While humanist ideas have been around for a long time, Furedi observes, they have never been more weakly affirmed than at present. In ancient as well as Renaissance times, thinkers struggled with questions around what forces determine our destiny and began to formulate ideas that human beings themselves, rather than God or nature, had a responsibility for making the world. Humanism, we learn, begins to flourish in Renaissance Italy and finds more mature expression in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Modern determinisms, such as nineteenth-century economic determinism or today’s eco-determinism, biological determinism or psychological determinism, are all really evasions or excuses that diminish our own sense of taking responsibility for what happens. A Humanist outlook should equip us with an orientation towards reason, problem-solving and a healthy scepticism towards determinisms (or the fates) in the present day. Professor Furedi doesn’t overcomplicate the issue or use mystifying jargon in this refreshing and enlightening lecture.