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 RenaissanceEarly RenaissanceEuropean Renaissance
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.
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.
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".
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".
A skilled writer and orator, Coluccio drew heavily upon the classical tradition and developed a powerful prose style based on the Latin of Virgil and Cicero: "I have always believed," Salutati wrote, "I must imitate antiquity not simply to reproduce it, but in order to produce something new". In this sense his own view of humanism was broader-based than the antiquarianism of the generation of humanists he fostered. An admiring correspondent of Petrarch, he spent much of his salary on amassing a collection of 800 books, slightly less than his contemporary Niccolò de' Niccoli.
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.
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.
Renaissance ItalyRenaissanceFlorentine Renaissance
Among the most emulated Romans are Cicero, Horace, Sallust, and Virgil. Among the Greeks, Aristotle, Homer, and Plato were now being read in the original for the first time since the 4th century, though Greek compositions were few. The literature and poetry of the Renaissance was largely influenced by the developing science and philosophy. The humanist Francesco Petrarch, a key figure in the renewed sense of scholarship, was also an accomplished poet, publishing several important works of poetry.
Gian Francesco Poggio BraccioliniPoggioBracciolini, Poggio
They exemplify his conception of studia humanitatis as an epitome of human knowledge and wisdom reserved only to the most learned, and the key to what the ancient philosophers called "virtue" and "the good". And thus, they are invaluable windows into the knowledge and Weltanschauung of his age − geography, history, politics, morals, social aspects — and the emergence of the new values of the "Humanist Movement". They are loaded with rich nuggets of fact embedded in subtle disquisitions, with insightful comments, brilliant illustrations, and a wide display of historical and contemporary references.
Classical antiquity (also the classical era, classical period or classical age) is the period of cultural history between the 8th century BC and the 6th century AD centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome known as the Greco-Roman world. It is the period in which Greek and Roman society flourished and wielded great influence throughout Europe, North Africa and Western Asia.
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.
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.
The Humanist Magazine, 200 years of Humanism. Essay on Atheismusstreit.
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.
Christian humanisthumanistChristian humanists
The initial distinguishing factor between Christian humanism and other varieties of humanism is that Christian humanists not only discussed religious or theological issues in some or all their works (as did all Renaissance humanists) but according to Charles Nauert; made a connection between their humanistic teaching and scholarship on classical languages and literature, on the one hand, and on the other hand, their study of ancient Christianity, including the Bible and the Church Fathers...
Enlightenmentthe EnlightenmentFrench Enlightenment
The Enlightenment emerged out of a European intellectual and scholarly movement known as Renaissance humanism. Some consider the publication of Isaac Newton's Principia Mathematica (1687) as the first major enlightenment work. French historians traditionally date the Enlightenment from 1715 to 1789, from the beginning of the reign of Louis XV until the French Revolution. Most end it with the turn of the 19th century. Philosophers and scientists of the period widely circulated their ideas through meetings at scientific academies, Masonic lodges, literary salons, coffeehouses and in printed books, journals, and pamphlets.
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.
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.
From the 14th century, first in Italy and then increasingly across Europe, Renaissance Humanism, an intellectual movement that "advocated the study and imitation of classical antiquity", developed. Humanism saw a reform in education in Europe, introducing a wider range of Latin authors as well as bringing back the study of Greek language and literature to Western Europe. This reintroduction was initiated by Petrarch (1304–1374) and Boccaccio (1313–1375) who commissioned a Calabrian scholar to translate the Homeric poems.
Cicero's description of the ideal state, in De re Publica, does not equate to a modern-day "republic"; it is more like enlightened absolutism. His philosophical works were influential when Enlightenment philosophers such as Voltaire developed their political concepts. In its classical meaning, a republic was any stable well-governed political community. Both Plato and Aristotle identified three forms of government: democracy, aristocracy, and monarchy. First Plato and Aristotle, and then Polybius and Cicero, held that the ideal republic is a mixture of these three forms of government. The writers of the Renaissance embraced this notion.
Grendler wrote, "Aldus ensured the survival of a large number of ancient texts and greatly facilitated the diffusion of the values, enthusiasms, and scholarship of Italian Renaissance Humanism to the rest of Europe". "He jettisoned commentary because he felt that it prevented the dialogue between author and reader that the Renaissance prized." The Aldine Press produced more than 100 editions from 1495 to 1505. The majority were Greek classics, but many notable Latin and Italian works were published as well.
Lucius Caecilius Firmianus LactantiusDe mortibus persecutorumFirmianus (Lactantius)
The early humanists called him the "Christian Cicero" (Cicero Christianus). A translator of the Divine Institutes wrote: "Lactantius has always held a very high place among the Christian Fathers, not only on account of the subject-matter of his writings, but also on account of the varied erudition, the sweetness of expression, and the grace and elegance of style, by which they are characterized." He wrote apologetic works explaining Christianity in terms that would be palatable to educated people who still practiced the traditional religions of the Empire. He defended Christian beliefs against the criticisms of Hellenistic philosophers.
Theodore GazaTheodore of GazaTheodoros Gazis
Nancy Bisaha, Creating East and West: Renaissance humanists and the Ottoman Turks, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006. ISBN: 0-8122-1976-7. Deno J. Geanakoplos, `Theodore Gaza, a Byzantine scholar of the Palaeologan "renaissance" in the Italian Renaissance', Medievalia et Humanistica 12 (1984), 61-81 and in *Deno J. Geanakoplos, 'Theodore Gaza: a Byzantine Scholar of the Palaeologan "Renaissance" in the early Italian Renaissance, c. 1400-1475', in Geanakoplos, Constantinople and the West, University of Wisconsin Press, 1989, pp. 68–90. ISBN: 0-299-11884-3.
ServetusMiguel ServetMiguel Serveto
Michael Servetus (Miguel Serveto as real name, Michel Servet), also known as Miguel Servet, Miguel de Villanueva, Michel Servet, Revés, or Michel de Villeneuve (Tudela, Navarre, 29 September 1509 or 1511 – 27 October 1553), was a Spanish theologian, physician, cartographer, and Renaissance humanist. He was the first European to correctly describe the function of pulmonary circulation, as discussed in Christianismi Restitutio (1553). He was a polymath versed in many sciences: mathematics, astronomy and meteorology, geography, human anatomy, medicine and pharmacology, as well as jurisprudence, translation, poetry and the scholarly study of the Bible in its original languages.