The Tragedy of Humanism: Education at the Crossroads?


In True Humanism, written shortly after the devastation of parts of Europe and Japan, Maritain argued that heightened affirmations of humanism, in some senses, have not had an entirely beneficial or progressive influence: in his own words, one of the great “misfortunes” of “modern history has been that all this progress has been directed by a spirit of anthropocentrism; by a naturalistic conception of man,… it has been accomplished under the sign, not of unity, but of division. And so we have been instructed by an experience of suffering and catastrophe; and the incontestable enrichments of civilization have given entrance to the interior torture chamber of man become a prey unto himself… the age in question has been an age of dualism, of division, of disintegration… the effort of progress must needs follow an inevitable course and itself contribute to the destruction of what is human” (1946, pp.18-19). I will argue that uncritical, or insufficiently examined, affirmations of “humanism” have not always improved matters, especially on a global socio-politico-economic scale; that in this light, education is once again at a crossroads, and our response, as thinkers and educators, ought to be considered carefully and critically once more, especially in the context of various (amplified, hyperbolic) discourses of humanism, and post-humanism, which, far from delivering on their promise of universal emancipation and/or enlightened subjectivity, have arguably helped to accelerate the emergence of hermeneutics of suspicion, alienation, estrangement and disintegration, and on a global, or near-global, scale.

Author Information
Raymond Aaron Younis, ACU, Australia

Paper Information
Conference: ACERP2018
Stream: Religion - Religion and Education

This paper is part of the ACERP2018 Conference Proceedings (View)
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