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The concept of humanism has changed over the centuries. Aristotelian philosophy dominated Christian European view of humanism up through the Renaissance, referring to a particular way of cultivating the mind. The enlightenment brought about a different view, expressing the belief that truth should be founded not on revelation, tradition, or authority, but on observation and reason. Later forms of humanism came to be associated with both science and with a rejection of divine authority.

Common to all forms of humanism --
All stripes of humanism have in common is a desire to place human beings at the center of philosophical debate, to glorify human abilities, and to view human reason as a tool through which to understand nature. Despite the enormous differences between these worldviews, all held that human beings, while an inherent part of nature and subject to its laws, nevertheless had an exceptional status in nature because of their unique ability to reason. All held to the idea of humans as conscious agents, who realize themselves only through projects to transform themselves and the world they inhabit. At the heart of humanism, therefore, is a belief in emancipation - the faith that humankind could achieve freedom, both from the constraints of nature and the tyranny of Man, through the agency of its own efforts. (Malik, 2000, pp 2, 6)

Contemporary theories of humanness tend to regard a human being less as a subject capable of acting upon the world, than as an object through whom nature acts. ...once you view humans as objects, then the normal restraints of humanity become loosened. (Malik, 2000, pp 25).