11 Principles of Humanist Ethics

11 Principles of Humanist Ethics

A statement by the great Humanist Corliss Lamont on the main principles of the Humanist philosophy.

The Power of Humanism

Taken from his essay: The Affirmative Ethics of Humanism – http://www.corliss-lamont.org/ethics.htm

There is much that can be said about Humanist ethics. But here are eleven main and succinct points proposed for your consideration.

First, Humanist ethics is concerned wholly with actions, ideals, and values on this earth in our one and only life. The utopia that is heaven must be built in this world or not at all.

Second, Humanist ethics is an affirmative one of joy and happiness, repudiating the Christian idea of original sin in human beings and any sense of puritanism. It adopts the old saying "While we’re here, let’s live in clover; for when we’re dead, we’re dead all over." Humanism rejects the Christian over-emphasis on sex morality and applies ethical principles to every aspect of human endeavor.

Third, Humanist ethics holds a liberal view on sex relations, but insists on high standards of conduct and believes in the institution of marriage, with easy divorce and some latitude of sexual variety for husband and wife.

Fourth, Humanist ethics relies on reason and scientific method in working out ethical decisions and has no use for prayer or divine guidance by some supernatural being.

Fifth, while Humanism believes in general ethical principles, most ethical decisions must be considered on an individualistic basis that evaluates the probable consequences and possible alternatives.

Sixth, in the age-long dialogue on self-interest versus altruism, Humanist ethics sees a false dichotomy and claims that a man or woman can harmoniously combine relative self-interest and relative altruism in working for the community good.

Seventh, the community good is one’s family, one’s city, one’s college, one’s state, one’s nation, or all humanity; with the happiness and progress of the entire human race as the ultimate community good and the supreme ethical aim of Humanism.

Eighth, it follows from ordinary self-interest and the Humanist’s concern for fellow humans that international peace is a principal ethical objective. This is more true today than ever before in view of the terrible nuclear weapons that have been developed and which threaten, if used in a war, the existence of all humankind.

Ninth, the ethics of Humanism is eclectic and incorporates whatever seems relevant from other philosophies or religions. For instance, many of the Christian precepts in the Old and New Testaments have an important place in the Humanist ethic.

Tenth, supporting democracy and civil liberties is an ethical imperative for Humanism, with complete freedom of expression in every field of human endeavor.

Eleventh, the Humanist ethic functions on the basis that human beings have true freedom of choice at the moment of making an ethical decision. Universal determinism that includes humankind would make any sort of ethics impossible and irrelevant.

My final word is that my outline of Humanist ethics is to be considered tentative and open to criticism and improvement. My eleven points are guiding principles, not absolutes.