Humanly Possible Humanly Possible

Humanly Possible

Seven Hundred Years of Humanist Freethinking, Inquiry, and Hope

    • 4.3 • 11 Ratings
    • $14.99
    • $14.99

Publisher Description

The New York Times bestseller • One of Barack Obama's Favorite Books of 2023 • A New York Times Notable Book

“A book of big and bold ideas, Humanly Possible is humane in approach and, more important, readable and worth reading. . . Bakewell is wide-ranging, witty and compassionate.” –Wall Street Journal

“Sweeping . . . linking philosophical reflections with vibrant anecdotes.” —
The New York Times

The bestselling author of How to Live and At the Existentialist Café explores seven hundred years of writers, thinkers, scientists, and artists, all seeking to understand what it means to be truly human

Humanism is an expansive tradition of thought that places shared humanity, cultural vibrancy, and moral responsibility at the center of our lives. For centuries, this worldview has inspired people to make their choices by principles of freethinking, intellectual inquiry, fellow feeling, and optimism. In this sweeping new history, Sarah Bakewell, herself a lifelong humanist, illuminates the very personal, individual, and, well, human matter of humanism and takes readers on a grand intellectual adventure.

Voyaging from the literary enthusiasts of the fourteenth century to the secular campaigners of our own time, from Voltaire to Zora Neale Hurston, Bakewell brings together extraordinary humanists across history. She explores their immense variety: some sought to promote scientific and rationalist ideas, others put more emphasis on moral living, and still others were concerned with the cultural and literary studies known as “the humanities.” Humanly Possible asks not only what unites all these meanings of humanism but why it has such enduring power, despite opposition from fanatics, mystics, and tyrants. A singular examination of this vital tradition as well as a dazzling contribution to its literature, Humanly Possible serves as a recentering, a call to care for one another, and a reminder that we are all, together, only human.

March 28
Penguin Publishing Group

Customer Reviews

Richard Bakare ,

A History of Human Potential

Sarah Bakewell is one of the best philosophers and synthesizers of philosophical thought. She doesn’t just meander from one Humanist philosopher to the next but creates a steel thread through history that underscores the almost inevitable and organic wellspring that is Humanist thought. By the end of the first chapter you will be hooked.

I want nothing more than to lean unapologetically into my Humanist views after reading this foundational work on the topic. I wish that my professors in college had offered up even more classes on Humanism. What Bakewell shows us is not that Humanist thought is some optimistic frivolity but balm against the human experience. A philosophy that Bakewell demonstrates is about the unbreakable bond between us all and the boundless potential of individual capacity.

It makes you wonder if some of the growing extremism and cultish tendencies are not just cries for something more human centric. Something that capitalism, the hedonic treadmill, technology, and religion cannot fulfill. Our universities offer a humanities education but do not mandate it. Maybe that should change.

Furthermore, Bakewell reminds us through historical precedent that Humanism is a struggle with no end. So long as fascism and other evils exist. Humanism can also not be passive if it is to help bend the moral arc of the universe towards justice. She demonstrates not just by upholding Humanism’s ideals but exemplifying the countless times the thought leaders and philosophy failed the larger mission.

And how fitting a time to review Humanism; in the end, Bakewell highlights that we are on the precipice of AI becoming integral to existence. A moment that could challenge the meaning of what it means to be human. I highly recommend this book as a great primer for anyone interested in Humanism. From here you can identify additional reading based on the great Humanist thinkers covered by Bakewell. Or, you can be so enthralled by this book alone that you end up buying multiple copies to give out.

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More Books by Sarah Bakewell

At the Existentialist Café At the Existentialist Café
How to Live How to Live
The Smart The Smart
Cómo vivir. Una vida con Montaigne Cómo vivir. Una vida con Montaigne
No café existencialista No café existencialista
Humanamente possível Humanamente possível

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