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Research at the University of Humanistic Studies

The University of Humanistic Studies is founded on humanism as a worldview. Humanism can be described as an open worldview characterized by dialogue, and as a critical and stimulating movement that acknowledges the autonomous and responsible role of humans in shaping their lives.

The values that humanism stands for include freedom and self-determination, fairness, justice and solidarity, sustainability, tolerance, appreciation for diversity, and respect for human dignity. The university’s teaching and research provide theoretical and practical substance to the humanist pursuit set out above.

Humanism and humanistic studies

However, humanistic studies is not the same as humanism. Humanistic studies is the academic study of humans, organizations and society, oriented to meanings of life and humanisation and from a humanist worldview perspective. Humanistic studies contributes to reflecting on and developing humanism as a worldview. This worldview resides alongside, and sometimes in contention with, other worldviews, while simultaneously manifesting itself as an undogmatic variant of other, possibly religious, worldviews. The university studies humanism in this broad, ‘inclusive’ sense.

Peter Derkx (2010) has distilled two principles that are core attributes of all variants of humanism. The first is that every worldview position is a context-bound human product. This principle is concerned with acknowledging human fallibility, a sense of doubt and a critical attitude, with the openness of the humanist worldview and tolerance and appreciation for diversity. The second principle is that all people should view and treat each other as equals, and that everyone is entitled to human dignity. At the most fundamental level, the principle of equality is the basis of individual freedom, self-determination and individual responsibility. Derkx draws on Todorov for possible additional minimum attributes of humanism: the ‘autonomy of the I’ and the ‘finality of the you’. Both are concerned with respect for unique and irreplaceable people as an essential element of humanism.

Humanistic studies is structured around two principal themes: humanisation and meanings of life.