Said – “humanism is the only …”

Edward Said (1935 – 2003) was an advocate for the political and the human rights of the Palestinian people and a critic of Israel.  In 1992 he achieved the title of University Professor, Columbia’s highest-ranking professional status. Said also spent time as a visiting professor at Yale, Harvard, and Johns Hopkins Universities.

He is best know for his 1978 book Orientalism, a critical analysis of how the west’s cultural biases result in serious misrepresentations of Middle Eastern affairs.

Despite being a pro-Palestinian activist, He was critical of Islamic organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. As he explained in Power, Politics, and Culture (2002): “First, I am secular; second, I do not trust religious movements; and third, I disagree with these movements’ methods, means, analyses, values, and visions.”

In the preface to Orientalism he wrote, “…humanism is the only – I would go so far as saying the final – resistance we have against the inhuman practices and injustices that disfigure human history.” He defined Humanism as, “be[ing] able to use one’s mind historically and rationally for the purposes of reflective understanding,” and went on to say, “Humanism is centred upon the agency of human individuality and subjective intuition, rather than on received ideas and approved authority.”

Said’s final book, written in 2004, is Humanism and Democratic Criticism, a collection of  five lectures on the place of  and need for humanism in today’s world.