Humanly Possible: Seven Hundred Years of Humanist Freethinking, Inquiry, and Hope By Sarah Bakewell

“Humanly Possible: Seven Hundred Years of Humanist Freethinking, Inquiry, and Hope” by Sarah Bakewell is a compelling exploration of the history and ideas of humanism, a philosophy centered on human values, reason, and individual freedom. The book takes readers on a journey through seven centuries of humanist thought, from the Renaissance to the present day, and shows how humanism has shaped our understanding of the world and our place in it.

Bakewell argues that humanism emerged as a response to the intellectual and political upheavals of the Renaissance, when thinkers began to question the authority of the Church and the medieval worldview. Humanism emphasized the importance of human reason, experience, and inquiry, and celebrated the potential of individuals to achieve greatness and make a positive impact on the world. It also rejected the idea of a fixed, unchanging universe and embraced the possibility of progress and improvement through knowledge and innovation.

The book traces the evolution of humanism over the centuries, from the humanism of the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, Romanticism, and modern humanism. Bakewell shows how humanism has been a driving force behind many of the greatest achievements of human civilization, from scientific discoveries and artistic masterpieces to political revolutions and social movements.

One of the key themes of the book is the tension between humanism’s emphasis on reason and individualism and its commitment to social justice and collective action. Bakewell shows how humanist thinkers have grappled with this tension throughout history, from the debates over slavery and colonialism in the Enlightenment to the struggles for civil rights and feminism in the 20th century.

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