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How are they related and more specifically is it possible to be an Objectivist without also being a Secular Humanist?

asked Nov 27 '12 at 07:36

Louise's gravatar image


edited Nov 27 '12 at 11:26

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

Unfortunately, Secular Humanism has a few threads of collectivism running through it that would clash with Objectivism.

Within the Wikipedia article on Secular Humanism, the Council for Secular Humanism states the following principles, which I've commented on in turn in italics:

  • Need to test beliefs – A conviction that dogmas, ideologies and traditions, whether religious, political or social, must be weighed and tested by each individual and not simply accepted by faith.

I don't see any disagreement here with Objectivism.

  • Reason, evidence, scientific method – A commitment to the use of critical reason, factual evidence and scientific method of inquiry in seeking solutions to human problems and answers to important human questions.

Not much to disagree with here, although the vagueness of "human problems" is suspect. The guiding principle here should be individual rights, so beware of collectivism (which I'm sure is rampant in the Humanist realm).

  • Fulfillment, growth, creativity – A primary concern with fulfillment, growth and creativity for both the individual and humankind in general.

Again, statements like "fulfillment for humankind in general" are likely a problem. What on earth does "fulfillment" mean? By whom is it defined? Is it defined by a council or is the individual free to choose his own destiny?

  • Search for truth – A constant search for objective truth, with the understanding that new knowledge and experience constantly alter our imperfect perception of it.

This position is fine, so long as you maintain the proper epistemology.

  • This life – A concern for this life (as opposed to an afterlife) and a commitment to making it meaningful through better understanding of ourselves, our history, our intellectual and artistic achievements, and the outlooks of those who differ from us.

I don't see anything wrong here.

  • Ethics – A search for viable individual, social and political principles of ethical conduct, judging them on their ability to enhance human well-being and individual responsibility.

Ayn Rand already accomplished this with rational egoism. No need to search, but verify at your will.

  • Justice and fairness – an interest in securing justice and fairness in society and in eliminating discrimination and intolerance.

Many problems here. What is the Humanist definition of justice? Does it include the anti-concept social justice? Furthermore, what is fairness? It likely means, to Humanists, the authority of a government to institute right-violating regulations such as a minimum wage and mandatory job benefits. The guiding principle must be individual rights, and I fear Humanism pays little mind to such rights.

  • Building a better world – A conviction that with reason, an open exchange of ideas, good will, and tolerance, progress can be made in building a better world for ourselves and our children.

"Tolerance" here is something Objectivists would cringe at. Axiomatic tolerance thwarts the virtue of justice which asks us to judge others objectively, and treat accordingly. Tolerating Muslim extremists or fundamentalist Christians when they violate rights is no virtue, and is in fact sanctioning evil.

In sum, Secular Humanism seems dedicated to reason and objective truth, but has elements of collectivism when they apply their goals to politics. They lack what Objectivism provides: an entire, cogent philosophical system beginning from the ground up. Because of this, it lacks an ethical groundwork to guide man's actions, and guiding principles that preserve individual rights.

This is my two cents. I encourage others more eloquent to offer their answers too or correct any mistakes I may have made.

answered Nov 27 '12 at 11:12

JK%20Gregg's gravatar image

JK Gregg ♦

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Asked: Nov 27 '12 at 07:36

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Last updated: Nov 27 '12 at 11:26