"A publisher is supposed to furnish a forum for the free play of the intellect, in so far as he possibly can. That is the whole American theory -- that opinions can be given a means of full expression, and that the public, hearing all of them and considering them all, will eventually approximate a right conclusion. Every profession has its own particular code of ethics, its own morality that its members must adhere to, or they betray it. And a primary element in the morality of a publisher is that he shall not let his own personal views obstruct the way for the full expression of counter-views." -- Maxwell Perkins, Editor, Scribner's Magazine, 1933
Our organization, like its name, is based on the Latin humanitas (civilization), an educational and political ideal that has been the intellectual basis of the humanistic movement since the early Renaissance. Humanism in all its many forms has defined itself by its straining toward this ideal, and no examination of humanism is complete without an understanding of humanitas.*
The history of the term humanitas is complex but enlightening. It was first employed (as humanismus) by 19th-century German scholars to designate the Renaissance emphasis on classical studies in education. These studies were pursued and endorsed by educators as early as the late 15th century.
Humanitas meant the development of human virtue, in all its forms, to its fullest extent. The term thus implies not only such qualities as are associated with the modern word humanity - such as understanding, benevolence, compassion and mercy - but also much more aggressive characteristics such as fortitude, persistence, judgment, prudence, eloquence, and even love of honor. Consequently the possessor of humanitas could not be merely a sedentary and isolated philosopher or man of letters, but was of necessity a participant in active life.
Just as action without insight was believed to be aimless and barbaric, insight without action was rejected as barren and imperfect. Humanitas calls for a fine balance of action and contemplation, a balance born not of compromise, but of complementarity.*
The goal of such fulfilled and balanced virtue is political in the broadest sense of the word. It includes not only realistic social criticism, but also utopian hypotheses, not only painstaking reassessments of history, but also bold reshapings of the future.