Aspects of Humanism: An eight week course

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Humanists have no official doctrine. Humanism is a loose family of views, united by the thought that the business of living is usually and on the whole worthwhile, and that belief in supernatural beings has nothing to offer people who are trying to live well. The thoughts gathered in these notes and lectures are not intended to supply a Humanist creed. Rather, they are an attempt to think through some of the issues that arise for Humanists today, and to present them in a way that will stimulate others to work out their own ideas. Inevitably, they reflect my own concerns and opinions. As the intention is to stimulate debate, I have in many cases left matters open. Where I offer a definite opinion, I do so in the expectation (and hope) that others will disagree with it, discuss it and improve on it. Please feel free to send me your comments at
Your course leader will organise your in-class activities and explain how your group will use these course materials. I want to make just one suggestion: bring a notebook and pen. Use it during meetings to record your thoughts about the topics under discussion and your reasons for holding (or changing) your views. If you can’t make up your mind about some question, try to write down precisely what is holding you up. That way, you will build up a private journal of your thoughts about Humanism, and make connections among the topics and between the course and your prior knowledge and experience. No-one will read it or try to make you read it aloud.
There is no textbook for this course, but for each week, I have picked out a reading from a relevant book and these have been collected together in a Sourcebook accompanying this Handbook. I am grateful to Andrew Copson and the South Place Ethical Society, British Humanist Association and Rationalist Association for inviting me to prepare this course. I hope you enjoy working through it as much as I did. I am also grateful to the Humanist Philosophers’ Group for giving me plenty to think about. Graduates of the University of Hertfordshire philosophy programme will recognise some of the material here.
Original languageEnglish
TypeStudent Course Book
Media of outputpdf
Number of pages32
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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