Click titles below to read about Humanist Studies Program (HSP) courses. After completing Course 101, students are welcome to take any of our other courses (we recommend the order listed). All courses must be completed for one to become a Certified Humanist Professional. Students will receive a syllabus upon registration and be expected to complete readings and assignments prior to class.
What characteristics distinguish humankind in contrast to other living things? Are these characteristics fixed or can they be changed by experience? What causes someone to think, feel, or act the way they do? Is humankind naturally good or evil? Are we inherently selfish?
This course begins with an examination of human nature by looking at those psychological and social qualities that make us human. We will review the many opposing concepts concerning human conduct that affect how one forms a philosophy of life. Leading thinkers will be explored to get a clearer picture of how humanists view human nature and the impact these positions have on philosophical perspectives. Rousseau, for example, argued that people are naturally good and it is society that turns a human into a “beast.” Thomas Paine asserted that humankind was originally in a state of equality and that inequalities are brought about by circumstance. Jean-Paul Sartre said, “existence precedes essence,” assuring that human nature is not fixed or inevitable.
In the second part of this course we will examine the development of humanist thought through the ages and how it changed over time from Classic Greece, to the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the 19th and 20th centuries. We will look at how Greek culture viewed humankind as the measure of all things; how Renaissance thinkers emphasized wisdom and eloquence in the service of public good; how thinkers in the Enlightenment period added character formation, reason, critical thinking, and the scientific method; and how the modern era’s Romantics, Existentialists, Radicals and beyond shaped current humanist philosophy. This, in turn, will lead to looking at the humanist spectrum from religious to secular and the various organizations that represent the broad range of humanism.
This course begins by looking at theories of development, especially moral development. It addresses the imperative need for humanists to understand what humans are capable of, in order to fully know what kind of environment and education is needed to aid individuals in becoming responsible people. Moral education, family life issues, and concerns of society are explored. This course looks at the major ethical theories found in the history of Western culture and how ethics is a primary aspect of humanism. We will examine the Enlightenment paradigm as a common morality, and think about whether this paradigm is still applicable. We will also explore how ethics comes to terms with multiculturalism’s claim that there is no common ethic beyond a local consensus or one’s own community.
This course will look at critical thinking, knowledge, and truth as reflective reasoning about beliefs and practices. We will discuss the process of conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information gathered by observation, experience, reflection, reasoning and communication as a guide to belief and action. By examining opposing views that stimulate critical thinking and creative ideas, we will look to uncover what reason and logic are and how reason and logic are used and abused. This course will also aim to explore the difference between probability, likelihood, and reasonableness, and what constitutes truths, truth, facts and reality.
This course is aimed at trying to understand the various attacks on, problems for, and factors influencing the pursuit of science, which is a foundation block of humanism. Scientific work is done in a cultural setting, which is influenced by the politics and economic factors of the day. In the past we have had to worry about the “creationists.” While the creationists are still present and doing damage, there are new challenges in the postmodern world. Truth claims come from various ethnic groups with alternative stories. All are looking for validation. Challenges come from feminism, multiculturalism, and religious conservatives. This course explores these issues to better understand what science is, what it does, and what it tells us.
We will introduce participants to areas that are important in order for humanists to be effective leaders. Areas to be covered are: presenting without notes, writing clearly and succinctly, effective use of media, the key elements of fundraising, the ethics of counseling and referrals, chairing meetings, growth of groups and organizations, and steps to making a strategic plan for the future. We will look at administration as the realization of human intention and moral enterprise. Authenticity, professional ethics, and personal integrity will be discussed. Marketing humanism as good news will be part of presenting our humanist selves.