By Tzvetan Todorov
The most effective books on humanism to be had this day. A clean and unique examine what it potential to be human, to be all-at-once self-aware, intentional, and social. "For Todorov, humanism represents an highbrow reaction to the results of human freedom." (from "Freedom, unbounded" by way of Carol E. Quillen)
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Additional info for Imperfect Garden: The Legacy of Humanism
Men are not cut off, in this respect, from the rest of living nature; they simply possess this characteristic to a degree unknown elsewhere. At the bottom of the scale are plants, which strictly obey the laws of their nature or divine will (which is the same thing for 40 T h e I n t e r p l a y o f Fo u r Fa m i l i e s Montesquieu). Above them come the animals who know feeling, since they can prefer one individual to another; they are already in a nondetermined state. “They do not invariably follows their natural laws” (I, i, p.
They also think that man, and not only God, is worthy of being an end in himself. But on the other hand, and even leaving aside the historic affiliation between humanism and Christianity, one cannot help noticing that all the great French humanists, from Montaigne to Constant, described themselves as religious persons and Christians; and this cannot be construed as simply a convenient submission to the laws of the times. Rather, humanism, which is not in itself a religion, is nonetheless not a form of atheism.
Similarly, one of the most famous formulas connected to the origin of humanism, Descartes’s promise to “make ourselves [like] the lords and masters of nature” (Discourse on the Method, pt. VI, Philosophical Writings, I, pp. 142–43), refers less to humanist doctrine itself than to this prideful perversion: Humanists affirm that man is not nature’s slave, not that nature must become his slave. This Cartesian promise, which is located in the tradition of Ficino or of Francis Bacon, belongs rather to the tradition of the scientistic family.
Imperfect Garden: The Legacy of Humanism by Tzvetan Todorov