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Humanism and the Renaissance.

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Questions to keep in mind? What is Humanism? How did Humanism spread? How did knowledge progress? How did this affect religion and the religious authorities? --- Humanism brought MAN to the forefront causing a veritable cultural revolution. Reason and the will to better understand the world fomented progress in the scientific fields. Intellectuals throughout Europe came under the influence of humanism which was disseminated with the invention of the printing press and the guidance of princes. Finally, humanism had a religious impact as well with the protestant reformation and bringing religious pluralism to the west.--- Humanism and the Renaissance Crises at the the end of the middle ages, i.e. the One Hundred Years War, the plague, famines and the generalised poverty of the peasantry had a lasting impact on the men and women of the middle ages. Educated men, artists and the literate in their inquisitive search for answers began to find the existing pillars of society, i.e. the church, universities and feudalism, sorely lacking in credible answers. Beginning in the XV and XVI centuries, first in Italy and then throughout Europe, men turned to ancient Greece and Rome for greater understanding. From this arose a veritable intellectual, artistic, philosophical and scientific revolution. This man-centred 'Renaissance' attributed great importance to free-thought and marked the beginning of humanism. Humanism: a cultural revolution Intellectuals in the XV and XVI centuries began to turn away from the church in an effort to find new answers to the different crises of the XIV century. ...read more.


Through education man could strive to achieve intellectual, physical and moral perfection. Rabelais who saw no bounds to human intellectual achievement believed in acquiring an encyclopedic knowledge. This meant learning the languages of antiquity and acquiring a thorough scientific knowledge. Others such as Montaigne and Erasmus stressed the importance of dialogue between the teacher and his student. Yet all believed in the virtues of education even if this still applied to minority, i.e. nobles and bourgeois, town dwellers. The vast majority of the population remained illiterate with an oral culture. c. The optimism of humanism was best expressed in the work of Pico de Mirandello, better known as the 'Prince of the Erudites'. An Italian who spoke all the languages of antiquity and who sought to bridge the ancient civilisations: Greek, Jewish, Christian. Humanist tradition held dear the belief that 'nothing that is human should remain foreign to man.' d. Man's place in creation He therefore took man as creature of indeterminate image and, assigning him a place in the middle of the world, addressed him thus: "Neither a fixed abode nor a form that is thine alone nor any function peculiar to thyself have we given thee, Adam, to the end that according to thy longing and according to thy judgment thou mayest have and possess what abode, what form, and what functions thou thyself shalt desire...The nature of all other beings is limited and constrained within the bounds of laws prescribed by us. ...read more.


Astronomy also experienced a revolution of sorts. Until then the church had always represented the earth as the center of the universe. According to the Greek Ptolemy earth was the center of divine creation. In 1543 the Pole Nicholas Copernic expressed an heliocentric view of the world in his book, The Revolution of Celestial Spheres, where he demonstrated that the earth revolved around the sun. This allowed astronomy and/or cosmology (the study of the universe) to develop as a science apart from theology. 3. A New Vision of the World Scientific progress and the wider questioning of church teachings went hand in hand with the will to explore the world. In pursuing the novel idea of a round/spherical world, Christopher Columbus set out on a westwards journey in search of India/China. He didn't make it to India but he did find the Antilles in 1492. New technology, i.e. better boat design and the astrolabe, led to many more voyages and discoveries. Magellan was able to confirm that the earth was in fact round/spherical with his voyage around the world between 1519 and 1522 which further stimulated cartography and new ways of representing the world. Of course these discoveries brought Europeans into contact with hitherto unknown peoples. These peoples became the subject of study and added new knowledge to the Greek and Arab heritage upon which the Christian west was founded. These new ideas often met resistance from the church, sorcery and astrology. ...read more.

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