The bestselling, prizewinning author of How to Live and At the Existentialist Cafe explores 700 years of writers, thinkers, scientists and artists, all trying to understand what it means to be truly human.
If you are reading this, it’s likely you already have some affinity with humanism, even if you don’t think of yourself in those terms. You may be drawn to literature and the humanities. You may prefer to base your moral choices on fellow-feeling and responsibility to others rather than on religious commandments. Or you may simply believe that individual lives are more important than grand political visions or dogmas.
If any of these apply, you are part of a long tradition of humanist thought, and you share that tradition with many extraordinary individuals through history who have put rational enquiry, cultural richness, freedom of thought and a sense of hope at the heart of their lives.
Humanly Possible introduces us to some of these people, as it asks what humanism is and why it has flourished for so long, despite opposition from fanatics, mystics and tyrants. It is a book brimming with ideas, personalities and experiments in living – from Erasmus to Esperanto, from anatomists to agnostics, from Christine de Pizan to Bertrand Russell to Zora Neale Hurston. It joyfully celebrates open-mindedness, optimism, freedom and the power of the here and now – humanist values which have helped steer us through dark times in the past, and which are just as urgently needed in our world today.
PRAISE FOR SARAH BAKEWELL’S BOOKS
‘Quirky, funny, clear and passionate . . . Few writers are as good as Bakewell at explaining complicated ideas’ Mail on Sunday
‘A wonderfully readable combination of biography, philosophy, history, cultural analysis and personal reflection’ Independent
‘Splendidly conceived and exquisitely written’ Sunday Times
‘A rare achievement’ Evening Standard