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Humanism is a philosophy or a way of thinking about the world. Humanism is a set of ethics or ideas about how people should live and act. People who hold this set of ethics are called Humanists.

  • The most important Humanist ethic is that humans deserve respect. Every human should be treated with respect and allowed to have dignity. If all people act with respect for others, then people will live in peace and trust.
  • Another important Humanist ethic is that people should all be able to decide how they want to live their lives. The Humanist belief is that if people think hard about what is right and what is wrong, they will know the difference and make right decisions. Thinking about problems is called reasoning.
  • Humanists believe that people should choose what to believe by using reason. The Humanist ethic is that people should not follow any particular religion or philosophy or political belief without first testing it with their own reasoning.
  • Humanists want to see all humans be as good as they can be. They also want people to be able to achieve the things that they want to do. Humanists decide what choices are good by whether those choices will help make human life better. Whenever there is a problem with our world or our society, humanists think that it is important to use reason to help fix that problem.


Humanist ideas were first discussed in Ancient Greece. Among the important Humanist philosophers were Plato and Aristotle.

The writings of the ancient Greeks were studied in the 1400s during the Renaissance. There were many Humanist thinkers at this time. There was an important Humanist academy set up in Florence by Lorenzo Medici. Some of the philosophers, writers and poets who were at the academy were Marsilio Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, Cristoforo Landino and Angolo Poliziano.

Humanist ethics affected people's thinking in many ways. Many philosophers began to discuss the church, government, education and human rights in different ways. Because of this, the period of European history from 1600 until 1800 is called The Age of Reason. Some of the important philosophers were Desiderius Erasmus, Francis Bacon, René Descartes, Blaise Pascal, Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei and John Milton.

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