• RSS loading...

"Humanism: A Beginner's Guide" by Peter Cave

A philosophical account that needs more attention: Happiness without any hang-ups, in embracing the good within ourselves.

I was in deep love with the subject, and the idea, of Humanism. Not that I'm against any religious beliefs but the stance and what the truth may be, really made Humanism that much fun to learn about.

At the beginning, namely the first chapter, I felt the presentation of Humanism was rather slow but things picked up considerably as the chapters went by. If you've read Beginner's Guides on Existentialism and/or Philosophy of Science, some of the philosophers mentioned here should sound familiar; only difference is, of course, the philosophers' stance and connection with Humanism.

Author Peter Cave did an excellent job explaining why Humanism is what it is. He also mentioned the loopholes and the moral 'rules' set down by religion, mainly Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Most of what was being said centered around the idea of autonomy, as said by philosopher Kant. Another cool thing was some examples—thought experiments—given to demonstrate the thinking and the best possible decision one would make, from a humanist point of view.

The chapter "With Morality" explains utilitarianism and happiness, in which Cave mentions what we ought to do instead of the doing because we "want to." The chapter "With Politics" seemed rather beefy, explaining what Humanism's effect is on today's social issues, mainly abortion. "Dying and living" is the one chapter that really made me think, and reflected on life as a whole. Cave says that death is considered annihilation to humanists, but mentions well that the dead were once people, and we should never harm any requests, wishes or advice they gave us when they were living. It was a very deep read.

My favorite chapter, above all, was the last chapter "Humanism: The Quest For Meaning." It almost reminded me of the last chapter on the Beginner's Guides: Philosophy of Science. The best part of the chapter, though, I'd say "Losing The Self." This is great because Cave made mention at how enthralled we become when we're lost in the moment whether it's watching an exciting movie, moved by reading a good book and/or listening to great music (you know this feeling, I'm sure—I usually call it "being in the zone"). It is the point of extreme happiness, up until the end approaches and we're back to reality. "Life is absurd," Cave says, and it's hard to disagree with that.

My overall critique of the book was the writing itself. Since Cave did an excellent job making the subject such an enjoyable, and a possibly considerable, idea for a subject, I felt the grammatical structure was all over the place on most parts. Even though it may not be such a big deal, I say so because it made whatever facts mentioned and/or important notes forgettable—some, I had to repeatedly reread the important notes over and over again. Grammatically, it seemed Cave was a bit too excited about passionately writing about the subject, that he over-exaggerated what he was trying to say (I understand that feeling). Still, I felt the writing could've been better and much cleaner.

On a lesser note, the whole reason I picked this book up was the time I recalled a lyric I'm Materialist; Call me a Humanist, which is derived from the song "Materialist" by Bad Religion. That was what set me off to read about Humanism—from the "Humanist" part of the lyric.

Being proud of my humanity was what I learned. See, personally I'm under serious question about my faith and beliefs insomuch having to branch out to other beliefs, such as Humanism, just to see what they think and what their sense of our existence is. However, Humanism tied with Existentialism has brightened up my eyes, getting me to really embrace Life and our/my humanity. And yes, it is certainly possible to live a wonderful life without religion (of course, that's up for me to decide but it's good to know). Philosopher Satre made mention that "Existentialism is a Humanism." Reading Humanism did sound a bit familiar with its ideas closely/similarly tied with Existentialism (some of them), but nevertheless, I understand and feel better/glad being human.

Embracing Humanism doesn't mean I'm open to lash out against the lies I grew up with, under religion. There's still more I'm looking to read to get a better sense of where I look to stand. In that case, when I do plan to write a book someday and discussing briefly about it, I'll remember this quote:

"I don't mind Christians burning my books, as long as they buy it first."**

**NOTE: My mind blew up and I honestly forgot who said this famous quote (I may have found it in one of my books but I can't seem to find it, despite the stacks of books I currently have). If any of you remember who was famous for saying this, namely about Humanism and/or whatnot, email me immediately so that I may credit the guy who said this.





  • Great coverage of a philosophical belief that needs more attention.
  • Questions the beauty and happiness of life without religion.
  • Writing structure is a bit messy.
70% (C-)
Fan Rating
Title Humanism: A Beginner's Guide
Author(s) Peter Cave
Description Does goodness require God? Do we need eternity for meaningful lives? Should we believe in God without evidence? Peter's Cave's new book, Humanism, is a welcome guide, with very human answers, to these questions and many more.

With historical adherents as various Mark Twain, Einstein, Freud, Philip Pullman, and Frank Zappa, Humanism's central quest is to live with meaning with no need for the supernatural. Cave explores the humanist approach to religious belief, ethics, and politics, together with moral dilemmas and those 'meaning of life' questions that can keep us awake at night. Showing how humanists make sense of the world using reason, experience, and sensitivity, Cave emphasizes that we can, and should, flourish without God. Lively, provocative, and refreshingly rant-free, this book is essential reading for all - whether atheist, agnostic, believer or of no view - who wish to better understand what it means to be human.
Dedication "To the memory of H.H. and G.V. gentle man and gentle woman"
ISBN 978-1-85168-589-9
Book Dimensions Width: 5.06″ (5 1/16″)
Height: 7.75″ (7¾″)
Depth: 0.56″ (9/16″)
Page Count 200
Contents Prologue, Acknowledgements, seven (7) chapters, Epilogue, Appendix 1: Humanism: myths and whereabouts, Appendix 2: Further reading, Appendix 3: Notes, references and sources, Index
Typeset Jayvee, Trivandrum, India
Cover Design Simon McFadden
Author Photograph --
Published March 5, 2009
Publisher Oneworld Publications (www.oneworld-publications.com)
Copyright © Peter Cave 2009
Printed in / Bound in Great Britain by TJ International
Book Format Paperback, Kindle
Quoted Reviews "An admirable guide for all those non-religious (surely the true 'silent-majority'?) who may wake up the fact that they are humanists ... What we have in common is, indeed, not faith but our humanity." — Professor Sir Bernard Crick - Emeritus Professor of Birkbeck College, University of London, and author of Democracy: A Very Short Introduction

"Peter Cave brings to a serious subject his characteristic wit and humour, as well as wide knowledge and sharp insight. This is a very readable introduction to humanism - and a deeply human one." — Richard Norman - Emeritus Professor of Moral Philosophy, University of Kent
Best Seller's List --
Other Peter Cave teaches philosophy for The Open University and City University London. Author of the bestselling Can a Robot be Human? and What's Wrong with Eating People? (both published by Oneworld), he chairs the Humanist Philosophers of the British Humanist Association, frequently contributes to philosophy journals, and has presented several philosophy programmes for the BBC. He lives in London.


Add Comment

* Required information
Captcha Image


No comments yet. Be the first!