Humanism is a movement in philosophy and ethics that emphasizes the value of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence (rationalism and empiricism) over the acceptance of dogma or superstition. Humanism affirms the highest value of a person's life, his right to self-determination and free expression of will. The meaning of the term humanism has fluctuated according to the successive intellectual movements which have identified with it. The term was coined by theologian Friedrich Niethammer at the beginning of the 19th century to refer to a system of education based on the study of classical literature ("classical humanism"). Generally, however, humanism refers to a perspective that affirms some notion of human freedom and progress.
The concept of humanism, as a social phenomenon, first appeared in the Renaissance. By that time, mankind had accumulated quite significant achievements in culture, art, natural and social sciences. This was the epoch of denial of the norms of medieval life when people were cruel to one another, to nature, there were interstate wars, and the transition to new relationships. Thus, in the history of mankind, a new ideology emerged. It began to defend the best in relations between people, denied the inequality of people in financial, property and other relations. The idea of humanism is to consolidate the norms of humanity in society, in liberating man from the slave, feudal mode of thinking. In the future, the concept of humanism spread to the international, inter-racial and interstate relations of people. The idea of humanism was not new at that time.
Many of the theses advocated by humanism can be found in the religious, philosophical and ethical teachings of different peoples of the world. The famous Ten Commandments of the Bible (you shall not kill, you shall not steal, etc.) are good examples. Humanism was first and foremost an educational movement, which gave high priority to literature. Humanistic education, according to humanists, was supposed to contribute to the comprehensive development of the individual; knowledge had to be combined with virtues, true content with a complete language form, so literary studies and linguistics were to play a central role in humanistic education
The origin of humanism is associated with the name of the poet and thinker Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374). He developed humanistic ideas in lyrical verses, in Latin prose writings, treatises, and numerous letters. One of the central elements in the ethics of Petrarca was the concept of "humanitas" (from Latin humanitas - human nature, spiritual culture). It became the basis for building a new culture, hence the term "humanism". Petrarca challenged scholasticism, criticized it for lack of attention to human problems, the subordination of theology. Thus, the program of the formation of a new culture was drawn by Petrarca, its development was completed by its followers - Giovanni Boccaccio and Coluccio Salutati. Humanism became an expression of a new worldview, a new understanding of the essence of man and earthly life. Humanism is a system of ideas, views on man as the highest value, the establishment of human rights to earthly happiness.
Humanists persistently emphasized the idea of the harmony of the world and the dignity of man, not generic and class, but exclusively personal, pursued the idea of the importance of each individual existence. It was in the Renaissance culture that an idea was made about the boundless power of man, about its unlimited possibilities. Human activity was actual because earthly life is the most valuable, the only possibility for man to reveal his own nature and individual uniqueness.
A characteristic feature of the culture of humanism is the "rehabilitation" of the natural in man, the definition of harmonious unity of the physical and spiritual. Rejecting asceticism, the humanists opposed it with a new morality based on the unity of the flesh and the Spirit, and, according to this morality, they fought for the human right to earthly pleasures and intellectual development, to meet the essential and spiritual demands for the right to seek earthly, eternal glory.
Humanists have developed their anthropocentric system of perception of the world. They did not reject the theological doctrine that God is the creator of the world and man because they were not atheists and did not deny God. But they understood the world and the man quite differently. Humanists put in the center of the world not God, but man, magnified him, proclaimed the most valuable being able to rise to their creator.