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heretic belief: chosen in direct opposition to a widely accepted belief.

The word heresy comes from the Greek verb haireisthai, "to choose". In the first place, heretical belief is chosen on one's one criteria not passively received from others. In the second place, it is chosen knowing that it opposes a widespread or commonly held belief.

For a complete list of permutations of belief see Modes of Believing.



homo sapiens The biological classification established by Karl Linnaeus around 1750 comprises eight levels: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Superfamily, Family, Genus and Species. Defined in this full array, the human creature belongs to the Kingdom of Animals, the Phylum of Chordata, the Class of Mammalia, the Order of Primates, the Superfamily of Hominoidea, the Family of Hominidae, the Genus Homo and the Species Sapiens.

All races on the earth belong alike to the “human race,” and so it would be incorrect, both biologically and politically, to speak of variations of species among homo sapiens. Nevertheless, millions of human beings believe that their identity depends upon a racial coding, and perhaps as well upon a cultural coding, rather than upon the strict biological definition of the human animal. The insistence on putting race, religion and culture before biological commonality may be one of the most pernicious causes of division and conflict among human beings.

Humanism was defined (unfortunately) before the biological identity of the human species was clearly established, yet humanism would seem to be the sole philosophy that asserts the value of species-based identity over other codes and distinctions. Certainly what Linneaus had in mind by calling our species sapiens was the distinct mark of intelligence we exhibit, but this leaves open the question of how well we use our intelligence, as well as the question of its seeming uniqueness (that is, its difference from the kinds of intelligence that can be observed all through nature and in non-human species).

Some variants of Linneaus’ classification are: homo faber, “tool-maker,” homo ludens, “playful primate,” homo docens, “learned animal.” In the neologism abo sapiens, the slot for Genus is occupied by abo rather than homo, while Species, the eighth and final slot, remains unchanged. The previous three variants modify the Species slot. They represent versions or even visions of an altered species, the Primate in mutation, as it were. The Primate homo remains the same, but the emphasis on its distinguishing marks changes: it is distinguished by playfulness (ludens), education (docens) or tool-making capacities (faber).

humanism The worldview that emerged in the Renaissance, after 1400 CE, proposing that all values and principles for guiding human action ought to be derived from human beings, rather than superhuman beings. By another definition, the belief that the human species has an unlimited potential to improve and advance.

Humanism a core issue in metahistory. It is highly problematic because humanist philosophy introduced the idea of “human potential” without delineating its core-dynamic. The signal moment for humanism was the publication of Pico della Mirandola’s Oration on the Dignity of Man in December 1486 in Rome, but the movement got off to a shaky start because it promised great things without the means to deliver on its promises. It could be argued that the movement of humanistic psychology that emerged in the USA in the 1960s provided the component missing in Pico’s influential manifesto. This movement, focused in the work of Abraham Maslow, presents a scale of potential that extends from basic needs like nurture and shelter to “self-actualization,” Maslow’s term for high-end fulfillment of creative and spiritual drive in the human species. Five hundred years may not be a long time in the millennial course of human evolution, but the time-lag was serious enough to result in the virtual sabotage of humanism. Why? Because the principles by which the prospect of fulfilling human potential could have been realized were not discovered until long after the prospect had been exploited for other ends. The historical tragedy of humanism is, it never got off the ground.

Pico declared that humanity is free to choose its own values, independent of values that some believe might have been dictated to it by God. Using the high-blown rhetorical device of speaking in the place of divine artisan who produced the human creature, he declared: “We have made thee neither of heaven nor of earth, neither mortal nor immortal, so that with freedom of choice and with honor, as though he maker and moulder of thyself, thou mayest fashion thyself in whatever shape thou shalt prefer.” (Cassirer, R 225) His entire message can be summed up in one pithy line: “Humanity has no semblance that is inborn.” (226) By this Pico meant that there is nothing innate to humanity to define it as human. In short, this is his high-toned way of admitting that he has no conception of human potential.

When Maslow defined human potential according to a “hierarchy of needs,” he assumed a scale of inborn capacities for meeting those needs. Humanism at its inception lacked such a scale. Its program, such as it was, was terribly flawed and uninformed by anything we today consider as valid psychological and biological criteria.

To posit human uniqueness without presenting a coherent model of human potential was the first error of humanism. On the second error, see learning.

humanist belief: based on assumptions that assume human intelligence as the best author of convictions, without need of attributing beliefs and rules for living to a superhuman agency.

For a complete list of permutations of belief see Modes of Believing.