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insights from the Humanist tradition.
An Instinctive Conviction
I see philosophy after philosophy falling into the unproven belief in the friend behind phenomena, as I find that I myself cannot, except for a moment and by an effort, refrain from making the same assumption, it seems to me that perhaps here too we are under the spell of a very old ineradicable instinct. We are gregarious animals; our ancestors have been such for countless ages.
We cannot help looking out on the world as gregarious animals do; we see it in terms of humanity and of fellowship. Students of animals under domestication have shown us how the habits of a gregarious creature, taken away from his kind, are shaped in a thousand details by reference to the lost pack which is no longer there - the pack which a dog tries to smell his way back to all the time he is out walking, the pack he calls to for help when danger threatens.
It is a strange and touching thing, this eternal hunger of the gregarious animal for the herd of friends who are not there, and it may very possibly be, that in the matter of this friend behind phenomena, our own yearning and our own almost ineradicable instinctive conviction since they are not founded on either reason or observation, are in origin the groping of a lonely souled gregarious animal to find its herd, or its herd-leader in the great spaces between the stars.
Gilbert Murray (The Stoic Philosophy, Conway Memorial Lecture, 1915).
In human affairs everything happens by chance - that is, in defiance of human ideas, and without any direction of an intelligence.
A man bathes in a pool, a crocodile seizes and lacerates his flesh. If any one maintains that an intelligence directed that cruelty, I can only reply that his mind is under an illusion. A man is caught by a revolving shaft and torn to pieces, limb from limb. There is no directing intelligence in human affairs, no protection, and no assistance.
Those who act up-rightly are not rewarded, but they and their children often wander in the utmost indigence. Those who do evil are not always punished, but frequently flourish and have happy children. Rewards and punishments are purely human institutions, and if government be relaxed they entirely disappear.
No intelligence whatever interferes in human affairs. There is a most senseless belief now prevalent that effort, and work, and cleverness, perseverance and industry, are invariably successful. Were this the case, every man would enjoy a competence, at least, and be free from the cares of money. This is an illusion almost equal to the superstition of a directing intelligence, which every fact and every consideration disproves. How