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What is the Humanistic Perspective?

By James Doehring
Updated May 23, 2024
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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 This is a common element of humanism, as supernatural beliefs are typically superseded by those grounded in nature and human values.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.

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Discussion Comments

By anon162691 — On Mar 24, 2011

I believe that, within any confines of temperament, one can still alter his actions in a responsible manner through the use of conscious control.

Even if the person had a troubled past and had negative responses in certain situations, they could, adopting the humanistic perspective, heal themselves by working to see the basic goodness in themselves and others.

This would take observation, but would serve as a guide to understanding the inherent weaknesses of their personalities and in turn, channeling some of the misguided energy into a creative pursuit.

By SauteePan — On Nov 30, 2010

I like that the behaviorist perspective focuses on our actions which always give us a chance to improve and make better choices.

In fact with children, parents are taught that discipline should be based on the actions of the child and not a personal attack on his or her character.

When I tell my daughter that she was a good girl that did a bad thing, I am letting her know that I am disappointed with her actions but I still love her as a person.

It also lets her know that she could correct the behavior by making better choices the next time. It is actually refreshing to hear a psychological perspective that does not blame others but has the individual accept responsibility for their choices. When we live our lives this way, we tend to be healthier as a society.

By comfyshoes — On Nov 28, 2010

The humanistic perspective emphasizes the importance of accepting responsibility for ones decisions. The humanistic approach values the individual and feels that anyone could succeed regardless of income level or hardship circumstances.

The humanist perspective sees the potential in people not the limitations that that may have.

While everyone has hardship the behavioral perspective is by far the most inspirational and hopeful of all of the forms of psychological perspectives.

For example, the Freudian analysis would limit the individual to the childhood experiences and if these experiences were bad then the person was doomed under the psychoanalytic approach.

The best way to define humanistic perspective is to view it as being in opposition to Freud.

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