The Tricky Thing With Humanism

Jennifer Szalai at the New York Times:

“I am human, and consider nothing human alien to me”: The famous line from the Roman playwright Terence, written more than two millenniums ago, is easy to assert but hard to live by, at least with any consistency. The attitude it suggests is adamantly open-minded and resolutely pluralist: Even the most annoying, the most confounding, the most atrocious example of anyone’s behavior is necessarily part of the human experience. There are points of connection between all of us weirdos, no matter how different we are. Michel de Montaigne liked the line so much that he had the Latin original — Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto — inscribed on a ceiling joist in his library.

But as Sarah Bakewell notes in her lively new book, “Humanly Possible,” Terence wrote the line as a joke. It’s said by a busybody character after being asked why he cannot seem to keep his nose out of everybody else’s beeswax.

more here.