In "The Humanist Moment," Chris Higgins sets out to recover a tenable, living humanism, rejecting both the version vilified by the anti-humanists and the one sentimentalized by the reactionary nostalgists. Rescuing humanism from such polemics is only the first step, as we find at least nine rival, contemporary definitions of humanism. Which movement or theory is the real humanism? Higgins contends that we can reconstruct a critical, dialectical humanism from the very tensions in these conceptions. On this view, humanism is neither a theory nor a movement, but a moment, a specific intervention evincing characteristic sensibilities, enabling us to navigate through one of a number of recurring dead spots in the life of culture. Higgins outlines four ongoing human dialectics whose vibrant center the humanist helps us regain: genuine hope/acceptance in the face of both fantasy and cynicism; combined awareness of our connectedness and distinctiveness rejecting both dogmatic universalizing and particularizing discourses; and humane learning as distant from scholasticism as it is from anti-intellectualism. An entire section is devoted to the fourth dialectic, showing how humanism has appeared as a corrective both to historicism and to presentism, helping us reconnect with the untimely, living voice of tradition.
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