Friday, September 07, 2012

Paul Kurtz’s Integrated Vision in Quotes- Part 2

By Gary Berg-Cross
Here are a few of the thoughts that make up part of his Integrated Philosophy and his life’s work at the same.
Scientific Naturalism (Paul follows his mentor Sidney Hook)
There is a second meaning of naturalism, which is as a generalized description of the universe. According to the naturalists, nature is best accounted for by reference to material principles, i.e., by mass and energy and physical-chemical properties as encountered in diverse contexts of inquiry. This is a non-reductive naturalism, for although nature is physical-chemical at root, we need to deal with natural processes on various levels of observation and complexity: electrons and molecules, cells and organisms, flowers and trees, psychological cognition and perception, social institutions, and culture.
Paul Kurtz, "Darwin Re-Crucified: Why Are So Many Afraid of Naturalism?" Free Inquiry (Spring 1998)
The Role of Intelligence
Reason and intelligence are the most effective instruments that humankind possesses. There is no substitute: neither faith nor passion suffices in itself. The controlled use of scientific methods, which have transformed the natural and social sciences since the Renaissance, must be extended further in the solution of human problems. But reason must be tempered by humility, since no group has a monopoly of wisdom or virtue. Nor is there any guarantee that all problems can be solved or all questions answered. Yet critical intelligence, infused by a sense of human caring, is the best method that humanity has for resolving problems.

Pragmatic Naturalism
 "Science is not interpreted as an esoteric method of inquiry, but is continuous with standards of critical intelligence used in common, ordinary life." Kurtz, Paul, 1990, Philosophical Essays in Pragmatic Naturalism, Prometheus Books.

Free Inquiry
Free inquiry means that any effort to prevent the mind from exercising its right to pose questions is unwarranted. Skepticism is a vital principle of inquiry. This principle implies that the reliability of a hypothesis, theory, or belief is a function of the evidence, by which it is supported. If a claim is not justified by verification,
we ought to be cautious in holding fast to it. Paul Kurtz, Forbidden Fruit: The Ethics of Humanism

There is no word in the English language that adequately conveys the meaning of secular humanism. Secular humanism is not a religion; it represents a philosophical, scientific, and ethical outlook. I have accordingly introduced a new term, eupraxsophy, in order to distinguish humanistic convictions and practices from religious systems of faith and belief. Affirming Life - Free Inquiry magazine, Volume 24, Number 6. Editorial
New, Positive, Rational Skepticism
New Skepticism encompasses inquiry rather than doubt. It is Positive and constructive. The transformation of negative critical analysis of claims to knowledge into a positive contribution. The key principle of skeptical inquiry is to seek, when feasible, adequate evidence and reasonable grounds for any claim to truth in any context (paraphrase)

Secular Humanism
The secular humanist paradigm has six main characteristics: (1) it is a method of inquiry, (2) it provides a naturalistic cosmic outlook, (3) it is nontheistic, (4) it is committed to human ethics, (5) it offers a perspective that is democratic, and (6) it is planetary in scope. I should point out that many allies within the freethought or rationalist movement may accept one or more of these characteristics without accepting them all. Some mistakenly consider secular humanism to be equivalent with atheism, others with methodological naturalism, and still others with humanistic ethics. Secular humanism, however, is broader than any of these views; for it provides an integrated scientific-philosophical synthesis that encompasses all of these and more. This is sometimes called "naturalistic humanism." Ultimately, secular humanism proposes nothing less than the complete implementation of the agenda of modernism. This agenda in fact has yet to be fully implemented; what is necessary for it to occur is a post-modernist New Enlightenment.
-- Paul Kurtz, What is Secular Humanism (2007) page 23
Planetary Vision of Humanism
The overriding need is "to develop a new Planetary Humanism" that will seek to preserve human rights and enhance human freedom and dignity and will emphasize our commitment "to humanity as a whole." The underlying ethical principle "is the need to respect the dignity and worth of all persons in the world community." Thinkers as diverse as Peter Singer and Hans Küng also emphasize the need for a new global ethic beyond nationalistic, racial, religious, and ethnic chauvinism.
-- Paul Kurtz, What is Secular Humanism (2007) page 53, quoting from the Humanist Manifesto 2000

Joyful Exuberance

Humanists find exuberance to be intrinsically worthwhile for its own sake. This is usually identified with happiness. The Greeks called it eudaimonia, or well-being; this meant the actualization of a person’s nature, with pleasure as a by-product, not for the solitary moment, but in a complete life. This entails some moderation of a person’s desires. But I add that, in joyful exuberance, there is high excitement, the intensity of living, throbbing with passion, engaging in daring activities of enterprise and adventure.
Joyful exuberance is enhanced when we not only fulfill our needs and wants, but creatively express our goals and aspirations. It denotes some degree of excellence, nobility, even perfectibility, of a person’s talents and achievements. It comes to fruition for those who find life intensely worth living and at times exhilarating. Free Inquiry magazine, Volume 24, Number 6.s
Affirmative Stance
I believe that a person should take an affirmative outlook. There are always problems in life, old and new, uncertainties, and unexpected contingencies. The optimal way to deal with this is not to give up in despair, but to move ahead using the best intelligence and resources that we have to overcome adversity.
-- Paul Kurtz, from snowy Buffalo, NT, "New Year's Message from Paul Kurtz" (December 31, 2001) from
Image Credit
Top Graphic – created by Gary Berg-Cross

1 comment:

Gary Berg-Cross said...

Below is a comment sent about Paul in response to the idea of a panel to discuss his work.

"Paul Kurtz has done more to advance a positive image for a secular society devoid of religion than any other person in our generation, and perhaps in history. In an era like ours with angry atheists he is a breath of fresh air."

Best wishes,
John W. Loftus