Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

The Ideal of Humanity:Pro and Contra

Lawrence Kimmel.

Ours is a time of profound skepticism and open cynicism with respect to both the profession and promise of ideals. Too often in the name of some seemingly worthy ideal we are led collectively into the deepest and most devastating evils. Religious ideals of the sanctity of life and universal charity sour into zeal, and foster self-righteous persecution of the non-believer; political ideals of social and economic freedom calcify into operational ideologies that justify enslavement and genocide; moral ideals which acclaim a healthy community authorize censorship, repression, and bigotry. As a result, idealism, in its quite ordinary sense of aspiring to higher principles and concern for others, is argued against by thoughtful people in the interests of rational life, citing the historical perils of ideal abstraction. The result of the intensity of passion when abusive ideals prevail is sufficiently frightening to give pause, for whoever aspires to a better world must always risk a worse one. Human life and world are both framed in the temporal, however, so there may be no option to the continual reconsideration and negotiation of contending ideals in open and public discourse.


Lawrence Kimmel  (United States)
Professor of Philosophy
Department of Philosophy
Trinity University

Lawrence Kimmel is a professor of philosophy at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, where he has taught for 30 years. He has published widely on philosophy of culture, literature, aesthetics and politics. He is a published poet, and has written two plays for public television.

  • Ideal of Humanity
  • Ideality and Ideology
  • Humanity and Literature
  • The Work of Fiction

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)