A new philosophy of man & humanism


1. Old and new philosophy

In the 21st century we need a new philosophy as opposed to the old philosophy: a philosophy of man or philosophical anthropology. The importance of a new philosophy of man is that it addresses people all over the world, thus helping us to overcome our differences. And if we look a bit further into the world of the 21st century, we see that the most pressing project will be the search for meaning in the lives of human beings in a globalised world.   

The theoretical basis for the new philosophy was laid by American philosopher and member of the American Philosophical Association James Joseph Dagenais (1923-1981) (3), who came to the conclusion that philosophical anthropology is not a science, but a domain unto itself and cannot be replaced by any other anthropology. The final explanation of man lies outside all possible scientific views that have ever been formulated, because they lie within the origins of every branch of science, including the science of philosophy. It is the final ground on which the philosophies, of any nature whatsoever, can be practised implicitly or explicitly.

Dutch humanist Jaap van Praag (1911-1981) (8) and Dutch philosopher Reinout Bakker (1920-1987) (7) elaborated on the findings of Dagenais, Van Praag for humanism and Bakker for the philosophy of man or philosophical anthropology. Taking this one step further, the new philosophy of man can serve as the basis for a humanist ideology.

In his inaugural speech of 25 January 1965 Bakker spoke of the necessary collaboration between philosophy and science. Philosophy without contact with the empirical sciences is empty, but also: the empirical sciences are blind without the contribution of philosophy. If one of these two poles is made absolute, the danger of gross onesidedness, or even distortion, is imminent. The fact that the ultimate questions about man are so rarely asked stems from giving the scientific foundation of philosophy an absolute status. Many phenomenologists and existentialists have warned against such scientism.

The methods of a post-modern philosophical anthropology will have to be based on reflection, on the claim that it is possible to debate differences and contrasts on reasonable grounds, and on the individual responsibility for the decisions we all make for ourselves in respect of changes in body and mind. A post-modern version of Sartre’s creed: man is and always will be what he makes of himself.

2. New Philosophy of man (Dagenais (3)), Swaab (4)), Lamme (5))

fotos mobiel 571The biggest hurdle in 2500 years of philosophy has always been man himself – more specifically, the contents of his cranium, which a great many words have been used to describe (reason (Descartes (1)), empiricism (Kant (2)), mind, knowledge, consciousness (Blackmore (6)), and many more). Existentialism and the Phenomenology of Perception (Merleau-Ponty) managed for the first time in the history of mankind to focus philosophy a bit more closely on ourselves. It took us until the end of the 20th century to come to the understanding that “we are our brain” (Dick Swaab (4)) and that “we need to shift our focus from the mind to our brain”(Victor Lamme (5)).

What we then see is 100 billion brain cells, all “chattering with each other” (Victor Lamme (5)), leading us to an initial insight into our history and evolution and our essential characteristics. We discover that our focus is now on processes in the brain, which I have chosen to call ‘experience’ or ‘the process of experience’. The neurological discoveries of the 20th century have not yet resulted in changes to our terminology; we still make use of outdated terms in talking about the new situation.

I have given philosophical anthropology a new concrete substance on the basis of the definition of American philosopher Jim Dagenais (3): “a consistent overall vision of man and his world”, so that it can serve as the basis for philosophy and thus as the foundation for human life.

The meaning of basic concepts such as mind, reason, experience, consciousness (Blackmore (6)) and will is completely re-examined. Following developments in the 20th century, traditional definitions no longer serve our purpose; we must rigorously adapt our language to these developments so that it once again meets the basic requirements for communication. Then it allows us to describe a contemporary philosophy of human beings and to find answers to today’s questions and issues.

Following the complete existential deconstruction that took place in the 20th century, our confusion on the foundations of our life abounds. The next step, consolidation in the 21st century, has been achieved in my philosophical anthropology.*

*UNESCO publication of my Explanation New Philosophy of Man in Philosophical Views, ISSUE 4, 2017, pp. 35-36

A new philosophy of man & humanism [Kindle Edition] – http://ow.ly/NtNnw




  1. René Descartes, Over de methode, Boom Klassiek, 2006, ISBN 90 5352 791 5
  1. Immanuel Kant, Kritiek van de Zuivere Rede, Boom, 2004, ISBN 90 5352 702 8 Immanuel Kant, Prolegomena, Uitgeverij Boom, Amsterdam, 1999, ISBN 90 5352 318 9
  1. James J. Dagenais, Models of Man, A Phenomenological Critique of Some Paradigms in the Human Sciences, Martinus Nijhoff/The Hague, 1972, ISBN 90 247 1290 4 Memorial Minutes James Joseph Dagenais (1923-1981), Published by American Philosophical Association, Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3131239
  1. Dick F. Swaab, We Are Our Brains: From the Womb to Alzheimer’s, 2014, Allen Lane, 0844 871 15 15, ISBN 978-0812992960
  1. Victor A.F. Lamme, Trends in Cognitive Sciences 10, 494-501, 2006, Towards a True Neural Stance on Consciousness
  1. Susan J. Blackmore, Consciousness, A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2005, ISBN 13: 978-0-19-280585-0 and 0-19-280585-1 Susan J. Blackmore, Ten Zen Questions, 2009, ISBN 978-1-85168-642-1 and Zen and the Art of Consciousness, 2011, ISBN 978-1-85168-798-5, published by One World Publications, Oxford
  1. Reinout Bakker, Wijsgerige Antropologie van de Twintigste Eeuw, Van Gorcum, Assen, 1981, Terreinverkenningen in de Filosofie, ISBN 90 232 1800 0 Reinout Bakker, Studia in Honorem Reinout Bakker, presented by the Centrale Interfaculteit Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, ed. B. Delfgaauw, H. Hubbeling, W. Smith, 1984, Marcel R. Fresco, Levensberichten, Reinout Bakker, Minnertsga, The Netherlands, 2 November 1920 – Spain 25 March 1987
  1. Jaap P. van Praag, The Foundations of Humanism, Prometheus Books, 1994, ISBN 10: 087975163 and ISBN 13: 9780879751678  Jaap P. van Praag, Wat is humanistiek? Rede, uitgesproken bij de aanvaarding van het ambt van bijzonder hoogleraar vanwege de humanistische Stichting Socrates in de humanistiek en de antropologie van het humanisme bij de Rijksuniversiteit Leiden, 21 mei 1965 [inaugural speech, 21 May 1965 (human.nl) ,  Jaap P. van Praag, Levensovertuiging, filosofie en wetenschap, Farewell lecture at Leiden University, 13 November 1979 (www.human.nl)  

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