It was no secret that Kurt Vonnegut was a humanist. The man was the honorary president of the American Humanist Association, so that's kind of a dead give away. But what is humanism? A quick answer would be "any outlook or way of life centered on human need and interest" (Source). So it's no surprise that Cat's Cradle is just brimming with humanist philosophy. The novel attempts to get its readers to see beyond political, national, economical, and social borders. It just wants you to view human beings for what they are: flawed, beautiful, and crazy creatures who are more like you than you'd probably (definitely) like to admit.
Questions About Philosophy—Humanism
- Do you see any characters that are anti-humanist in their approach to life? Who are they? What do they share in common? Any differences? Do these characters suggest any revelations on the theme of humanism in Cat's Cradle?
- What character do you think most embodies the humanist philosophy? What humanist actions does this character take, and how does he or she help us better understand this theme?
- We say Cat's Cradle is a humanist book, but that doesn't mean it cannot encompass other philosophies. Do you see any other philosophies? What are they? Don't forget to support your claim with evidence from the novel.
- We mentioned above that our definition of humanism was a tad simplistic. So here's your chance to one-up us. After reading Cat's Cradle, create your own definition for humanism based on what you read. Why do you think your definition works for the novel? Now, does your personal philosophy agree or disagree with this philosophy? Land somewhere in the middle? Explain your answer.
Chew on This
In connection with Bokononism, Cat's Cradle may be arguing that humanism is complete and total foma. Of course, that doesn't mean it isn't of value to humanity all the same.
Angela's maternal instincts actually prevent her from acting as a true humanist would.