HOME
        TheInfoList






Renaissance humanism was a revival in the study of classical antiquity, at first in Italy and then spreading across Western Europe in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries. Contemporary use of the term humanism is consistent with the historical use prominent in that period, while Renaissance humanism is a retronym used to distinguish it from later humanist developments.[1] During the Renaissance period most humanists were religious, so their concern was to "purify and renew Christianity," not to do away with it. Their vision was to return ad fontes ("to the sources") to the simplicity of the New Testament, bypassing the complexities of medieval theology. Today, by contrast, the term humanism has come to signify "a worldview which denies the existence or relevance of God, or which is committed to a purely secular outlook."[2]

Renaissance humanism was a response to what came to be depicted by later whig historians as the "narrow pedantry" associated with medieval scholasticism.[3] Humanists sought to create a citizenry able to speak and write with eloquence and clarity and thus capable of engaging in the civic life of their communities and persuading others to virtuous and prudent actions. This was to be accomplished through the study of the studia humanitatis, today known as the humanities: grammar, rhetoric, history, poetry, and moral philosophy.

Humanism, whilst set up by a small elite who had access to books and education, was intended as a cultural mode to influence all of society. It was a program to revive the cultural legacy, literary legacy, and moral philosophy of classical antiquity. There were important centres of humanism in Florence, Naples, Rome, Venice, Genoa, Mantua, Ferrara, and Urbino.

The Renaissance humanism also inspired, in those who followed it, a love of learning and "a true love for books....[where] humanists built book collections and university libraries developed." Humanists believed that the individual encompassed "body, mind, and soul" and learning was very much a part of edifying all aspects of the human. This love of and for learning would lead to a demand in the printed word, which in turn drove the invention of Gutenberg's printing press.[4]

Definition

According to one scholar of the movement,

Early Italian humanism, which in many respects continued the grammatical and rhetorical traditions of the Middle Ages, not merely provided the old Trivium with a new and more ambitious name (Studia humanitatis), but also increased its actual scope, content and significance in the curriculum of the schools and universities and in its own extensive literary production. The studia humanitatis excluded logic, but they added to the traditional grammar and rhetoric not only history, Greek, and moral philosophy, but also made poetry, once a sequel of grammar and rhetoric, the most important member of the whole group.[5]

Origin