For a couple months now, a little group of people have been meeting biweekly under the name Humanist Small Group. It was started by a classicist and teaching fellow (I believe is his position) at Harvard who wanted regular fellowship with like-minded folks, more than was facilitated by the social events the Harvard humanist community hosts once a month or so.
Rick Heller has chronicled the last two meetings, the latter of which was this Saturday. As you can see, we covered a lot of standard ground, and more unexpectedly virtue ethics came up at a few points. As it did earlier this month when I stopped by the University of Chicago and sat in on a seminar by Deirdre McCloskey on virtue ethics, Christianity and capitalism. (Guess there’s more than one way to do it.)
I find all humanist/etc. groups to be fraught with theoretical difficulties. For example: Is any group labeled “humanist” a protest group against religion? If not, why does it exist? If so (and surely it is, if only to a very small degree), to what degree should religion and irreligion be a focus of conversation? But refreshingly, these have not seriously affected the actual meetings, and perhaps exist merely in my head.
A related issue that did come up, at the end, was the suggestion that the “humanist movement,” being full of individualistic, highly opinionated people, may never become unified and cohesive enough to be a real force in society. I made the suggestion that, perhaps, but perhaps there is room for more specialized groups within the wider movement. And of course there is Sam Harris’s suggestion that there be no movement at all.