Horace Kallen

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Kallen, Horace (11 August 1882 - 1974)

Kallen was born in Berenstadt, Germany, the son of an Orthodox rabbi, Jacob David Kallen, and Esther Rebecca Glazier. He came to the United States in 1887, earned his B.A. (magna cum laude) at Harvard in 1903 and his Ph. D. there in 1908. He was a student of George Santayana and became his assistant.

A professor of aesthetics and philosophy at the New School for Social Research, Kallen wrote Why Religion? (1927); Individualism - An American Way of Life (1933); Freedom and Experience (1947); Ideals and Experience (1948); Democracy’s True Religion (1951); Freedom in the Modern World (1952); and A Study of Liberty (1959).

As early as 1915 in The Nation, Kallen remarked that the “melting pot” concept is both a theoretical misconception and a practical failure. He suggested replacing it with “cultural pluralism.”

A noted philosopher and writer, Kallen teamed with John Dewey in 1941 to edit The Bertrand Russell Case, detailing Lord Russell’s inability to be hired to teach philosophy at City College of New York because of objections made by religious groups to his writings. Asked in 1956 about humanism, Dr. Kallen wrote Warren Allen Smith,

  • My Humanism may be called secular or human Humanism. Its specification is to be found in my Secularism is the Will of God (1954). It is the faith that human beings are all different from each other and are, as different, equally entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This applies to supernaturalists as well as naturalists, atheists as well as theists, etc. The maxim Homo sum nihil, humanuum a me alienum puto expresses it. So does the Protagorean aphorism, “Man is the measure of all things, of things that are that they are, of things that are not, that they are not.” These two expressions imply one another and are systematically elaborated in the idea of Secularism as embracing all the attitudes and valuations of mankind without prejudice.

Dr. Kallen and Smith, both atheists, were once invited to serve on the board of Protestants and Other Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (POAU). One of its aims was the attempt, for it was not successful, to keep Fordham University from acquiring New York City public land next to Lincoln Center in Manhattan. All the other board members were Protestant ministers, leading Dr. Kallen to whsiper to Smith, “You and I apparently are the ‘other’ Americans.”

To the Euthanasia Society of America, he once declared that “voluntary death is an inalienable human right.” His last work was What I Believe and Why - Maybe (1971). Kallen was described by Smith as a model humanist: kindly, secular, active, profound, a doer as well as a thinker.

Correspondence and A Review by Van Meter Ames Van Meter Ames] in The Humanist


Kallen comments that Robert Marks is a non-mystic who wrote about Benjamin Paul Blood.


To Ed Wilson, Kallen mentioned that he also was interested in some kind of humanist center to be started in New York City.


{CL; HNS; WAS, 11 May 1956}