Failures in human attempts
The LORD knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity. Ps. 94:11
Some might argue, that even tho humanism has failed to direct attention towards others in it's definitions of good, it's practical applications might still work that way.
The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) does give a very practical goal for humanism. It states that the purpose of humanism is to build society through an ethic based on human and other natural values.1
But how does humanism actually build society through ethic? One effective way of getting examples of that is by examining humanistic therapies. In therapy the humanist way of understanding life makes a real impact in people’s situations. Therapies therefore provide a way to discover what humanistic ethic really stands for, and how human lives are being influenced. Every therapy also needs practical defining of goals.
Client centered therapy, other humanistic therapies and the result of their ethic
Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers formed the base for humanistic psychology. Rogers argues that human wellbeing is disturbed by how others (persons and the whole society) respond to different aspects of personality. For example, a person might receive negative response from spouse for a tendency to observe pornographic material. Rogers argues that this response is the cause of inner conflict. It is therefore the task of therapist to accept unconditionally whatever tendencies a person might have. The positive feedback is then believed to make the person whole again.
What then is the ethic of this method? It quite clearly brings to life the theoretical part of humanism, that everything a person does is good, because it is in their interests. If there is anything to stand against good, it is the intervening of other people.
It is hard to come up with anything like this, which might have the same negligence of others. Client centered therapy offers probably the most self-centered way of life there is. There is just no way how this could actually build society. But it does build and further discord and chaos.
There are other therapies that are sometimes categorized as humanistic, such as Gestalt therapy. But they all fail to include any kind of morality, and always center their focus on self, not others. Without right and wrong there is again no way to build real harmony into people’s lives.
It is actually one of the main ideas of any secular therapy to not offer moral guidance. But that is in fact a very strong ethical statement in itself. It is a clear message that morality is not needed to solve people’s problems. And if it is not needed then neither can it be any part of them. Abolishing the need of morality does then guide choices accordingly.
The only ”ethical” value in them is that decisions are to be made independently, the therapist not influencing them one way or another. Therefore, if this only criterion of value is met, then every single choice is successful and good, just because people made them independently.
The given examples provide proof that failure to define good results in practical failures. Humanistic therapies teach more ways for people to concentrate on themselves, and persuade them to forget the destructive consequences that will always follow on such paths.