Paul Kurtz, a philosopher whose advocacy of reason ahead of faith helped define contemporary secular humanism, died on Saturday at his home in Amherst, N. He was He had been treated for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, said his son, Jonathan, who is the president of Prometheus Books, the publishing house his father founded in , and who confirmed the death. Professor Kurtz taught philosophy at the University at Buffalo, part of the State University of New York, from until his retirement as professor emeritus in But his wider influence came as a publisher of books and magazines devoted to fact-based, rather than faith-based, solutions to human problems, and as a writer who, in more than 40 books and hundreds of articles, promoted an ethical system independent of religion.
Professor Kurtz founded the Center for Inquiry , which promotes evidence-based reasoning and opposes organized religion, and the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal known as Csicop , which is dedicated to debunking pseudosciences.
Books Received: Inquiry: Vol 52, No 1
In , as editor of the magazine The Humanist, Professor Kurtz drafted what came to be known as Humanist Manifesto II, in which he updated a document by addressing issues that the earlier document, which was largely a critique of theism, had failed to touch on, among them nuclear arms, population control, racism and sexism. The document was signed by religious leaders, philosophers, scientists and writers, including the dissident Soviet physicist Andrei D.
Sakharov; Dr. In , in response to the conservative religious movement the Moral Majority, Professor Kurtz founded the journal Free Inquiry. Not surprisingly, Professor Kurtz and the secular humanist movement drew the wrath of the religious. Humanists in general and Professor Kurtz in particular have also been criticized by some atheists as not aggressive enough in opposing the credibility of religious myths. In , he resigned from the board of the Center for Inquiry, in part because he felt it was on too contentious a path. View all New York Times newsletters. That is important, but equally important is, where do you turn?
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Paul Winter Kurtz was born in Newark on Dec. His father was a restaurateur in Irvington, N. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and entered the concentration camps at Buchenwald and Dachau shortly after their liberation, helping with the care of survivors. After the war he returned to N.
He graduated in and went on to earn an M. Kurtz was largely responsible for the secularization of humanism. Kurtz used the publicity generated by fundamentalist preachers to grow the membership of the Council for Secular Humanism , as well as strip the religious aspects found in the earlier humanist movement.
He founded the Center for Inquiry in He had been a board member of IHEU between and , and in a tribute by former colleague at both IHEU and the Council for Secular Humanism Matt Cherry, Kurtz was described as having "had a strong commitment to international humanism — a commitment to humanism beyond US borders never seen matched by another American.
He always pushed IHEU to be bigger and bolder. In , he debated Christian philosopher William Lane Craig over the nature of morality.
Paul Kurtz – Forbidden Fruit
Kurtz believed that the nonreligious members of the community should take a positive view on life. Religious skepticism , according to Paul Kurtz, is only one aspect of the secular humanistic outlook. In an interview with D. Grothe , he stated that a categorical imperative of secular humanism is "genuine concern for the well-being of other humans. At the Council of Secular Humanism's Los Angeles conference 7—10 October , tension over the future of humanism was on display as Kurtz urged a more accommodationist approach to religion while his successors argued for a more adversarial approach.
On May 18, , he resigned from all these positions. Kurtz's day-to-day management of the organization". Another aspect in Kurtz's legacy is his critique of the paranormal. Concerning the founding of the modern skeptical movement, Ray Hyman states that in , he, along with James Randi and Martin Gardner, wanted to form a skeptical group called S.
Sanity In Research. The three of them felt they had no administration experience, saying "we just had good ideas", and were soon joined by Marcello Truzzi who provided structure for the group. In my book by that name, I present the thesis that paranormal and religious phenomena have similar functions in human experience; they are expressions of a tendency to accept magical thinking.
This temptation has such profound roots within human experience and culture that it constantly reasserts itself. He also evaluates the activities of the most famous modern psychics and what he believes are the fruitless researches of parapsychologists. The Transcendental Temptation is considered among Kurtz's most influential writings. He promoted what he called "Skepticism of the Third Kind," in which skeptics actively investigate claims of the paranormal, rather than just question them.
He saw this type of skepticism as distinct from the "first kind" of extreme philosophical skepticism , which questions the possibility that anything can be known, as well as the "second kind" of skepticism, which accepts that knowledge of the real world is possible but is still largely a philosophical exercise.
Kurtz coined the term eupraxsophy originally eupraxophy to refer to philosophies or life stances such as secular humanism , Confucianism and Taoism that do not rely on belief in the transcendent or supernatural. A eupraxsophy is a nonreligious life stance or worldview emphasizing the importance of living an ethical and exuberant life, and relying on rational methods such as logic , observation and science rather than faith , mysticism or revelation toward that end. The word is based on the Greek words for "good", "practice", and "wisdom".
The ethical nature of atheism
Eupraxsophies, like religions, are cosmic in their outlook but eschew the supernatural component of religion, avoiding the "transcendental temptation," as Kurtz puts it. Although critical of supernatural religion, he has attempted to develop affirmative ethical values of naturalistic humanism. The series will bring notable speakers to the University's campus in Amherst, New York, to speak on topics relevant to the philosophy of humanism and philosophical naturalism.
Kurtz had made the bequest and charitable gift annuity to the University, where he taught from to , to help promote the development of critical intelligence in future generations of SUNY at Buffalo students.
Paul Kurtz conceived of the Institute for Science and Human Values in as yet another branch of the umbrella group, the Center for Inquiry. Upon his resignation from the Center for Inquiry he launched the Institute for Science and Human Values as a separate entity.
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In , the institute's board of directors renamed the organization as the Paul Kurtz Institute for Science and Human Values. The asteroid Kurtz was named in his honor. The Pantheon of Skeptics was created by CSI to remember the legacy of deceased fellows of CSI and their contributions to the cause of scientific skepticism. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For the German goldsmith, see Paul Kurtz goldsmith.
Newark, New Jersey , United States. Amherst, New York. Plato , John Dewey , Sidney Hook. Steven Novella , Michael Shermer , Carl Sagan , the wider skeptical movement of which he was a co-founder and central figure.
Related Forbidden Fruit: The Ethics of Secularism
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