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In philosophy and sociology, culturalism (new humanism or Znaniecki's humanism) is the central importance of culture as an organizing force in human affairs. [1] [2] [3] It was originally coined by the Polish-American philosopher and sociologist Florian Znaniecki in his book Cultural Reality (1919) in English and later translated into Polish as kulturalizm. Znaniecki had introduced a similar concept in earlier Polish language publications which he described as humanism (humanizm). [3]

Philosophy Study of general and fundamental questions

Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras. Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust? Do humans have free will?

Sociology Scientific study of human society and its origins, development, organizations, and institutions

Sociology is the study of society, patterns of social relationships, social interaction, and culture of everyday life. It is a social science that uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about social order, acceptance, and change or social evolution. While some sociologists conduct research that may be applied directly to social policy and welfare, others focus primarily on refining the theoretical understanding of social processes. Subject matter ranges from the micro-sociology level of individual agency and interaction to the macro level of systems and the social structure.

Florian Znaniecki Polish sociologist

Florian Witold Znaniecki was a Polish philosopher and sociologist who taught and wrote in Poland and in the United States. Over the course of his work he shifted his focus from philosophy to sociology. He remains a major figure in the history of Polish and American sociology; the founder of Polish academic sociology, and of an entire school of thought in sociology. He won international renown as co-author, with William I. Thomas, of the study, The Polish Peasant in Europe and America (1918–20), which is considered the foundation of modern empirical sociology. He also made major contributions to sociological theory, introducing terms such as humanistic coefficient and culturalism.



Znaniecki's culturalism was based on philosophies and theories of Matthew Arnold (Culture and Anarchy), Friedrich Nietzsche (voluntarism), Henri Bergson (creative evolutionism), Wilhelm Dilthey (philosophy of life), William James, John Dewey (pragmatism) and Ferdinand C. Schiller (humanism). [4]

Matthew Arnold English poet and cultural critic who worked as an inspector of schools

Matthew Arnold was an English poet and cultural critic who worked as an inspector of schools. He was the son of Thomas Arnold, the famed headmaster of Rugby School, and brother to both Tom Arnold, literary professor, and William Delafield Arnold, novelist and colonial administrator. Matthew Arnold has been characterised as a sage writer, a type of writer who chastises and instructs the reader on contemporary social issues.

Culture and Anarchy is a series of periodical essays by Matthew Arnold, first published in Cornhill Magazine 1867-68 and collected as a book in 1869. The preface was added in 1875.

Friedrich Nietzsche German philosopher

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a German philosopher, cultural critic, composer, poet, philologist, and Latin and Greek scholar whose work has exerted a profound influence on modern intellectual history. He began his career as a classical philologist before turning to philosophy. He became the youngest ever to hold the Chair of Classical Philology at the University of Basel in 1869 at the age of 24. Nietzsche resigned in 1879 due to health problems that plagued him most of his life; he completed much of his core writing in the following decade. In 1889 at age 44, he suffered a collapse and afterward, a complete loss of his mental faculties. He lived his remaining years in the care of his mother until her death in 1897 and then with his sister Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche. Nietzsche died in 1900.

Znaniecki was critical of a number of then-prevalent philosophical viewpoints: intellectualism, [5] idealism [6] realism [6] naturalism [3] [6] [7] and rationalism. [3] He was also critical of irrationalism and intuitionism. [5]


Intellectualism denotes the use, development, and exercise of the intellect; the practice of being an intellectual; and the Life of the Mind. In the field of philosophy, “intellectualism” occasionally is synonymous with “rationalism”, that is, knowledge mostly derived from reason and ratiocination. Socially, “intellectualism” negatively connotes: single-mindedness of purpose and emotional coldness.

In philosophy, idealism is the group of metaphysical philosophies that assert that reality, or reality as humans can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Epistemologically, idealism manifests as a skepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing. In contrast to materialism, idealism asserts the primacy of consciousness as the origin and prerequisite of material phenomena. According to this view, consciousness exists before and is the pre-condition of material existence. Consciousness creates and determines the material and not vice versa. Idealism believes consciousness and mind to be the origin of the material world and aims to explain the existing world according to these principles.

In metaphysics, realism about a given object is the view that this object exists in reality independently of our conceptual scheme. In philosophical terms, these objects are ontologically independent of someone's conceptual scheme, perceptions, linguistic practices, beliefs, etc.


In response to these criticisms, Znaniecki proposed a new theoretical framework. [6] [7] [8] His "culturalism" was an ontological and epistemological approach aiming to eliminate dualisms such as the belief that nature and culture are opposite realities. [7]

This approach allowed him to "define social phenomena in cultural terms". [1] Znaniecki was arguing for the importance of culture, noting that our culture shapes our view of the world and our thinking. [9] Znaniecki notes that while the world is composed of physical artifacts, we are not really capable of studying the physical world other than through the lenses of culture. [10]

Among the fundamental aspects of the philosophy of culturalism are two categories: value and action. [7] Elżbieta Hałas, who calls it an "antithesis to the intellectual dogmas of naturalism", identifies the following assumptions: [5]

Elżbieta Hałas (1954–present) is a Polish sociologist and a professor at the University of Warsaw. She specializes in the sociology of culture.

Znaniecki's philosophy of culturalism laid the foundation for his larger theoretical system, based around another concept of his, "humanistic coefficient." [11] Though originally a philosophical concept, [3] culturalism was further developed by Znaniecki to inform his sociological theories. [4]

Znaniecki's culturalism influenced modern sociological views of antipositivism and antinaturalism. [12]

Related Research Articles

Secular humanism, or simply humanism, is a philosophy or life stance that embraces human reason, ethics, and philosophical naturalism while specifically rejecting religious dogma, supernaturalism, pseudoscience, and superstition as the basis of morality and decision making.

Sociocultural evolution, sociocultural evolutionism or cultural evolution are theories of cultural and social evolution that describe how cultures and societies change over time. Whereas sociocultural development traces processes that tend to increase the complexity of a society or culture, sociocultural evolution also considers process that can lead to decreases in complexity (degeneration) or that can produce variation or proliferation without any seemingly significant changes in complexity (cladogenesis). Sociocultural evolution is "the process by which structural reorganization is affected through time, eventually producing a form or structure which is qualitatively different from the ancestral form".

Humanistic sociology is a domain of sociology which originated mainly from the work of the University of Chicago Polish philosopher-turned-sociologist, Florian Znaniecki. It is a methodology which treats its objects of study and its students, that is, humans, as composites of values and systems of values. In certain contexts, the term is related to other sociological domains such as antipositivism. Humanistic sociology seeks to shed light on questions such as, "What is the relationship between a man of principle and a man of opportunism?"

In social science, a social relation or social interaction is any relationship between two or more individuals. Social relations derived from individual agency form the basis of social structure and the basic object for analysis by social scientists. Fundamental inquiries into the nature of social relations feature in the work of sociologists such as Max Weber in his theory of social action.

W. I. Thomas American sociologist

William Isaac Thomas was an American sociologist. With the help of Polish sociologist Florian Znaniecki, W.I. Thomas developed and influenced the use of empirical methodologies in sociological research and contributed theories to the sociology of migration. Thomas then went on to formulate a fundamental principle of sociology, known as the Thomas theorem. Through his theorem, Thomas contended that, "If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences". This microsociological concept served as a theoretical foundation for the field of symbolic interactionism which was developed by Thomas's younger peers - primarily at the University of Chicago.

In social theory and philosophy, antihumanism is a theory that is critical of traditional humanism and traditional ideas about humanity and the human condition. Central to antihumanism is the view that concepts of "human nature", "man", or "humanity" should be rejected as historically relative or metaphysical.

Metaphysical naturalism is a philosophical worldview which holds that there is nothing but natural elements, principles, and relations of the kind studied by the natural sciences. Methodological naturalism is a philosophical basis for science, for which metaphysical naturalism provides only one possible ontological foundation. Broadly, the corresponding theological perspective is religious naturalism or spiritual naturalism. More specifically, metaphysical naturalism rejects the supernatural concepts and explanations that are part of many religions.

Jerzy Szacki Polish sociologist

Jerzy Ryszard Szacki was a Polish sociologist and historian of ideas. Since 1973, he worked as professor at the University of Warsaw and in 1991 he became member of the Polish Academy of Sciences. He is regarded as one of the most prominent representatives of the Warsaw School of the History of Ideas.

The history of philosophy in Poland parallels the evolution of philosophy in Europe in general.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to humanism:

A humanistic coefficient is a conceptual object, methodological principle, or method of conducting social research wherein data analysis stresses the perceived import of analyzed experiences to their participants. The term was coined by Polish sociologist Florian Znaniecki.

Joseph Margolis American philosopher

Joseph Zalman Margolis is an American philosopher. A radical historicist, he has published many books critical of the central assumptions of Western philosophy, and has elaborated a robust form of relativism.

Robert S. Corrington American philosopher, academic

Robert S. Corrington is an American philosopher and author of many books exploring human interpretation of the universe as well as biographies on C.S. Peirce and Wilhelm Reich. He is currently the Henry Anson Buttz Professor of Philosophical Theology at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. Before that he was a professor at Pennsylvania State University. He is a Senior Fellow of the American Institute for Philosophical and Cultural Thought.

Sociology in Poland

Sociology in Poland has been developing, as has sociology throughout Europe, since the mid-19th century. Polish sociology is today a vibrant science, with its own experts and currents of thought. As early as in 1917 a Polish scholar, Jan Stanisław Bystroń, wrote that Polish sociology is — as any other national sociology — a notable and separate field.

Spiritual naturalism approach to spirituality that is devoid of supernaturalism

Spiritual naturalism, or naturalistic spirituality combines mundane and spiritual ways of looking at the world. Spiritual naturalism may have first been proposed by Joris-Karl Huysmans in 1895 in his book En Route – "In 'En Route' Huysmans started upon the creation of what he called 'Spiritual Naturalism,' that is, realism applied to the story of a soul. ...".

Coming into prominence as a writer during the 1870s, Huysmans quickly established himself among a rising group of writers, the so-called Naturalist school, of whom Émile Zola was the acknowledged head...With Là-bas (1891), a novel which reflected the aesthetics of the spiritualist revival and the contemporary interest in the occult, Huysmans formulated for the first time an aesthetic theory which sought to synthesize the mundane and the transcendent: "spiritual Naturalism".

<i>The Polish Peasant in Europe and America</i> book by William Isaac Thomas

The Polish Peasant in Europe and America is a book by Florian Znaniecki and William I. Thomas, considered to be one of the classics of sociology. The book is a study of Polish immigrants and their families, based on personal documents, and was published in five volumes in the years 1918 to 1920.

In philosophy, naturalism is the "idea or belief that only natural laws and forces operate in the world." Adherents of naturalism assert that natural laws are the rules that govern the structure and behavior of the natural universe, that the changing universe at every stage is a product of these laws.

The Przegląd Socjologiczny is a quarterly Polish peer-reviewed academic journal in sociology. It is published by the Łódzkie Towarzystwo Naukowe. Journal offices are at the University of Łódź.


  1. 1 2 Hałas (2010), p. 12.
  2. Hałas (2010), p. 214.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Dulczewski (1984), pp. 186–187.
  4. 1 2 Hałas (2010), p. 51.
  5. 1 2 3 Hałas (2010), p. 52.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Piotr Kawecki (1999). "Heroism and Intimacy of Post-modern Morality". In Bo Stråth; Nina Witoszek (eds.). The Postmodern Challenge: Perspectives East and West. Rodopi. pp. 129–130. ISBN   978-90-420-0755-0.
  7. 1 2 3 4 Hałas (2010), p. 21.
  8. Sztompka (2002), pp. 52–53.
  9. Dulczewski (1984), pp. 187–188.
  10. Dulczewski (1984), p. 189.
  11. Hałas (2010), pp. 55, 172.
  12. Sztompka (2002), p. 2425.


Further reading