the RenaissanceEarly RenaissanceEuropean Renaissance
In some ways, Renaissance humanism was not a philosophy but a method of learning. In contrast to the medieval scholastic mode, which focused on resolving contradictions between authors, Renaissance humanists would study ancient texts in the original and appraise them through a combination of reasoning and empirical evidence. Humanist education was based on the programme of 'Studia Humanitatis', the study of five humanities: poetry, grammar, history, moral philosophy and rhetoric.


The Renaissance briefly reinforced the position of Latin as a spoken language by its adoption by the Renaissance Humanists. Often led by members of the clergy, they were shocked by the accelerated dismantling of the vestiges of the classical world and the rapid loss of its literature. They strove to preserve what they could and restore Latin to what it had been and introduced the practice of producing revised editions of the literary works that remained by comparing surviving manuscripts.


Francesco PetrarcaPetrarcaFrancesco Petrarch
Francesco Petrarca (July 20, 1304 – July 18/19, 1374), commonly anglicized as Petrarch, was an Italian scholar and poet during the early Italian Renaissance who was one of the earliest humanists. Petrarch's rediscovery of Cicero's letters is often credited with initiating the 14th-century Italian Renaissance and the founding of Renaissance humanism. In the 16th century, Pietro Bembo created the model for the modern Italian language based on Petrarch's works, as well as those of Giovanni Boccaccio, and, to a lesser extent, Dante Alighieri. Petrarch would be later endorsed as a model for Italian style by the Accademia della Crusca.

Renaissance humanism

humanistRenaissance humanisthumanists
This was to be accomplished through the study of the studia humanitatis, today known as the humanities: grammar, rhetoric, history, poetry, and moral philosophy. 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.


philosophephilosophical sentiments
The philosophes (French for "philosophers") were the intellectuals of the 18th-century Enlightenment. Few were primarily philosophers; rather, philosophes were public intellectuals who applied reason to the study of many areas of learning, including philosophy, history, science, politics, economics, and social issues. They had a critical eye and looked for weaknesses and failures that needed improvement. They promoted a "republic of letters" that crossed national boundaries and allowed intellectuals to freely exchange books and ideas. Most philosophes were men, but some were women.

Georg Voigt

G. Voigt
Voigt wrote Wiederbelebung des classischen Alterthums oder das erste Jahrhundert des Humanismus (Revival of Classical Antiquity or the First Century of Humanism). In Voigt's opinion Francesco Petrarca was the origin of Italian humanism. What was very important to him was the new relationship of man in the Renaissance to Classical antiquity especially to Cicero and his humanitas (humanity). Cicero's humanitas is the terminological origin of humanism in general.

Friedrich Immanuel Niethammer

Friedrich NiethammerNiethammer
The Humanist Magazine, 200 years of Humanism. Essay on Atheismusstreit.

Liberal arts education

liberal artsliberal studiesArts
The first recorded use of the term "liberal arts" (artes liberales) occurs in De Inventione by Marcus Tullius Cicero, but it is unclear if he created the term. Seneca the Younger discusses liberal arts in education from a critical Stoic point of view in Moral Epistles. The exact classification of the liberal arts varied however in Roman times, and it was only after Martianus Capella in the 5th century AD influentially brought the seven liberal arts as bridesmaids to the Marriage of Mercury and Philology, that they took on canonical form. The four 'scientific' artes – music, arithmetic, geometry and astronomy (or astrology) – were known from the time of Boethius onwards as the quadrivium.

Seneca the Younger

SenecaLucius Annaeus SenecaSenecan
Dante placed Seneca (alongside Cicero) among the "great spirits" in the First Circle of Hell, or Limbo. Boccaccio, who in 1370 came across the works of Tacitus whilst browsing the library at Montecassino, wrote an account of Seneca's suicide hinting that it was a kind of disguised baptism, or a de facto baptism in spirit. Some, such as Albertino Mussato and Giovanni Colonna, went even further and concluded that Seneca must have been a Christian convert. Seneca remains one of the few popular Roman philosophers from the period.

Italian literature

Italianliteratureliterature of Italy
This was to be accomplished through the study of the studia humanitatis, today known as the humanities: grammar, rhetoric, history, poetry and moral philosophy. Early humanists, such as Petrarch, Coluccio Salutati and Leonardo Bruni, were great collectors of antique manuscripts. Many worked for the organized Church and were in holy orders (like Petrarch), while others were lawyers and chancellors of Italian cities, like Petrarch's disciple, Salutati, the Chancellor of Florence, and thus had access to book copying workshops. In Italy, the humanist educational program won rapid acceptance and, by the mid-15th century, many of the upper classes had received humanist educations.


Humanitythe humanitieshumanistic
The word "humanities" is derived from the Renaissance Latin expression studia humanitatis, or "study of humanitas" (a classical Latin word meaning—in addition to "humanity"—"culture, refinement, education" and, specifically, an "education befitting a cultivated man"). In its usage in the early 15th century, the studia humanitatis was a course of studies that consisted of grammar, poetry, rhetoric, history, and moral philosophy, primarily derived from the study of Latin and Greek classics. The word humanitas also gave rise to the Renaissance Italian neologism umanisti, whence "humanist", "Renaissance humanism".

Julius Caesar

CaesarGaius Julius CaesarJulius Cæsar
During his lifetime, Caesar was regarded as one of the best orators and prose authors in Latin—even Cicero spoke highly of Caesar's rhetoric and style. Only Caesar's war commentaries have survived. A few sentences from other works are quoted by other authors. Among his lost works are his funeral oration for his paternal aunt Julia and his Anticato, a document written to defame Cato in response to Cicero's published praise. Poems by Julius Caesar are also mentioned in ancient sources.


Plato's dialoguesDialogues of PlatoPlatonic dialogues
In addition, the ideal city is used as an image to illuminate the state of one's soul, or the will, reason, and desires combined in the human body. Socrates is attempting to make an image of a rightly ordered human, and then later goes on to describe the different kinds of humans that can be observed, from tyrants to lovers of money in various kinds of cities. The ideal city is not promoted, but only used to magnify the different kinds of individual humans and the state of their soul. However, the philosopher king image was used by many after Plato to justify their personal political beliefs.

Edmund Burke

From Humanitas, Volume X, No. 1, 1997. National Humanities Institute.


paideaa Greek style of learningGreek education
Humanitas. Paideia Institute. Werner Jaeger, Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture, vols. I-III, trans. Gilbert Highet, Oxford University Press, 1945. Oxford English Dictionary, "Paedeia." Online Draft Version, 2005.


humanshuman beinghuman beings
Social psychology links sociology with psychology in their shared study of the nature and causes of human social interaction, with an emphasis on how people think towards each other and how they relate to each other. The behavior and mental processes, both human and non-human, can be described through animal cognition, ethology, evolutionary psychology, and comparative psychology as well. Human ecology is an academic discipline that investigates how humans and human societies interact with both their natural environment and the human social environment. Motivation is the driving force of desire behind all deliberate actions of humans.


Desiderius ErasmusErasmus of RotterdamErasmian
Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus (28 October 1466 – 12 July 1536), known as Erasmus or Erasmus of Rotterdam, was a Dutch philosopher and Christian humanist who is widely considered to have been the greatest scholar of the northern Renaissance. Originally trained as a Catholic priest, Erasmus was an important figure in classical scholarship who wrote in a pure Latin style. Among humanists he enjoyed the sobriquet "Prince of the Humanists", and has been called "the crowning glory of the Christian humanists".


François-Marie ArouetVoltairianFrançois-Marie Arouet (Voltaire)
Your Majesty will do the human race an eternal service by extirpating this infamous superstition, I do not say among the rabble, who are not worthy of being enlightened and who are apt for every yoke; I say among honest people, among men who think, among those who wish to think. ... My one regret in dying is that I cannot aid you in this noble enterprise, the finest and most respectable which the human mind can point out.""


philosophicalphilosopherhistory of philosophy
Put very briefly, this is the [Buddhist] doctrine that human beings have no soul, no self, no unchanging essence.". Metaphysics and epistemology. Value theory. Science, logic and mathematics. History of Western philosophy. Philosophical traditions. Philosophy of language explores the nature, the origins and the use of language. Philosophy of mind explores the nature of the mind and its relationship to the body. It is typified by disputes between dualism and materialism. In recent years this branch has become related to cognitive science. Philosophy of human nature analyzes the unique characteristics of human beings, such as rationality, politics and culture.


EpicureanEpicurean paradoxEpicurean doctrine
Most knowledge of his teachings comes from later authors, particularly the Roman poet Lucretius, the biographer Diogenes Laërtius, the statesman Cicero, and the philosophers Philodemus and Sextus Empiricus. For Epicurus, the purpose of philosophy was to attain the happy, tranquil life, characterized by ataraxia—peace and freedom from fear—and aponia—the absence of pain—and by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends. He taught that the root of all human neurosis is death denial, and the tendency for human beings to assume that death will be horrific and painful, which he claimed causes unnecessary anxiety, selfish self-protective behaviors, and hypocrisy.


EpicureanEpicureansEpicurean philosophy
Natural and necessary: These desires are limited desires that are innately present in all humans; it is part of human nature to have them. They are necessary for one of three reasons: necessary for happiness, necessary for freedom from bodily discomfort, and necessary for life. Clothing would belong to the first two categories, while something like food would belong to the third. Natural but not necessary: These desires are innate to humans, but they do not need to be fulfilled for their happiness or their survival. Wanting to eat delicious food when one is hungry is an example of a natural but not necessary desire.

Nicolaus Copernicus

CopernicusCopernicanNicholas Copernicus
Copernicus the humanist sought confirmation for his growing doubts through close reading of Greek and Latin authors (Pythagoras, Aristarchos of Samos, Cleomedes, Cicero, Pliny the Elder, Plutarch, Philolaus, Heraclides, Ecphantos, Plato), gathering, especially while at Padua, fragmentary historic information about ancient astronomical, cosmological and calendar systems. Copernicus spent the jubilee year 1500 in Rome, where he arrived with his brother Andrew that spring, doubtless to perform an apprenticeship at the Papal Curia. Here, too, however, he continued his astronomical work begun at Bologna, observing, for example, a lunar eclipse on the night of 5–6 November 1500.

John Adams

AdamsJohnPresident John Adams
Less than a month before his death, Adams issued a statement about the destiny of the United States, which historian Joy Hakim characterized as a warning for his fellow citizens: "My best wishes, in the joys, and festivities, and the solemn services of that day on which will be completed the fiftieth year from its birth, of the independence of the United States: a memorable epoch in the annals of the human race, destined in future history to form the brightest or the blackest page, according to the use or the abuse of those political institutions by which they shall, in time to come, be shaped by the human mind."


the good lifeEudaimonismeudaemonia
This conception of eudaimonia derives from Aristotle's essentialist understanding of human nature, the view that reason (logos sometimes translated as rationality) is unique to human beings and that the ideal function or work (ergon) of a human being is the fullest or most perfect exercise of reason. Basically, well being (eudaimonia) is gained by proper development of one's highest and most human capabilities and human beings are "the rational animal". It follows that eudaimonia for a human being is the attainment of excellence (areté) in reason.


In recent years, certain religious denominations have accumulated a number of openly atheistic followers, such as atheistic or humanistic Judaism and Christian atheists. The strictest sense of positive atheism does not entail any specific beliefs outside of disbelief in any deity; as such, atheists can hold any number of spiritual beliefs. For the same reason, atheists can hold a wide variety of ethical beliefs, ranging from the moral universalism of humanism, which holds that a moral code should be applied consistently to all humans, to moral nihilism, which holds that morality is meaningless.