Humanism and Renaissance
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. According to the church, man is guilty of original sin
and must accept his misfortune in order to achieve eternal life. In
reading latin and greek authors, the humanists discovered a different
vision of the world, i.e. a man-centered universe; man remained God's
creation but progress was possible. With humanism fatalism could be
overcome, man could master his destiny and transform the world.
Mankind was the source of confidence as he was now deemed to be on
earth to seek perfection, master nature and overcome narrow thinking.
This cultural revolution combined with the 'new world' discoveries in
America and Asia provoked sweeping changes in all fields: philosophy,
religion and science.
Humanistic ideas benefited from the general improvement in living
standards underway in Europe as well as the rise in commerce, the
invention of the printing press and efforts of kings and benefactors
to promote their spread.
1. Man at the center of the universe
A. The printing of ancient texts
In the XIV and at the beginning of the XV century Europe experienced
famines, epidemics and wars. For the church these represented God's
punishment. In order to buttress this interpretation the church relied
on a very rigid interpretation of sacred texts with virtually no