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Humanism, The New


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Philosophical and critical movement that flourished in the U.S. during the 1920s, under the leadership of Irving Babbitt and P. E. More. It stresses human elements of experience as distinguished from supernatural or animal elements, assuming that the essential quality of human experience is ethical, that there is a dualism of man and nature, and that man's will is free. The New Humanists desire a discriminating, harmonious cultivation of every part of human nature, based upon a universal scale of values rather than the temporary codes of any particular society. They transcend the scientific method, finding their ultimate ethical principle in restraint, recognizing freedom as the “liberation from outer constraints and subjection to inner law.” They turn to the Hellenic doctrine of reason, and away from romanticism; although they draw upon Christianity, Oriental philosophy, and certain modern thinkers and tend to make intellect rather than formal theology the universal test. T. S. Eliot and Norman Foerster are among the important followers of this school, although Eliot criticized some of its basic concepts. S. P. Sherman was an early popular spokesman for its philosophy, but later adopted different standards. Humanism and America (1930), a symposium by its proponents, was answered by the symposium The Critique of Humanism (1930), and also by Santayana's The Genteel Tradition at Bay (1931).

Subjects: Literature.


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