Rationalism, Freedom and Humanism
“Humanism derives the value of freedom from man’s struggle for existence. Struggle for existence is the basic attribute of the entire biological world and man, being a part of that world, shares that attribute. But on the human plane, the biological struggle for existence takes the form of a struggle for freedom. Since struggle for existence is the basic attribute of all biological beings, freedom is the basic value of all human beings.
Rationalism consists of recognition of the value of individual human reason. Humanism says that since the entire universe is law governed, instinctive reason is an attribute of all animals which have succeeded in subsisting in the natural struggle for existence. Different animals have instinctive reason at different levels of development. By far the highest level of development is found in human beings. Human reason, used for understanding the experiences of life, is the source of human knowledge. Truth is the content of knowledge. Humanism says that quest for freedom and search for truth constitute the basic urge for human progress.
Freedom can be enjoyed by an individual only in society, and this requires that a free individual must be an autonomous moral being. An individual who is incapable of moral behavior of his own volition cannot be a free person, because in that case society will have to adopt coercive means to make him conform with the required norms. Humanism finds in the millions of years of biological evolution the source of man’s moral impulses as well as his rationality, which together make it possible for him to develop in to an autonomous moral entity.
The social ideal of humanism is to help in creating a society of free and moral men and women. In pursuance of this ideal, a humanist strives to build up and maintain a fully democratic society. Humanism realizes that democracy cannot be confined to the political organization of society and that the democratic values of liberty, equality and fraternity must pervade all aspects of social life. These values must be fully reflected in the production and distribution of economic goods and services, in the imparting of education, and in the norms which govern the relations between various communities, the sexes and the different age groups.
The creation of such an all-pervasive multidimensional democracy presupposes a radical transformation of society, a comprehensive cultural and institutional revolution. Surrounded by poverty, ignorance and extreme economic inequalities, humanists cannot be true to their philosophy if their moral sense does not impel them to participate in such a revolutionary effort. Humanism under the circumstances has to be Radical Humanism.
The state as conceived by Radical Humanism will be a participatory democracy where power will remain vested in the people and will not be concentrated in a few hands. It will be a co-operative commonwealth in which the right to gainful employment will be available to every individual and economic inequalities will be narrowly limited.
The revolutionary work of radical humanists will be guided by the principle that a cultural transformation must precede every worthwhile social revolution. The main task of radical humanists will be to educate the people in the democratic values of freedom, equality, rationalism, co-operation and self-imposed discipline, and to set up appropriate institutions based on these values.
In striving to build a genuinely democratic state as conceived by them, radical humanists will not form a political party and will not participate in power politics. They will work as the guides, friends and philosophers of the people. Their political practice will always be rational and therefore ethical. They will work with the objective that the people themselves may secure increasing political power and economic well-being by virtue of their education in humanist values and participation in appropriate democratic organizations.
Radical Humanism does not believe that a world of freedom can be created through the establishment of a dictatorship. Radical Humanism defends the limited democracy of today in order that it may be transformed into a comprehensive political, economic and social democracy of the future.
Radical Humanism is not a closed system of thought. Being a philosophy of freedom-loving individuals, it is always open to revision on the basis of fresh additions to human knowledge. Radical Humanism is both a personal and a social philosophy. Since the basic tenet of humanism is the centrality of man, the individual, there is no discordance between its personal and social aspects.”
Pp 3 and 4,
Jawahar Nagar, Delhi.