Humanist "Ð'...always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence."

When addressing each of the four perspectives mentioned above presented by Lamont, we must understand that he is presenting his worldview from a theoretical or philosophical level, what I call Level One. That is from logic, formal fallacies, and classical proofs to the existence of God. The majority of the people we encounter in our day-to-day lives rarely operate at this level. They will usually operate from Level Two or Three. Level Two, which is cultural, influenced by the all forms of media (the arts, novels, Television, etc.) and the existential struggles in their imaginations. Level Three, what I call the prescriptive (founded on, by long-standing custom or usage ) level, where you are sitting across from a university (Christian) student at Starbucks who is struggling over a moral issue being discussed in his class. Then the student asks "What do you think about this issue?" and you reply, "You know Roman's chapter ones saysÐ'...," when you quote the bible in Starbucks with this struggling student you are prescribing a long standing custom from a biblical perspective. This might be plausible in our Starbucks setting but not in the university setting. They are not concerned so much about what Roman's chapter one says, but more concerned about why you believe what Roman's says about this issue. So, when approaching the Humanist worldview such as Lamont's, we must be able to argue at Level One, illustrate at Level Two and apply at Level Three.

Lamont first addresses the issues around the unity of the body and personality (or mind and body). That is, the relationship between the physical body and personality



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