What’s a Humanist? Discovering the Philosophy of Compassion

Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence over acceptance of dogma or superstition. Humanists propose that human beings are capable of finding solutions to their problems, and that it is possible to improve human condition through science, reason, and education.

Humanist beliefs stress on ethics, empathy, and compassion to make their living communities more inclusive, tolerant, and respectful. In short, humanism is based on understanding and supporting our fellow humans, using reason, logic, and evidence to make the world a better place.

The Roots of Humanism: Ancient Greek Philosophy

The history of humanism is deeply interwoven in many factors. However, the primary roots of humanism could be traced back to Ancient Greek Philosophy. The Ancient Greeks were adamant about logic, argumentation, and pursuit of knowledge through various means. Humanists believe that this way of thinking and learning is imperative for human growth.

Philosophers and Thinkers that Contributed to Humanism

Over time, many philosophers, scholars, and scientists have contributed to humanism. Some of the notable humanists are:

  • Aristotle: An Ancient Greek philosopher who encouraged the use of reason and logic to solve problems.
  • Thomas Aquinas: A philosopher who argued that humans are rational beings and, through reason, can achieve salvation.
  • Enlightenment Thinkers: These thinkers paved the way for modern humanism, believing in reason, evidence, and empirical experimentation to answer questions about society and the universe.

The Key Elements of Humanism

The following are the significant elements of humanism:

Rationality and Reason

Humanists believe that reason and rationality can help us solve the problems that face humanity. They believe that through critical thinking and problem-solving, we can better ourselves and our communities.

Empathy and Compassion

Humanists amplify the importance of empathy and compassion. They believe that we must use our understanding of others to help those in need and create an environment in which everyone can flourish.

Tolerance and Diversity

Humanists value diversity and embrace tolerance, acknowledging that people come from various backgrounds and hold different beliefs. They believe that by working together and respecting individual differences, we can build a better world.

Social Justice and Equality

Humanists believe in social justice and equality. They are dedicated to ensuring that everyone is treated with equal respect and dignity, regardless of race, gender, religion, or any other characteristic.

The Benefits of Humanism

Humanism has several benefits. Some of these benefits include:

Personal Growth and Fulfilment

Humanism encourages individuals to learn more about themselves and their place in society. By promoting critical thinking and personal responsibility, humanism enhances personal growth and fulfillment.

Better Societal Understanding

Humanism emphasizes empathy, compassion, and tolerance, thereby promoting better mutual societal understanding. Communities can only grow and thrive through mutual respect and understanding, which humanism encourages.

Social Justice and Equality

Humanism values social justice and equality, promoting equal treatment of all individuals. This leads to a sense of community among individuals, regardless of race, gender, religion, or any other characteristic.

Scientific and Technological Progress

Humanism advances scientific and technological progress because it believes in using reason and empirical analysis to solve problems rather than relying on faith and dogma.

Common Misconceptions about Humanism

Some common misconceptions about humanism are:

Humanists are nihilists

Some people believe that humanism is nihilistic, or that humanists believe in nothing. However, humanism actually promotes the value of human beings and their potential.

Humanists are atheists

While many humanists are indeed atheists, not all of them are. Being an atheist is not a requirement to be a humanist, as humanism is based on ethics, empathy, and compassion.

Humanists are anti-religion

Humanists are not anti-religion. They support the belief that everyone has the right to follow whatever religion they choose. The main point is that humanists promote reason, logic, and evidence over faith and dogma.

FAQs on Humanism

Here are some frequently asked questions about humanism:

  • Q. What is the goal of humanism?
    A. Humanism’s primary aim is to better the world through empathy, reason, and evidence.
  • Q. How is humanism different from religion?
    A. Humanism is a secular philosophy that values human being and uses reason and empirical analysis to solve problems. In contrast, religion relies on faith and dogma to answer the same questions.
  • Q. What do humanists believe in?
    A. Humanists believe in using reason and empirical analysis to solve problems; they promote empathy, compassion, and tolerance for different backgrounds, lifestyles, and beliefs.
  • Q. What is the impact of humanism?
    A. Humanism puts forward an ethical framework for individuals and society to thrive on; it encourages personal growth and fulfillment, better society understanding, and scientific and technological progress.
  • Q. Who are some famous humanists?
    A. Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, and Enlightenment thinkers such as Francis Bacon, John Locke, and Voltaire are some of the most famous humanists.


Humanism is an inclusive and rational philosophy propagated on the values of empathy, reason, and compassion. It gives individuals the tools to grow personally, contribute towards society, and build a better future for all of humanity.


1. Humanism – Philosophy of life. (n.d.). Retrieved August 30, 2021, from https://www.britannica.com/topic/humanism-philosophy-of-life

2. Faber, M. (2021, March 24). Humanism. Retrieved August 30, 2021, from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/humanism/

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