Though I have read a lot of material on the approach that Humanism promotes, I do have some disagreements with some its philosophical premises. Nevertheless, I do agree with their non-mystical and scientific approach to much of life. This little book attempts to go into detail on the various humanism ideals. It covers ethical issues, the fullness of life, creating your own meanings, eroticism, loving another person, facing death with courage, and many other topics. In general, I agree with much of this philosophical treatise, but I personally think many of the humanist views are pure unrealistic idealism that often ignores the cruel facts reality. In spite of these flaws, I do recommend this book.
Rating: 4 Stars. Joseph J. Truncale (Author: Season of the Warrior: a poetic tribute to warriors).
In some sense, this book is 123 pages long. But that is a shame for the forests of the world, because I estimate it has about 40 pages of content. There's a lot of white space in this book!
But to be fair, that's a criticism of the publisher's judgment, not the content. The content is reasonable.
Kurtz hopes that the affirmations (which are marked by bullet points) "can provide guidelines for courageous inquirers seeking paths toward a New Englightnment."
The book is first of all a basic explanation of humanism, mentioning political goals such as democracy and freedom of speech, and personal goals such as integrity and creativity.
Second, it's a brief account of the meaning of life. He writes, "What is vital... is that humanists are not overwhelmed by the tragic character of the human condition; they are willing to face death, sorrow, adversity, and suffering with courage and equanimity." Later, "The humanist accepts the fact that the human species has imperfections and limitations and that some things encountered in existence may be beyond redress or repair. Even so, he or she is convinced that the best posture is... to exert the intelligence and fortitude to deal with life's problems."
In fact, Kurtz's main message is to embrace life with passion; he evidently prefers the word "exuberance." I think the best bullet point in the book is on page 72, "The so-called secret of life is... found in the experiences of living: in the delights of a fine banquet, the strenuous exertion of hard work, the poignant melodies of a symphony, the appreciation of an altruistic deed, the excitement of an embrace of someone you love, the elegance of a mathematical proof, the invigorating adventure of a mountain climb," and so on. That's the meaning of life, says Kurtz.
He includes chapters on eroticism, marriage or civil union, parenthood, and political activism. An interesting chapter dealt with facing death with courage, and included this remark, "My life... is my project; it is my own work of art. Every part of my life fits together... [it] is of my own making."
It seems that Kurtz meant to make declarations, to announce to the world these affirmations of humanism, and not to review the thought behind them at all. He seems to have the enthusiasm of an activist, and with it an impatience for quiet reflection. ("Who has time for navel-gazing?! Let's get busy!")
I agree with 95% of what he actually writes, and I don't want to seem to criticize that at all. But personally, I was hoping for a more thoughtful exploration of the meaning of life. I think, despite its simplicity, it's suitable for self-exhortation or self-encouragement, and perhaps it would be helpful for a "seeking" young person, or as a point of departure for a discussion group.