The humanistic perspective is the view that identification with other humans is the most important association. Humanism is the philosophy that advocates a this perspective of the world, and it generally states that human beings have basically the same needs and values regardless of their specific life circumstances. The humanistic identity stands in opposition to extreme forms of national, religious, racial, and gender identity.
Humanism has roots at least back to the period of ancient Greece. In the fifth century BCE, a philosopher named Protagoras said, “Man is the measure of all things.” What he meant by this is that humans are of central importance, and this perspective can also be seen in the values and culture of ancient Greece. For example, the emergence of democracy — giving human beings control of their society — shows that the concerns of citizens were taken seriously.
The humanistic perspective can also be seen in ancient Greek views toward nature and the greater universe. They conceived gods that were idealized forms of human beings, subject to the same passions and motives. Greeks also sought natural explanations of phenomena in the world. Supernatural explanations of events were seen as inadequate. This is a common element of humanism, as supernatural beliefs are typically superseded by those grounded in nature and human values.
The Renaissance and the Enlightenment periods experienced resurgences of humanistic thought. Advocates rebelled against the religious and authoritarian establishment and promoted reason as the basis for authority. The humanistic perspective has a strong influence on modern-day thought as well. For example, spreading democracy and human rights is a major foreign policy objective of many nations.
According to this philosophy, different cultural practices across the world are not the result of underlying differences in humans, but rather are different possible methods of living. Humanism suggests that no particular country or culture is superior to another; they are simply different manifestations of human creativity and adaptation.
A criticism of the humanistic perspective is its anthropocentrism, or centralized focus on the human species. The subject of animal rights is commonly cited in this criticism. Where non-human animals stand in this perspective is not always clear. Most interpretations consider humans to be animals, but with an elevated importance based on human capacity for higher reasoning.