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Humanists Claims That the Meaning of a Thing Is Inherent in the Thing Itself, and That Language Simply Labels What Already Exists. Poststructuralists, on the Other Hand, Argue That Naming Is Constitutive. Critically

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Humanists claims that the meaning of a thing is inherent in the thing itself, and that language simply labels what already exists. Poststructuralists, on the other hand, argue that naming is constitutive. Critically analyze these competing perspectives and the arguments that are made in support of them.

Humanism is essentially a belief system that is dictated by the way in which humans themselves, react, produce, and perform things. It is “the basic value system of humans…providing the fact that humanism is a human-centered system of meaning making”(Fuery & Mansfield, 2000; 209). In reference to the proposed argument, a humanist would see an object as a production of the human, and the language associated with that object is merely for convenience sake, to reiterate what said object is. This argument is reaffirmed by the concept of the existential self. This provides us with the view that we are separate and distinguishable from other objects and other people, which in turn suggests that whilst we interact with other humans and objects we are able to distinguish what and whom we are interacting with based on our own personal human development.

“Humanisms are based on creating a system of meaning with man as its centre.”( R.Baltmann, 1982. P174) This is of course ‘man’ in the most general sense, as a collective. In order for people to gain meaning from such individualistic societies generalisations need to be made. It is impossible for a society to create an easily understandable meaning, which fully relates to its entire people. However through creating a general meaning by which most can relate it enables others to interoperate their own meanings. This is of course the most basic human function, the creation of schemas. Schema creation in its most general sense is a cognitive short cut by which meaning is obtained without the need for complex thoughts. Humanism is a generalisation used to describe something in its most basic terms in order for most to gain meaning.

What we derive from these explanations of humanism is that, as humans we can also be seen as objects. In turn this suggests that humanists consistently believe the naming of an object is simply another form of distinguishing and categorizing the object, which itself is based on its own being. In simpler terms, a bin is still a bin whether or not we call it by its name; it serves the same purpose, is designed the same way, and still has the same function. A humanist’s only matter of contention in this regard is what is referred to as dichotomous logic; humanism, and all objects viewed in this way, are informed by and inform others with a view of that object and other objects based on the influences of the world and hierarchic oppositions.

Poststructuralism can be best described as a firm response to the idea that humanism is failing. There is a diminishing belief in very humanistic elements such as; rationality, truth, progress objectivity and as previously mentioned dichotomous logic. Post structuralism drives home the idea that the meaning of things, does not lie inherently with the human, due to the logic that, if it did, all humans would agree on the meaning and identity of every object. This is clearly evident when proposing the idea that today’s youth would see an iPhone as a game console, a computer, a phone and more; whereas someone in the later years would be it as a phone at best.

Poststructuralists see a variety of issues with the idea of giving meaning and identity to and object that merely satisfies the needs of one group, only to mute the ideas of others. “Whilst water may be a way to quench thirst for some, it is a way to keep clean for others” (T.Holliday, 2002, page 44). This simplistic view of giving meaning to water, highlights the issues with a humanist view of giving meaning to objects.

Post structuralism is based around subjectivity, reinforcing the idea that the meaning of a thing does not simply, lie inherently with the human studying this object. Every human is different, a concept known amongst humanists, however the post structuralist view is that due to our differences as humans we view objects in our own personal, different ways. Whilst one person may call an object a bin and use it to dispose of garbage, another may see it as a basketball hoop and make a game using the object, all based on interpretations that we as humans place on the object.

How is it possible to possible to identify and give meaning to anything in this world, without using the art of language, without which, we would have almost no form of solid communication? In order for humans to unite and in turn follow a slight humanist view to an object, we must communicate the way we know best, through language, through identification and through giving a name and meaning to an object. Humanism, whilst idealic, cannot be seen as a logical way of determining how objects are given purpose and meaning. Post structuralism on the other hand, whilst not idealic in human unity, gives us a more logical definition of how we give meaning and purpose to every object we interact with through our lives. You see a bin, I see a basketball hoop. You see a lounge, I see a bed.

Reference List:

1- Cultural Studies and Critical Theory, Nick Mansfield and Patrick Fuery, 2000. Page 209. 2- Humanism and Christianity, Rudolph Baltmann. 1982. Vol 6, p. 174. Philadelphia: Westminster Press 3- Post structuralism in its raw form, Thomas Holliday. 2002, page 44.

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