*Death comes from above. Innocent civilians die from Syria to Pakistan when bombs rain from the sky. Don’t worry about it, apparently these humans die from so called humanitarian bombs. The journalist Navid Kermani was right when he wrote that the term humanitarian is inflationary.
Not only has the term humanism been misapplied on innumerable occasions, it – or rather the philosophy behind it – has also had an increasingly destructive, mostly subliminal impact. From the ancient Greeks, Buddha and Lao Tzu to the Renaissance, the French Revolution and until today, the word had various meanings.
Among other definitions, the word refers to human nature and therefore to rationalism and empiricism. Nowadays it is even relates to non-theism. What was in its essence an attempt to find sense, morality and explanations with emphasis on men rather than superstition became the keyword for the self-centeredness of humankind.
It seems that we live in the final, apocalyptic stage of humanism, where men indeed became “the measure of all things.” Yet, not the way Protagoras meant it (for he referred to subjectivity), but in the sense that we became the pivotal point of the universe.
On the one hand, this propagates a specisim, which makes us more important than any other life form, whether these may be animals, which are slaughtered for our comfort, or whatever else is left of the planet.
In addition, it facilitates the domination of those who are apparently less human, as already Michel Foucault argued. In recent decades, how often have we heard the word “democracy” and “freedom” from countries, which hide their true agenda behind the rhetoric of humanism?
The very word itself is nothing but rhetoric, as it associates merely positive aspects with mankind, and henceforth moderates the negative. Primo Levi wrote in such a humanistic fashion that “nothing rational was inherent to the hate of the Nazis… it finds itself outside of the human…,” oblivious of the importance to admit the evil we are capable of.
On the other hand, it created, especially in the West, a secular world, where humans, commodities and ideas substitute Gods. The initial idea to countervail superstition culminated in an annihilation of every ontological existence that surpassed human existence.
I do not argue, for example, to resublime the supposed virtue of spinsterhood, but to refocus on what the idea of God gave us. This “there is more”, this awe evoking humbleness, this comfort and the resulting “everything will be fine”.
A world governed less by empiricism and rationality, however by heart and soul, because it seems that today’s homo rationalis will not only become increasingly unsatisfied by looking for something, which cannot be found in pure logic, but will also destroy himself through the detachment of his surroundings.
Deus sive natura
The philosopher Martin Heidegger already proclaimed that we are experiencing a crisis through our growing distance towards being. According to him, nihilism is the expression of oblivion of being and abandonment of being of modern men, which terminates eventually in the planetary dominance of technique. At one point Heidegger concluded: “only a new God can help us now.”
This does not mean we have to paint a novel man with a beard to the ceiling of our skyscrapers. For instance, I personally always found Baruch Spinoza’s thought Deus sive natura (god or nature) intriguing. According to this philosophy, the substance of God and nature are identical and thus exchangeable. Imagine how many problems this could solve, if a few more people thought like that.
I do not argue that humanism is per se bad, however, I do believe that this philosophy overshot the mark, not only when it comes to humanitarian wars. Hence, let us be a bit less human and a bit more humble.
* photo by ghaidu