Does Humanism Imply Anarchy?
By Matthew Green at Jan 10, 2008
I have come to the realization that Secular Humanism actually implies anarchy. Anarchy is another name for "libertarian-socialism" and one particularly fascinating model of "libertarian-socialism" is "Participatory Economics". Before I explain why, it is helpful for me to make a few preliminary comments. First of all, I say "anarchy" as opposed to "anarchism" because I am extremely hesistant to attach an "ism" to anarchy. Some people attach the "ism" to "anarchy" for purposes of convenience. Fine and good for people who are used to thinking in such categories but I am trying my best to aim for accuracy. As an anarchist, I believe in anarchy. The values of an anarchist are equity, solidarity, diversity, and responsibility. I also believe that these are the values of Secular Humanism. Secular Humanism is a progressive philosophy that holds that mankind is an end in itself. All human beings are ends unto themselves and are at their best when they think for themselves, take responsibility for their own actions, words, and thoughts. We cannot rely on anything "divine", "spiritual", "supernatural", or "idealistic". Once we take the responsibility for the human species out of this imaginary and nonexistent realm, and put it, instead, in our own hands- we can make progress. Once we realize that human beings, and not divine beings, are responsible for human behavior and institutions, we tend to be more responsible for our actions. It is up to us to help ourselves and to help others to help themselves and not be dependent on beings greater than ourselves and wait for them to make us better people.
This is the core essence of Humanism as I understand it- we are ends unto ourselves. Every human being is an end unto him/herself. No one human being should ever be a means unto another person's ends and goals. When we stop treating other human beings as ends unto themselves and treat them as a means unto our own ends and goals, we exploit them-period. We stop treating them as human beings and treat them as tools or machines to accomplish our own goals. Our social relationships and our economic institiutions should reflect this. Humanism- the belief that every human being is an end unto her/himself provides the proper and logical basis for anarchy. Any Humanism worthy of the name must be secular and naturalistic, in addition to being socialistic for reasons I will elaborate here.
Humanism must be secular and naturalistic. Idealistic metaphysics, particular creed systems which posit a higher being of some sort, usually subscribe to a belief in the special creation or the egineered evolution of man for a purpose. Humans do not exist for their own sake but for some idealistic/teleological purpose. Humans are not ends unto themselves but are mere means for a higher purpose, particularly in revealed religions. In such revealed religions, man is usually a means to glorify a divine being, a creator of sorts. Mankind does not live for itself but for the glory and pleasure of a divine being. We are mere means to that Being's ends. We have no rights apart from what that Being deems fit. That Being can cancel our rights, can intrude on them at whim, can violate them at will, and can suspend them or even terminate them without protest. Whether through special creation or some kind of teleological evolution-we do not exist for our own sake and we lack what Sarte or deBeauvoir called "existential freedom". When we are metaphysically free to live for our own sake and do not exist for idealistic ends or the glory or pleasure of any divine beings, are we free to live for our own sake, as ends unto ourselves. If we live for a higher teleological purpose, our existence being part of an ideal plan or divine purpose, we do not live for our own sake and we do not take responsibility for our own lives. Those beings who made us are thereby responsible for us and we are not responsible for ourselves. Those who made us for a purpose have the responsibility of seeing that we exist for that purpose and not for any purpose we might assign for ourselves. We have no freedom to live for our own sake unless it is granted to us and we have no right to be ends in ourselves unless such a right is bestowed on us by sheer grace.
Thus, anarchy presupposes that we have "existential freedom" and that such a freedom is the natural state of the human condition. Only then do we have a right to live for ourselves, as ends unto ourselves. It is not only incumbent on the idealists to provide evidence that any such divine beings exist but it is also incumbent on them to validate the the concept that we exist as means to idealistic ends and not for ourselves. Those who claim have the responsibility to prove and we who live in freedom have the responsibility and the obligation, morally, to challenge those who would impose on us. If I live in freedom, it is incumbent on s/he who would enslave me to show me that I must submit to that person's rule. Thus, any Humanism must be secular and naturalistic. Humanism is a progressive philosophy that must be both secular and libertarian- secular in the sense that it is incumbent not only on the idealists to prove divine beings exist and to prove a divine purpose for our existence but that we are libertarians in the sense that we are existentially free to live for our own sake and as ends unto ourselves.
I now find myself in a position to explain why it is that Humanism, being both secular and libertarian, implies anarchy. Anarchists challenge authority. It is incumbent on authority figures to prove their legitimacy. There are legitimate authorities in this world, authority by virtue of knowledge, experience, and expertise. There are illegitimate authorities as well- people who would abuse and exploit us to their own ends and treat as as mere means to those ends. The difference between the legitimate and the illegitimate is hierarchy. Relationships which are hierarchical are those which are abusive and exploitative. In hierarchies, those at the top are ends onto themselves and those are the bottom are mere means to the ends at the top. Thus there are social, political, and economic hierarchies. If every human being is to be an end unto him/herself, then we are and must be social, political, and economic equals. We must cooperate together, equitably. The authority who dominates us socially, rules over us politically, or exploits us economically is one who treats us as a mere means to that person's ends and goals.
In market capitalism, the productive utilities are privately owned by an elitist group of individuals to the exclusion of the rest of society. Those who privately own productive utilites are the owners, the bosses, the masters, and it is these people who employ these utilities to their own ends. Everyone who does not arbitrate these productive utilities works for those who do. We who do not have the right to arbitrate the utilities must subordinate ourselves to those who do. Thus the economic "right of arbitration" necessarily results in a hierarchy, with the arbitrators at the top and the workers at the bottom. The workers do not have any say, vote, or contribution to the process of arbitration. They work as means to the ends of arbitrators. There is no equality here. There is economic inequality resulting from an economic hierarchy. This violates Humanism to its core and is ultimately irreconciable with it. Humanism holds that human beings are ends onto themselves and on this note it is actually incumbent on those who assert that economic hierarchies should exist to validate the need for some humans to be means to other human ends just as it is incumbent on idealists to validate the existence of divine beings and that humans exist for their sake and not their own.
Humanism values solidarity-treating others as you would like to be treated, treating others as ends unto themselves, as human beings with all the rights and responsibilities that they deserve. Humanism, therefore, being libertarian implies anarchy. It is incumbent on those who assert the need for economic hierarchies to justify the economic "right of arbitration". This economic "right of arbitration" is the key root of capitalism and the inherent hierarchy of capitalism and it is this economic "right" which forms the basis for private capital to exist. When the production utilities are socially owned by the workers and these workers are self-managed, only then do they work together as social, political, and economic equals. Humanism, therefore, must be not only libertarian but also socialist as well. Humanism, therefore, implies libertarian-socialism, and because libertarian-socialism is what anarchy is, I conclude that Humanism implies anarchy.