Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: May 06, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412958660 | Print ISBN: 9781412958653 | Online ISBN: 9781412958660| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Although the terms humanist and humanism are relatively recent (500 and 200 years old, respectively), humanist ideas, broadly understood as involving a positive approach to human existence and an appreciation of human endeavor, are much older, stretching as far back as the naturalist philosophers of ancient Greece and the Islamic Renaissance, as well as featuring in ancient Chinese thought, particularly that of Confucius. The basic principles of humanism—the recognition of the worth of all human beings and their thoughts and actions—have thus existed for as long as human civilization has existed. Although often used in vague or dismissive ways, an understanding of the term humanism is crucial for political theory: All forms of political philosophy and social organization depend explicitly or implicitly upon a theory of human nature and some idea of what human beings have in common and what they value. There have been many varieties of humanism, humanism ...