Failures in human attempts

The LORD knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity. Ps 94:11

Guidance in choices

Indulging oneself in high praise for the ideology seems to be an intrinsic part of humanism. But the praise is always conceptual in nature. So for those who are still undecided as to how it actually plays out in everyday situations, humanism does offer yet some more very clear answers.

In Humanism Peter Cave1gives us the opportunity to see whatit means to be a humanistin everyday decision making. Cave offers several cases. In one of them he describes awoman driving home from work, exceeding speed limits, overtired, and under the influence of alcohol. She knocks down a cyclist and sees in the mirror that the cyclist has broken his leg. The woman would normally run to help, but this time she doesn't want to do so. She would lose her licence that she needs, being an ambulance driver, her husband is unemployed and she has three children to support. Cave suggests that the best and right thing to do is perheps to drive on, before her number is taken.2

In another depiction Cave describes the situation of a respected teacher. She is comfortably off with a husband and two children at collage. But there is an emptiness within her soul. She sees her middle-class existence as being trapped. Tempted by another man shefeels a secret affair might bring color into her life. She is contemplating leaving everything behind and joining him in southern France, where the man has contacts in an artist community. She sees the life of art, sexuality and sun waiting for her.3

Cave concludes that the illicit love affair will be at the expense of her family. But the humanist line is that there is nevertheless no line in this. Therefore Cave inclines to rather letting her go because "she cannot go on the way she is".4

In these two cases the ethic of humanism is again easy to see. The first example directs people to not face consequences of their actions if that might result in possible personal and family losses. Because of that it was the right and best thing to do to not help the injured man.

The latter example suggests that even betrayal is acceptable because it offers the woman "excitements and sensualities".5 Woman's family is seen as nothing but an obstacle to this. The harm that the suggested action would cause was noted, but still was rather let happen. Therefore providing us an illustration of how humanism admits it's destructive direction and willingness to choose just that.


1 Cave teaches philosophy at the City University of London, he chairs the Humanist Philosophers of the British Humanist Association, and is a frequent contributor to philosophy journals.

2 Cave, Peter. Humanism. Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2009, 66.

3 Cave 2009, 111.

4 Cave 2009, 130-131.

5 Cave 2009, 130.