Dictionary of New Humanism



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Dictionary of New Humanism

Dictionary of New Humanism





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ACTION

(L. actionem). In the sphere of human relations, every manifestation of intention or expression of interest capable of influencing a given situation. For example, social a. (strikes, public protest, declarations in the mass media), political a. (participation in elections, political demonstrations, negotiations, participation in elected bodies), diplomatic a., military a., etc.

The existence of extreme or diametrically opposed positions does not invalidate the broad gamut of possibilities that constitute a. in general. While anarchists place absolute priority on direct a., Buddhists tend to overvalue passivity.

In one’s personal life, a combination of more or less codified actions called “conduct” or “behavior” can be observed. Humanist psychology (*) discovers in the image the direction of the consciousness toward the world, and understands this as intentional activity and not at all as passivity, simple reflection, or deformation of perception.

N.H. postulates: 1) the recognition of freedom of a. within a matrix of situational conditions and responsibility toward oneself and others; 2) the evaluation of ends and forms of a. in relation to their correspondence with the values of humanism.

In conformity with the previous postulates we can speak of the coherence or incoherence of an a.

ACTION FRONT

Activist organization that unites members of a given social sector in the struggle to defend their interests. Today, grassroots organizations are able to develop thanks to the expansion of different a. f. considered as “converging diversities” in their objective of producing progressive changes or changes by demonstration effect (*) in the present power structure. In this sense, organized labor cannot confine itself to the limits proposed by the existing system of unions and guilds, removed as these are from the social base and progressively tending towards isolated hierarchies. Grassroots labor associations that join together to form autonomous a. f. with multiple ties to other fronts constitute a new form of organization and action that corresponds to the process of destructuring (*) and decentralization that can be observed today in all fields.

ACTIVE NON-VIOLENCE

The strategy for struggle of N.H., which consists of the systematic denunciation of all forms of violence exercised by the System. Also, a tactic for struggle applied in specific situations where discrimination of any type is occurring.

ADAPTATION

(From adapt and from the L. adaptare). A characteristic of living beings through which they are able to survive when their environment changes. Compatibility between a structure and its environment. Without entering into the debate concerning the meaning of the terms structure (*) and environment (*), we note in passing that: 1) the development of a structure in interaction with its environment is termed growing a.; 2) in stable a. a structure may remain more or less invariant, but will tend to destructure (*destructuring) as the environment changes; 3) in decreasing a., the structure tends to become isolated from its environment and, correlatively, the differentiation of its internal elements increases; 4) in cases where non-adaptation occurs, two variants can be observed: a) situations of decreasing a. either through isolation from or deterioration of the environment; and b) situations of surpassing an environment that has become insufficient for maintaining interactive relationships. Every growing a. leads to a progressive modification of both the structure and its environment and, in that sense, entails the new surpassing the old (*). Finally, in a closed system, the disarticulation of structure and environment is produced.

In general terms, N.H. favors personal and social conducts of growing a., while questioning conformity and non-adaptation.

ADMINISTRATION

(From administer and from the L. administrare. Also from the L. gestio: the act of administering). Management, direction. Professional activity of establishing objectives and the means to realize them, designing the organization of systems, preparing the strategies for development and managing personnel.

Important distinctions: direct a., through command, and indirect a., through incentives and penalties. Additionally, three styles can be observed: democratic, with the participation of the collectivity; authoritarian, with power held by a single individual; and liberal, which allows compromises and lessens rigidity in the implementation of decisions. These methods are used in different combinations in different systems. The modus operandi of the Armed Forces, of businesses, teaching centers and social organizations will all differ from each other due to the nature of each of these institutions. In different circumstances and times, the methods of a. cannot be the same.

No State can function without an administrative apparatus. Any group or institution requires management, the development of goals and means to reach those goals, the mobilization of resources to fulfill them, the expression of the collective will, etc. Without guidance, any system loses its direction. While administrative cadres need to be developed through democratic procedures, their training requires specialization, instruction in appropriate educational centers, and the understanding and practice of social activities.

AGGRESSION

(L. aggressio, from aggredi, to attack. The use of the adjective “aggressive” to refer to something dynamic, active and resolute is an Anglicism). Action and effect of attacking, an act contrary to the rights of another. Armed attack of one nation against another in violation of international law.

A. is expressed not only in the form of physical actions but also in words, gestures, or attitudes (moral a.). A. is the initiative behind every act of violence (*).

ALIENATION

(From alienate and from the L. alienare, estrange). Distortion in the balance of the factors of individual and social activity in favor of the reification or objectifying of values, and to the detriment of other intangible psychological factors that contribute to the development of the human being.

The word “alienation” as used by Hegel in his Phenomenology of Spirit can also be translated as dis-possession, as a moving-away-from or estrangement. A. is described by this author as embodying an “unhappy consciousness,” a “consciousness of self as divided nature.” This philosopher considers that consciousness may be experienced as separated from the reality to which it belongs, which produces a register of the consciousness feeling “torn” from itself. The popularity of this idea grew when Feurbach developed its “natural-social” aspect, influencing Marx’s interpretation of a. in Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts in 1844.

With the development of the State and greater complexity in the organization of social life, individuals are more and more overwhelmed by the “socium”, especially through the sacrifice of their own freedom and interest to the authority and power of others. As civil society evolves, however, there is also an expansion of the sector made up of citizens who participate in different ways in social and state affairs, in decision-making and the management of society, until the advent of worker ownership (*) of resources and means of production. The boundaries of democracy, initially narrow, have widened to include the majority of the adult population, even though such democracy has been, up until now, more-or-less formal in character. Finally, foreigners and stateless individuals, formerly deprived of civil rights, have acquired certain nationally- and internationally-recognized rights. On the other hand, the development of technology has increasingly subordinated human beings to machines, changing the rhythm of life and constraining many organic functions. Progress in the scientific-technical sphere assures persons of an ever-expanding dominion over the forces of nature, providing them with unprecedented mobility in space and accelerating the pace of social life, generating a greater variety of communications, enabling travel to the cosmos, allowing them to create artificial environments that correspond to their needs. However, all these achievements have generated new dangers that threaten the existence of life on Earth. The development of culture and especially the increasing flow of and control over information in general, attests to human intellectual progress, but at the same time shows an increase in subjective control over individual existence as this existence is subordinated to others’ impulses and thoughts. In the sphere of culture and art, the human being moves toward the creation of a new world with characteristics that do not exist in nature. There has been enormous growth in diversity, but hand-in-hand with this broadening of human cultural boundaries, a dangerous tendency towards uniformity is revealed, which can lead to the obstructing of civilization in the form of a closed system.

The increasing division of labor, the expansion of markets and the growth of technology and communications correspond to a general destructuring of earlier institutional forms and modes of social relations, that is also shown in changes in collective and personal behavior that threaten our capacity for growing adaptation (*) to new circumstances. The social inertia of institutions and obsolete modes of interaction are of no help in navigating the moment of change through which we are now passing; meanwhile, the demands of progress do not in themselves provide us with any clear direction for development. We experience this predicament as just one of many kinds of alienation now buffeting the gates of civilization. These disturbances find expression in growing aggressiveness, neurosis, suicide, etc. The fetishism of social and technological mechanisms occurs to the detriment not only of appropriately human interpersonal relations but of the moral and spiritual improvement of human beings as well. Power, culture, spiritual life – these are now increasingly concentrated in the hands of narrow elites, so that individuals are placed in a situation of dependence as a consequence of their separation from vital goods and values. The personality becomes an object of manipulation and exploitation, isolation and loneliness grow, and each individual feels increasingly unnecessary, abandoned, and powerless. All of this facilitates the manipulation of the consciousness and conduct of whole peoples.



N.H. sees in a. not so much an economic problem as an existential, vital, and moral problem, and consequently proposes as an objective the reduction of the level of a. as a dangerous condition that deforms the personality. The crisis of contemporary civilization is engendered in large part by the hypertrophy of alteration and violence (*) on one hand, and the search for ways to overcome them, on the other. Humanity aspires to ensure progress in new directions, but without an increase in a. The future will not be lacking in alienating factors, but human beings are capable of acting on society and on themselves in a conscious way and in a chosen direction in order to harmonize the external and internal factors of their life. In this sense, N.H. represents an important movement against the danger posed by increasing a.

ALTRUISM

(Fr. altruisme). Concern for and satisfaction in the well being of others, even at one’s own expense, and out of purely humane motives. Refers to service for others’ welfare and the willingness to sacrifice personal interest for others’ benefit.

The term was introduced into scientific and philosophical language by Comte, who used it in formulating the moral doctrine of Positivism. In the experience of a. Comte saw, moreover, a criterion of experience capable of counteracting ordinary selfishness as well as the selfishness defended by Liberalism as a factor of progress. A., along with solidarity (*) and reciprocity (*), is proper to the humanist ethic, because these attitudes contribute to the progress of humankind and to the favorable and just resolution of interpersonal and social conflicts.

ANARCHISM

Sociopolitical movement whose fundamental principle is the negation of the State, which is considered to be an organ of violence (*). In general, a. also rejects private property and religion, which it regards as factors that threaten the absolute freedom of the human being.

From the theoretical point of view, a. is eclectic, admitting from the most violent formulations to Stirner’s anarcho-individualism, Kropotkin’s anarcho-communism, and anarcho-syndicalism, so profoundly influenced by Kropotkin.

Anarcho-syndicalism denies any validity to political struggle or a leading role in the workers movement by any political party, attributing to the anarchist union the highest revolutionary status.

Bakunin maintains that the new order will spring spontaneously from anarchy, a thesis conflicting with that of Proudhon, which conceives the new society as an organization based on exchange of services and mutualism, involving cooperatives and the principle of self-governance. (*)

Some specialists have seen in Nietzsche an axiological a. and in Tolstoy and Gandhi practical expressions of an ethical, socialist, and non-violent a.

ANTHROPOCENTRIC HUMANISM

A position based on the centrality of the human being and generally excluding any theistic proposal. Additionally, a. h. rejects the domination of one human being by another, displacing action towards the control of nature, defined as the medium over which humanity should exert unrestricted power. There are differences with New Humanism (*) in that the latter starts with the centrality of the human being but does not reject theistic positions. Moreover, N.H. considers nature not as a passive medium but as an active force operating in interaction with the human phenomenon. Consequently, the impulse toward individual and social improvement must bear in mind the human impact on nature, something that imposes limitations that are not only moral but must be reflected in the legal system, and ecological planning.


ANTI-HUMANISM

Any practical and/or theoretical position that tends to support a structure of power based on the anti-values of discrimination (*) and violence (*).

ANTI-HUMANIST ATTITUDE

This is not a doctrinal position but a behavior that is in practice the inverted image of the humanist attitude (*). It does not refer to particular situations or to the commission of specific acts that may well be reprehensible from the perspective of humanist ethics. In concrete terms, the a.-h.a. is a personal emplacement or stance in the world, an “objectifying” mode of relationship characterized by the negation of the intentionality and liberty of other human beings.

ANTI-WAR MOVEMENT

Movement against wars in general and any specific war, whether present or future. In antiquity, universal religions and ethical systems began to condemn warfare as an institution contrary to divine will and harmful to society in that it corrupts the human being and dissolves society. In the Middle Ages, various popular religious movements had an antiwar component, and gave expression to popular protest, especially among serfs and peasants, against the kind of devastation commonly produced in the warfare between fiefdoms.

The modern international a.m. arose in the nineteenth century and gained strength on the eve of the First World War. At national and international conferences and conventions, antiwar organizations were formed to forestall the outbreak of a world war and to condemn what were called colonial wars that involved the pillaging of less developed countries. These movements forced international diplomacy to develop a series of standards and to approve documents on specific procedures to limit the scope of international conflicts and the effects of military actions on civilian populations, to issue rules for providing medical aid to the wounded and treatment of prisoners of war, etc. In spite of these efforts, the a.m. was not able to prevent either of the two world wars.

Following the Second World War, the a.m. grew larger and put forward the necessity of disarmament, above all the prohibition and elimination of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, as well as conventional weapons; the dissolution of military blocs and alliances; the closing of military bases on foreign soil and withdrawal of troops. The a.m. did achieve its objectives, even if only partially. The end of the Cold War caused a crisis for the a.m.

ARMY

(ME. armye, armeye; OFr. armee; It. armata; L. armata, army, fleet; f. of armatus, pp. of armare, to arm; arma, arms. The body of military forces of a state, especially the land forces.)

One of the military institutions of the State, which contributes to the external function of defense. However, national states utilize the a. not only for the defense of the country but also to attack and subjugate other countries and peoples, i.e., to expand their borders; this is considered a violation of international law (*aggression).

Another improper use of the a. consists of employing it to resolve internal conflicts through armed force. There are national states that do not have armed forces and fulfill their defense needs through other methods.

In some countries, the a. is professional and behaves like a corporation; its members are hired by contract, their duties and rights spelled out in a contract with the State. In other countries, citizens of certain ages are required to perform compulsory military service. There are also mixed systems.

N.H. condemns the use of violence (*) in all its forms, including armed force. However, to achieve the full realization of the principle of non-violence (*) requires appropriate external and internal conditions for eliminating violence from daily life and social practice, national as well as international. In the meantime, to make progress in this direction it is necessary to increasingly limit the use of the a., to democratize its operation and relations with civil society, to ensure that it is under public control, and to discuss fully in the communications media its internal life, its relations, the military budget, and the military doctrine of the State. From the humanist point of view, any intervention by the a. in political life is inadmissible, and military personnel on active duty should not have electoral rights or make public statements concerning state policy. They recover this right upon leaving the military service and becoming ordinary citizens.

ATHEISM

(from Gr.; a without; and theos, god). Literally, negation of divinity. Hence, rejection of religion and negation of any kind of supernatural or unknown powers. Generally, a. rejects the landscapes proposed by religions (heaven, hell, etc.) as well as the existence of psychic entities independent of the body (angels, spirits, etc.).

A. admits various beliefs concerning the origin and functioning of nature, but in all cases excludes the participation of an intelligence, reason, or logos in the development of the Universe.

There is a theoretical a., based on convictions corresponding to the state of development of science at any given moment; there is also an empirical a., which needs no theoretical development or justification. There is sincere a. and apparent a.

Over the course of human development, religion and a. have developed along parallel lines in different cultures. It is also true that devotees of each of these positions have been subjected to persecution and massacres by those of the other faction.

As with any other faith, a. must be protected, as must the right to publicize and teach it without subjecting it to any comprehensively applicable requirement for uniformity.

Those who are partisans of N.H. are well-disposed to maintaining an amicable dialogue with adherents of the many forms of a., as well as those of confessions and organizations of religious inspiration, whether social institutions, political parties, unions, etc., with the aim of acting in broad solidarity and cooperation on behalf of the human being and social progress, freedom, and peace.

AUTHORITARIANISM

(From authority: L. auctoritatem: power, force, order, dignity). 1) Irrational faith in and obedience to the person, institution, or social group that is considered the source of authority. 2) Anti-democratic political regime based on the unlimited power of a single person, institution, or social group, which sustains itself through manipulation and violence. 3) A form of dogmatism that considers authority the only or supreme source of wisdom or ethics.

N.H. condemns all forms and manifestations of a. as incompatible with the freedom of people, and it points out a path and method of struggle for replacing a. through the democratization and modernization of society.




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