What Is Humanism in World History?

Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence over acceptance of dogma or superstition. This movement emerged during the Renaissance in Europe; however, its roots can be traced back to ancient Greece and Rome.

The Origins of Humanism

The word “humanism” comes from the Latin word “humanitas,” which means “human nature.” In ancient Greece, humanism was reflected in the writings of philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. They believed that humans were capable of reason and could find knowledge through rational inquiry.

In ancient Rome, humanism was expressed through the works of poets such as Virgil and Horace. They believed that humans were capable of creating great art, literature, and architecture.

During the Renaissance period in Europe (14th to 17th century), humanism became a dominant intellectual movement. This period marked a shift towards a more secular worldview with an emphasis on individualism, reason, and skepticism towards traditional authority figures.

Core Principles of Humanism

Humanists believe that individuals have inherent worth and dignity simply by virtue of being human. They reject the idea that humans are inherently sinful or flawed.

Humanists also believe in reason as the primary means for discovering truth about the world. They reject supernatural explanations for events or phenomena in favor of scientific inquiry.

Another core principle of humanism is a commitment to social justice. Humanists believe that all people should be treated equally regardless of their race, gender identity, sexual orientation or religion.

Finally, humanists value individual freedom. They believe that individuals should have autonomy over their own lives without interference from governments or other institutions.

Humanism Today

Today, humanism is still an important philosophical movement with adherents around the world. Many secular organizations promote humanist values such as free speech, democracy, and human rights.

Humanism has also influenced other areas of society such as education. In fact, many universities and colleges offer courses in humanist studies, which explore the history and philosophy of humanism.


In conclusion, humanism is a philosophical movement that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings. It originated in ancient Greece and Rome and became a dominant intellectual movement during the Renaissance period in Europe. Today, humanism continues to be an important movement that promotes values such as reason, social justice, and individual freedom.