Entangled Humanism – an introduction

In addressing urgent social problems such as discrimination, violent conflicts and climate change, the influential political philosopher William Connolly (Johns Hopkins University) pleas for ‘deep pluralism’. Deep pluralism is based on new relationships people develop when they try to realize shared goals. In Connolly’s view, pluralism is by no means the same as relativism: it is important to stand up for what you believe in, but this can coexist with ‘agonistic respect’ for the other. Even when our convictions and beliefs clash, we need not be enemies.

His view on pluralism doesn’t restrict itself to relations between people. In his book Facing the planetary: Entangled humanism and the politics of swarming (2017) William Connolly argues that we need new ways of thinking about how humans relate to other forms of being. Connolly advocates an ‘entangled humanism’ that takes the inextricable interdependency of all forms of being into account, and an interdisciplinarity that disrupts the dividing lines between humanities and sciences.

His view on ‘entangled humanism’ is a welcome contribution to current debates. The major challenges of our globalizing world raise pertinent and critical questions for humanism which has primarily been conceived as a worldview which focuses on human autonomy and human engineering. The popularity of Yuval Noah Harari’s books contributes to a sense that humanism may be outdated. Post-humanist approaches criticize humanism for its subject-object dichotomist positions and its anthropocentrism. On the other hand, humanist approaches to counseling, education, management and community building seem highly relevant as counterforces to contemporary economy-driven politics. With his plea for entangled humanism Connolly proposes to participate as humans in creative processes that go beyond us, but in which we still can make a difference by creating new connections. Pluralism and entangled humanism go hand in hand as urgent responses to social polarization and environmental pollution, and show how issues of social justice and eco-politics are intertwined.

During this two-day conference we enter into dialogue with William Connolly in two ways:
1) theoretical explorations of his thoughts from ethical, political philosophical and humanistic perspectives;
2) practical explorations of how ‘entangled humanism’ can be realized in humanistic practices.

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