Humanities mainly concentrate on the human-oriented questions. Human values, beliefs and emotions are areas related to humanities. According to Terrence, a human being is a man and, therefore, nothing human is alien to him. Example of fields of inquiry are international relations, political theory, comparative religion, ethics, fine arts, visual arts, jurisprudence, archaeology, literature, linguistics, languages, philosophy, history and many others. Therefore, humanism is defined as a group of philosophies and ethical outlooks that accentuate the significance of human beings. This emphasis focuses mainly on human beings, both individually and collectively, on a thought that is mostly rational than on strict faith. In the framework of humanism, man is viewed as the measure of all things. Therefore, this implies that humanism respects and believes in human reason, individual liberty, essential quality of all people and the scientific method.
Greek Political Philosophy
In the Ancient Greece, it was believed that a humanist reasons before acting rather than acting just by following and believing in traditions, leaders, religious teachings and people who think they know better than others do. In addition, humanists have confidence in man’s ability to govern themselves just by reasoning and, therefore, being in a good position to make relevant judgment and decisions that help in improving their lives and societies. Plato tried to look at the society critically to restructure that state, and put it in such a way that its citizens were allowed to achieve the aim of moral brilliance. To achieve this, Plato made a political theory that stated that it is mandatory for human beings to be citizens of a society that is fair and of rational state for them to live an ethical life. In most cases, society fails to elect good leaders because of the criteria used in choosing them. Unimportant reasons for choosing leaders such as good looks, wealth, convincing speech and influential family backgrounds lead to having inappropriate leaders. It is only on very rare occasions that a common-man thinks intelligently about important issues that affect the society, such as foreign policy and economy. Plato insists that anarchy should be avoided in any given society to prevent citizens from disrespecting the law. To achieve a just state, demagoguery should be avoided at all means. An unfair state is easily found to be based on traditions of the people, and also by using the doctrine of being mind right. Leaders endowed with wisdom and virtues build a just society. Nevertheless, as humans, we are ruled by greed.
Aristotle agreed with Plato that reasoning is a person’s greatest achievement and the polis was the main foundational institution of Greek life. According to him, one could only achieve his greatest potential and live a good life if they are in politics. Happiness is attained when one reasons, applies knowledge rightfully in their lives, and governs their behaviors by intellect and by not being entirely rational. Aristotle advises that leaders should control their longings. He developed the “Golden Mean” rule. This is a state of mind where one has to choose the middle between two extremes. To avoid immoral situations one can avoid extremes in situations and the way to moderate the situation is to make intended choices. Aristotle as alleges that the best form off government is one that is composed of the middle class. These are people who come from neither of the extremely poor nor extremely wealthy classes, but come from something in between. He believes that each country has to determine the kind of administration that is good for it. He emphasizes this by stating that no single form of government is applicable to all countries.
Thucydides in his books explains how morally corrupt the Greek world is because of the Peloponnesian war. This was a war in ancient Greek world fought by Athens and its empire against the Sparta. As a result of the war, the ancient Greek world was greatly transformed. Athens, which had been the city in Greece before the war, was reduced to a small state while Sparta established itself and even become the leading power of Greece. Athens became very devastated economically and since then has never regained its strength. From Thucydides extract from Book II, the “Funeral Speech of Pericles”, he describes the speech from an Athenian politician at the funeral of a number of Athenian soldiers who passed on in the war against Sparta. Pericles’ speech praises Athenian power and state character. He describes Athens as a perfect state. He gives credit to the freedom enjoyed by each Athenian citizen and thinks of Athens as a state that other states should look up to.
John Locke and Hobbes agreed on several points. They both had their political philosophies being influenced by political activities. Locke reasoned that when an individual labors hard to attain a produce in the end, the positive result attained should be the person’s property. He strongly believes that any given government should not control interest rates. He developed a theory that showed that the value of money is inversely proportional to the quantity of money in circulation. The two rejected the Divine Right of Kings and historical tradition as genuine bases of political authority. Locke believed in the right of revelation. He feels that there are situations that make people to have a right and duty to overthrow the government. According to the natural law, we are all equal, therefore, we should live freely and use rationality in our decision making. Locke asserts that the society consists of many people who are equal in pursuing individual interests depending on their passion and reasoning. However, he disagreed with Hobbes on a few points. For instance, Locke felt the work of the common wealth is not to take care of the lives of citizens but rather to preserve their property. Locke and Hobbes both dwell on the foundation of present day political tradition of liberalism with so much emphasis on individualism, freedom, limited government and property.
On the other hand, John Stuart Mill’s views on liberty is that a citizen of any given government should be allowed to do whatever he wishes under the condition that it does not harm his fellow citizens. Citizens are reasonable enough to make sound decisions on their well-being and choose whichever religion they want. Therefore, he argues that government should only hinder the decision if it is for the good of the society.
On his part, Karl Marx was a great spokesperson of socialism in the nineteenth century. According to his reasoning, the human society was composed of classes and the nature of the classes was governed by the principal system of production and ownership. The western history can be seen as an uninterrupted class struggle that has nowadays become a struggle of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Bourgeoisie in this case is when the society is governed by the rich citizens and in most cases for their own selfish gains. Marx strongly believed after some time socialism would be replaced by a stateless and a classless society known as communism. Marx together with Friedrich Engels jointly produced the Communist Manifesto (1848).
Marx critics the traditional leaders who are so selfish and do not want to lose their leadership to the middle class citizens. He intensely believed that citizens of a given state needed to be free from ignorance, superstitions and chauvinism of the past. His main aim is for the working class to gain power and abolish capitalism. Marx points out that it is vital to achieve real improvement in the economic system of a state that had been oppressed. On the other hand, the Romans had their views on the thought of citizenship. They mainly concentrated on developing great experts of the law and engineering. Renaissance humanism opposed the modern critics who thought of humanism as a secular movement by putting man in a relation to God in the universe. They looked for greatest of achievements but did not dispute the existence of God who was supreme to them. Another group that is known as the Protestant Reformation applied humanism to religion and theology. Their main interest was to show that Christians could approach God individually without necessarily having to go through church intersession. They also interpreted the sacred scripture into basic form for every Christian to understand. In addition, they interpreted the scriptures into vernacular languages so that Christians from all tribes read and understand the scriptures.
Martin Luther’s perspective of humanism incorporated all the aspects mentioned above. He believed in his reasoning to make sound decisions and his conscience guiding him. He used the scientific approach to read the scriptures. The Scientific Revolution on the other hand sees thing in a different perspective. It is mandatory for testing of anything in order to get tangible results. Decisions are made after results have been achieved and nothing is accepted by blind faith. Enlightenment had two main points of agreement. First, human beings need freedom and reasoning in order to exist, they should not be restricted to anything. Second, it was believed that humans are in a position to create an impeccable society if and only if they are given the right conditions.
In the medieval worldview, it was believed that most Europeans were Catholics. All beings were made to understand that God who ordered it and was present in its daily operation created the world. In addition, it was believed that God created the universe mainly for the purpose of humanity. According to the “Great Chain of Being”, it is noted that the world’s creation existed in hierarchy: God, angels, man, animals, plants and lastly stones. However, as Europe got into the 16th century, things changed and new scientific views came up: Renaissance humanism, rise of centrally governed nations, discovery of the new world, invention of the printing press, protestant revolution, and Rational and scientific revolutions. Scientists sought to find out the truth about many things not by sacred readings but by experiments, observations mathematical calculations and reasoning.
Examples of Scientific Discoveries
Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) had keen interest on how the heavenly revolved. After studies and proper reasoning, he suggested that the sun was at the center of the entire universe and the earth was third on the on the orbit. By his reasoning, he went against the religious beliefs and over ruled the evidence of the senses. Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) discovered a new star in existence and he detected a star that detonated. He also discovered that comets were further away than the moon. Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) invented the telescope which in turn enabled him to make other discoveries such as the surface of the moon was irregular and crated, the sun’s surface has spots, Jupiter has its own moons, Venus has phases and that there were more stars than previously observed. He also tried to prove that his fellow scientist Copernicus was right. These scientific discoveries had consequences to the society.
First, tradition ceased to be a dependable guide to the truth. Additionally, the sacred readings stopped being the only guide to truth. With the new discoveries, man started having a different attitude towards nature and their relationship became problematic. By around 1750, the western part of Europe had already done away with the old traditional view of the world. Empiricism and rationalism was highly embraced. Human beings gained renewed confidence in the power of their minds in mastering nature. Traditional Christianity was weakened terribly and many were motivated to look into institutions and traditions keenly. Armed with all that knowledge, 17th century scientist discovered greater things that revolutionized the scientific world. Blaise Pascal added machines and mathematics to science; Rene Descartes made advancements in optics and mathematics; Anton van Leeuwenhoek improved the microscope; Christian Huygens wrote a seminal paper on light; William Harvey discovered blood circulation in human beings; Robert Boyle formulated pressure; and volume laws and Edmund Hailey discovered Hailey’s comet.
Generally, communists are in the same class as the other working class parties. Their interests are similar to those of the proletariat. There are only two things that differentiate the communists from other working classes. In the state struggles of the proletarians of a given state, they identify and forward the common interests on the whole proletariat and in different phases of growth which the hustle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to go through. They often wholly represent the interest of the movement. Therefore, the communist can be considered as the most developed and firm group of the working class of every state.
The main aim of the communists is not any different as that of all proletarian groups: making of proletariat to be in one class, takeover the bourgeois sovereigntyand invasion of political ruling by the proletariat. The most distinctive feature of communism not just the eradication of property in general, but the eradication of bourgeois property. In very few words, communism can be said is the abolition of private property. Communism, therefore, does not deny any human being the power to appropriate the products of the society. What it does is that it deprives man the power to suppress the labor of fellow citizens by means of such appropriations. It is clear that if there is elimination of individual property this will result in citizens stopping to work which in turn will bring about laziness. State differences and antipathy between citizens are slowly fading away because of the development of the bourgeoisie, citizen’s freedom to trade to the world market and having undeviating mode of production.