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Paul Ricci looks at Humanism

  • Nov 11, 2012 · 1:30 PM
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Paul Ricci, retired philosophy instructor, will present a talk in which he states his reservations concerning the philosophy of humanism in theory and practice.

Mr. Ricci has provided the following additional information on his lecture and his background:


'Ever since I joined the A.H.A. back in the 70s, I thought this was the group where I would best fit in if I were going to join any secular group at all.

I was sent Corliss Lamont's The Philosophy of Humanism (1965) and read it through in detail but was appalled. I kept thinking, at the time, this book is a poor excuse for an in depth philosophy of life compared to the religious theologies I have read over the years as a student in philosophy. However, Lamont suggested: "The Humanist synthesis that I offer is, by its very nature, an unfinished and undogmatic philosophy which is sure to be improved upon by future generations." With this qualification I thought I ought to give the group a fair hearing, which I have thus far.

Then, years later came Eupraxophy: Living Without Religion, by Paul Kurtz which I also read and, though a bit more profound and consistent than Lamont's book on Humanism, I was still left unfulfilled philosophically. And so it has been for many of the other articles and books written by Humanist authors. I was especially turned off by what I understood as a basis for Humanist ethics and the wide variety of views offered by Humanist writers on ethics.

I would like to suggest a critique of Humanism as a philosophical movement. Perhaps that might be a bit unfair since many Humanists don't regard Humanism as a philosophical movement per se but as a social or political movement or maybe something else. However, whatever it is, I would like to see it as having a stronger philosophical backing than I now view it. Hopefully I can explain just what I mean by giving more details if you will bear with me.'

Brief Biography:

I received an undergraduate degree in Math and Physics (U. Conn.) along with a number of courses on philosophy before serving in the military for some two years. Science and philosophy have always been of abiding interest to me after slowly breaking away from the chains of Catholicism beginning in 1950.

After the military, I returned to academic life and struggled to earn an M.A. in philosophy at the U. of Arizona in 1962 where my thesis defended a view on ethical egoism. After having taught science, math and philosophy for a number of years, I attended U.S.C. as a part-time graduate student in philosophy though I never completed my Ph.D. requirements.

I have had two or three published articles in philosophical journals (depending upon how the latter are counted) and many articles in non-philosophical journals along with two books in logic and critical thinking, though long since out of print.

Now retired, I'm still trying to learn and teach philosophy, as well as science, much of which I have forgotten over the years, and I dabble with issues involved in these two general areas over the internet with friends and foes alike.


As usual our program allows for a Q&A period following the presentation.

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  • Juan B.

    See message board entries of November 20th for more discussion of Paul Ricci's criticism of Humanism.

    November 20, 2012

  • Juan B.

    Paul Ricci's presentation, although not a "knockdown" critique of humanism, stimulated a great deal of discussion regarding such issues as the nature of humanism, the philosophical grounding for humanist thought, humanistic ethics, etc. In addition to issues of humanism, we took up the question of numbers, namely, why does Roman Catholic Christianity have such large numbers and secular humanists so few?

    November 12, 2012

  • ERNST G.

    It elicited spirited discussions.

    November 11, 2012

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