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Home » , » What is Anthropocentrism— Definition, Uses & Examples

Anthropocentrism is a philosophical thought that places man as a central individual for understanding the world. The term has Greek origin and in its etymology we have anthropos, which means "human", and kentron, "center", therefore man in the center. As a philosophical doctrine, anthropocentric thinking informs us that the human being is the central figure and, therefore, he is responsible for his actions, be they cultural, historical, social and philosophical. By breaking with the paradigms present at the time, it brings out a critical man, endowed with rationality that allows him to question the reality around him.

To understand the concept of anthropocentrism, it is important to return to the conception of the world that prevailed in the society of the Middle Ages: theocentrism. For this doctrine, the Christian god would be at the center of the universe. In this way, any thought or action that was not based on the precepts described by the Bible could be considered incorrect and, consequently, sinful. In theocentrism, the divine is the foundation of the world and there is no rational thought or belief other than Christian that is above this maxim.

Characteristics of anthropocentrism

The centrality of the human being brought about by anthropocentrism is reflected in several areas of knowledge, being important for literature, painting, sculpture and music, in addition to philosophy itself. Currently, this thought is quite diffuse, but in its origin some characteristics can be observed that make it possible to differentiate it from the doctrine to which it opposes.

Let's look at some features:

The main characteristic of anthropocentrism is the change of perspective with regard to who is the central figure for explaining the world and who should base human actions. Instead of the Judeo-Christian god, it is now the human being who occupies this place of reference;

1. Another feature of anthropocentric thought concerns the exaltation of rationality as an inherent attribute of humanity;

2. This philosophical thought will also be marked by scientism, according to which man can exercise control over nature, making it possible to study and understand it; 

3. Once the Judeo-Christian god ceases to be the center of the universe, the actions taken by human beings must take into account only the consequences that they may cause to human beings themselves. Therefore, it is said that, in anthropocentrism, man is the end of things; 

4. Finally, anthropocentric philosophy will be marked by a certain essentialism. This concerns the fact that, according to this doctrine, the human being has an essence that is immutable, natural and central. This property could not be observed in any other species.

Anthropocentrism and Humanism

One of the main reflections of anthropocentrism is Renaissance humanism. This literary and intellectual movement was strongly inspired by human centrality and rationality. He managed to weaken the power that the Catholic Church had during the Middle Ages and spurred great social transformations. The humanist philosophers who were supporters of anthropocentrism dedicated their attention to three themes in particular: man, society and nature.

These thinkers will spearhead an important change in the way of thinking, which produces visible impacts today, especially with regard to the development of scientific research. However, the revolutions they drive can also be observed in the arts and literature, for example. This happens because of the defense of rationality and the possibility of questioning the search for truth, which would no longer be given by biblical texts and interpretations.

Let's look at some of the main humanist philosophers inspired by anthropocentrism and the contributions they made to the construction of knowledge:

Niccolò Machiavelli – author of “The Prince”, is considered the founder of political science and modern thought. His most famous book is described as a handbook on how to govern;

Nicolaus Copernicus - was the astronomer and mathematician who developed the heliocentric theory, according to which the planet Earth and the other planets move around the Sun. Copernicus is considered the father of modern astronomy.

Galileo Galilei - is one of the most important names in Astronomy. Galilei argued that the Earth was not the center of the universe, reaffirming Copernicus' theory and opposing the Church's thinking. As a result, he was sentenced to death by the Inquisition if he did not publicly deny the scientific thought he had produced.

RenĂ© Descartes - is the creator of the system of philosophical thought that gave rise to Modern Philosophy: the Cartesian thought. “Discourse on Method” is the title of his most famous work. 


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