Talk:Renaissance humanism

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Unecessary Polemics[edit]

There is enough about Humanism not to have to color everything in this secular humanism/religious humanism debate. Both paradigms isolated in their extremes at either end are very historicizing intepretations of Renaissance Humanism and this conflict has no right to overshadow the entire complex narrative of humanism and it's other contingencies. ie, civic humanism, philological humanism, anti-scholastic humanism.. etc...

By no right I mean if you look at scholarship and how representative it is of this newfangled militant athiesm you see what little place it deserves in the overall narrative of Humanism in general not to mention encyclopedic accounts of Renaissance Humanism. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Vive1936 (talkcontribs) 03:18, 16 March 2010 (UTC)

Old stuff[edit]

Um... Why did someone come in and remove the cleanup notice? Not only that, they removed my note here that I would clean it up as well as the reminder on my talk page to do that cleanup. The only reason I can think of is that the person wrote the messy article and resents the fact that is needs to be cleaned. Well, I'm going to clean it anyway. uriah923(talk) 04:00, 23 November 2005 (UTC)


The reorganization and content addition has been made. Roll up! uriah923(talk) 06:25, 25 November 2005 (UTC)


If it started in the 1390s or so, why does the history start in the 1480s?

The throwaway line at the end of the history section (~led to hatred of all humans~) is very bothersome. There's no justification, evidence, or explanation. Considering that this statement claims a complete reversal in what I understand as the basic principles of humanism, I'd like to know where the author got this from.

It was graffiti added 20:53, 24 August 2006 by User: It has now been removed. This article bears closer watching. --Wetman 20:55, 9 September 2006 (UTC)

I have a simple question. If Renaissance Humanism began in the late 14th century, why is there a picture entitled "Petrarch's Virgil" dated 1336 at the top? [knab69] —Preceding unsigned comment added by Knab69 (talkcontribs) 05:47, 16 April 2008 (UTC) This article needs citations so that we can weigh arguments and evidence. [knab69] —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:13, 16 April 2008 (UTC)

I also have a question - did humanism address burning people at the stake or other forms of execution for heresy or other crimes against the prevailing religion? Does it now? YAC (talk) 01:44, 20 June 2008 (UTC)

Well, St. Thomas More, a humanist and friend of Erasmus was comfortable with having Tyndale burnt at the stake. And Calvin, another humanist, personally ordered Servetus the Unitarian to be burnt. Humanist or not, religious people thought it was the right thing to do to burn heretics.
Therefore, I don't think that identifying "orthodox Christianity" with scholasticism, as the article does, is quite right. What we think of as orthodox Christianity (i.e. orthodox Roman Catholicism) came into being after the Council of Trent in the mid-sixteenth century, whereas humanism as a movement gathered steam in the fourteenth century with Petrarch, who was a canon in minor orders, as were most of the other Italian humanists (when they were not actually priests, cardinals, or popes). The humanists hated the scholastics because they wrote bad Latin, not because they were religious. It was the universities that clung to scholasticism: it was a clash of educational philosophies not religious ones. Petrarch, for example, was no free thinker, his humanism was extremely influenced by Saint Augustine (a lover of humane letters and fan of Cicero). It was after Council of Trent that Aristotle (as interpreted by Thomas Aquinas) was installed as the official philosopher of the Church (and modern historians now think that Aquinas's and therefore Aristotle's influence has been retroactively overstated for the earlier period). In addition, important early Protestant thinkers were also humanists -- I am thinking of Calvin, who revered Cicero as much as any Italian humanist, was a great prose stylist, and corresponded with other French humanists. There were syncretic tendencies among the Renaissance humanists, to be sure: they looked favorably on the pagan gods (as having arcane spiritual significance) and thought that all religions had access to truth. But Christianity was predominant with them. I think it is fair to say that the Papal court was humanist as were the courts of other Italian cities. (There was also a Jewish humanist, Leone Ebreo). It was the firebrand anti-intellectual religious reformers who were against humanism. Savonarola, for example. I don't think even the Council of Trent condemned humanism. On the contrary, it was Catholicism that upheld the position of the arts as a branch of rhetoric, while the Protestant mobs were vandalizing statues and paintings in churches. The key difference is that Catholics believed that reading should be limited to the few, while the Protestants wanted literacy to be universal, so that the common people could have unmediated access to the text of the Bible in their own vernacular (not in humanistic Latin or Greek). The Catholics thought that the Biblical stories should be interpreted for the multitudes through the medium of the visual arts rather than print. (talk) 01:00, 25 June 2009 (UTC)
My impression is that scholars today do not accept Pico as a precursor to modern humanism:

Humanism in [the modern philosophical] sense reduced the divine to the human, was opposed to any sort of religious dogma or revelation, and based philosophical reflection on a conception of the human being as a purely biological entity formed as the result of an evolutionary process, without an immaterial or spiritual nature. This philosophical sense of humanism begins essentially in the “humanistic realism” of Ludwig Feuerback (1804-71), but later included Marxist humanism (Antonio Gramsci), existentialist humanism (Jean Paul Sartre), humanist pragmatism (F.C.S. Schiller, following William James), ethical humanism (Irving Babbit), as well as the odd brew of Enlightenment rationalism, and pragmatism concocted by the American Humanist Association. In twentieth-century scholarship on Renaissance humanism a great deal of confusion was caused by mixing up these two broad meanings of humanism. Thus a “humanist philosophy of man” was imposed upon Latin writers from Petraca to Castiglione by means of selective quotation, hermeneutical forzatura, and by adding professional philosophers like Marsiilio Ficino to the ranks of “humanists.” The confusion of terminology has now largely subsided, at least in the Anglo-Saxon academic universe, thanks to the influence of the great Renaissance scholar P. O. Kristeller (1905-99). Kristeller argued cogently and with immense learning that the humanism of the Renaissance could not be construed as a “philosophy of man” but was rather best seen as a movement, rooted in the medieval rhetorical tradition, to revive the language and literature of classical antiquity. Humanists were not philosophers, but men and women of letters. --James Hankins. Humanism, Scholarship, and Renaissance Philosophy (Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Philosophy, 2007) P. 31. (talk) 00:48, 6 July 2009 (UTC)

Actually, this article, which is almost entirely without citations, has several questionable assertions. Galileo's trial was not the "crisis of humanism". It was rather a crisis of religious authority (Galileo belonged to the early modern period). If there was a "crisis" of humanism it came during the Council of Trent which resulted in a hardening of attitudes -- installing Aristotle as the infallible philosopher and last word of the church and ending all debate over theological matters (which until then had been comparatively free). Subsequently, both Protestantism and Catholicism became rigidly dogmatic and hostile to free inquiry. Then followed the rationalists of the seventeenth century, Bacon and Descartes, who wanted to sweep away all arguments from authority and start afresh without any prejudices or preconceptions (this is the modern attitude); they envisioned a new science which would rely on reason, experiment, and observation (Galileo belongs with them). They saw humanism for what it had by then started to become, ridiculous and pedantic.

Nor is Pico a typical humanist though often presented as such by people who know no better. Pico spent years studying under the scholastics in Paris and defended them from the humanists, saying that it is better to know the truth than to write well. Pico was condemned as a heretic and had to flee back to Paris, but a few years later a subsequent Pope absolved him. Pico is a hero of free thought, not of humanism.

Scholasticism came earlier than humanism, it is true (it was an earlier form of humanism, since it too represented an attempt at a revival of ancient pagan philosophy), but the scholastics went right on thriving mightily during the period of the humanists, teaching logic, jurisprudence, naturals science and theology, as they always had, and were barely affected by the humanist movement until rather later. The humanist philosophy was concerned only with ethics as related to rhetorical training (according to P.O. Kristeller).Mballen (talk) 01:19, 12 July 2009 (UTC)

Pico did not entitle his oration "On the Dignity of Man". This title was bestowed later by others. It was simply called "Oration." It was suppressed by the church but later the suppression was lifted (by the next Pope). Pico may have been murdered by the Medici for supporting Savonarola, the religious fanatic who burned books and paintings. Pico really is an odd choice to represent the humanists.Mballen (talk) 21:50, 20 July 2009 (UTC)

Question: Why are the "Civic Humanists" or "Florentine Humanists" such as Pietro Pomponazzi not included in the article? There may be a legitimate reason, but I fail to see it.Beau in NC (talk) 13:55, 7 June 2013 (UTC)

No reason afaik. Feel free to add stuff on them (but not just a list please). The article is far from exhaustive. Johnbod (talk) 14:00, 7 June 2013 (UTC)

Template Errors[edit]

I'm getting this ugly error in the infobox...

Error creating thumbnail: convert: unable to open image `/mnt/upload3/wikipedia/en/c/cd/Humanism.png': No such file or directory.

can't figure out how to fix. those who can please do --Davidkazuhiro 23:10, 19 April 2006 (UTC)

did the europeans know about chamelons? i thought that they were in south america or something....


You mean chameleons? Why do you ask? Unfree (talk) 04:54, 11 December 2008 (UTC)

The Epicurean[edit]

Did Erasmus ever write a book called the Epicurean? Why is not mentioned in the article it links to? Chileiceman 21:13, 20 August 2007 (UTC)

Choice of Illustration[edit]

Why use an illustration of Petrarch from the 13th century for this article? Why not use a Renaissance painting, like the School of Athens? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:44, 22 June 2008 (UTC)

Because Petrarch was a key early humanist, which unfortunately the article does not yet make clear. Johnbod (talk) 16:08, 6 March 2009 (UTC)


"...Virgil, who was emerging from the persona as a magus that had accrued in the Middle Ages." Huh? What does it mean to emerge from the persona? Is it anything like emerging from a building? To me, a magus is exactly the same as a magician. How can a magician "accrue"? To accrue is to accumulate, isn't it? What was accrued? (I know that "that" is often used to refer to a person, but I prefer "who".) Unfree (talk) 04:50, 11 December 2008 (UTC)

The persona had accrued, and emerged. Some re-phrasing might be in order I suppose, but it makes sense to me as it is. Johnbod (talk) 16:08, 6 March 2009 (UTC)

The Core Meaning of Humanism: Debate / Vote[edit]

Of interest to editors and readers of this page: There is a debate on the core meaning of humanism (the lead Wikipedia article on humanism as such) going on its Talk Page( ). I've argued that the core article should be broader than what is now described in the opening paragraph. The philosophical version of humanism should not pre-empt the core article on humanism as such, as the term humanism has a long history and is still used today in many senses, often including those that are more positive to religious belief than systematic philosophical secular humanism is. Wikipedia's lead article on this topic should be closer in line with authorities like the Encyclopedia Britannica and the OED's 4th meaning: "Devotion to those studies which promote human culture; literary culture; esp. the system of the Humanists, the study of the Roman and Greek classics which came into vogue at the Renascence." This definition indicates that humanism often suggests the formation of the individual through cultural, particularly literary means. Humanism in this sense cannot be limited to Renaissance Humanism. For example, there is Confucian humanism, Christian humanism, 12th-century renaissance humanism, Matthew Arnold's humanism, and so on. Please consider reading the arguments on the humanism article's talk page and voting in the proposal to move the current article on humanism to "Humanism (Philosophy)" so that another page on the core meaning of humanism may be started, keeping a link to this page as a description of one of the main manifestations of humanism. Wilson Delgado (talk) 14:34, 30 January 2009 (UTC)

For reference: The opening paragraph that I find so misleading now reads: "Humanism is a broad category of ethical philosophies that affirm the dignity and worth of all people, based on the ability to determine right and wrong by appealing to universal human qualities, particularly rationality. It is a component of a variety of more specific philosophical systems and has been incorporated into several religious schools of thought. Humanism can be considered as a process by which truth and morality is sought through human investigation. In focusing on the capacity for self-determination, humanism rejects transcendental justifications, such as a dependence on belief without reason, the supernatural, or texts of allegedly divine origin. Humanists endorse universal morality based on the commonality of the human condition, suggesting that solutions to human social and cultural problems cannot be parochial." Wilson Delgado (talk) 14:40, 30 January 2009 (UTC)
I agree with Wilson Delgado. There seem to be a bunch of ideologues over at the Wikipedia Humanism entry whose knowledge appears to derive chiefly from highly dogmatic anti-religious pamphlets (and whose manners are the polar opposite of humanistic urbanity!) Modern scholarship stresses that Renaissance humanism was not so much a system of belief in man as an educational program. Nineteenth century scholars tended to associate Renaissance humanism with the rise of individualism, but this is now regarded as a Victorian outlook. Individualism is a nineteenth century preoccupation, really, and looking back, nineteenth century scholars projected its existence onto the past. The humanists were humanists because they taught the humane studies (chiefly rhetoric). Recently, Cambridge historian, Quentin Skinner, who advocates looking at ideas in their historical context, has underscored that the humanists tried to revive the ancient values embodied in the study of rhetoric (values that had continuously been taught, but which had become obscured). For example, it was an ancient value that citizens should take part in political decisions and should be educated for that -- see Skinner's book, Visions of Politics, Volume II, Renaissance Virtues (Cambridge, 2002). This is of interest to our world because, after being a staple of education for over two thousand years, the study of rhetoric and of the humanistic values behind it are in danger of dying out. I do think the main article ought to reflect current developments in historiography. (talk) 15:19, 25 June 2009 (UTC)
Thanks for your comments. After protracted debate on the meanings of humanism and the lead paragraph of that article, the best that can be hoped for now is having the disambiguation page get all queries for "humanism." But not many people are speaking up about this on the talk page for Humanism. I think that the article is still misleading people. Still, it is most helpful to have the disambiguation page. Wilson Delgado (talk) 15:53, 25 June 2009 (UTC)
I have fixed the first paragraph. Now the rest of the article needs attention because it is not sourced (to put it diplomatically). A paragraph should be added about the books that Petrarch and his followers discovered, particularly those of Cicero, and their importance. Valla should be mentioned, and his influence on Erasmus. There should also be one on the proto-humanists, such as Marsilius of Padua, who preceded Petrarch. And the rise of the study of Greek with the fall of Constantinople. Any notion that Italian Renaissance humanism was a "pagan" or anti-religious movement should be debunked. In France, the texual scholarship developed by Italian humanists and printers was taken up in the sixteenth century and applied to legal texts. Meanwhile, vernacular poets in every country wrote sonnet sequences in imitation of Petrarch. In sixteenth century Italy, Humanism and the printing industry, became centered in Venice.Mballen (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 06:18, 9 April 2010 (UTC).

Neo-Platonism & Hermeticism[edit]

There are so many problems here I hardly know where to begin. First, Renaissance Neo-Platonism and Hermeticism are seperated from Theosophy and New Age by centuries and numerous intervening developments. Moreover Theosophy and New Age are only two heirs to Neo-Platonism and Hermeticism (and study of Kabbalah) of the Renaissance. It would be much simpler and more inclusive to replace "Theosophy and New Age" with "Western esotericism", a category that includes such disparate phenomena as ritual magic and secret societies and individuals like Crowley, John Dee and Agrippa. Second, it mostly ignores developments outside of Italy. Many individuals in Germany (Paracelsus, Trithemius, Agrippa) were influenced directly by Italian humanists, and others indirectly throughout Europe. This may be a problem with the article as a whole, but I am not knowledgeable enough to make this claim. Third, without better context from the cited source the phrases "intellectual dead-end" and "fringe" appear to be unsubstantiated value judgments rather than NPOV statements of facts. I've amended the phrasing to be more neutral. (talk) 03:37, 19 March 2009 (UTC)

Firstly, you are rewriting referenced material, & I will have to check what the reference says - I don't recall Sir Jack being very polite about the modern descendents (& of course other sources can be found). Secondly the article now linked to is an odd and hopelessly vague effort - I think the others are really more use to readers, and New Age is even more inclusive. The "centuries and numerous intervening developments" are implied, I think. By all means some German names can be added to the short list. And we use UK spelling here I think. Johnbod (talk) 04:32, 19 March 2009 (UTC)
The Esotericism article does need work, to be sure, but I wouldn't call it hopeless. Esotericism is more appropriate in this context because it is a category used by scholars and has a much more concrete definition (per Faivre). As a category has a significant degree of overlap with Esotericism, but they are not one in the same. Theosophy was one thrust within esotericism in the late 19th Century that combined Western and Eastern elements into a distinct new movement (though Theosophists would dispute its newness). Other movements developed during the same time that are categorized as esoteric that did not have mutual influence with Theosophy such as Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Ordo Templi Orientis as well as the continuance of others like Freemasonry. New Age started in the 1960s and burrowed from Theosophy, esotericism and other sources. To some extent all of the above have been influenced by the Neo-Platonism of the Renaissance, but some more directly than others. (talk) 19:54, 20 March 2009 (UTC)
I'm sure this is all true (and could very usefully be added to that article) but we don't need all that here - the 3 links we now have give the flavour I think. Johnbod (talk) 19:59, 20 March 2009 (UTC)
The references to Theosophy do not really belong in this article (or only in a footnote). It is true that Theosophists claimed to be influenced by certain aspects of late Renaissance Humanism, but Theosophy is strictly a movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Likewise the second section of this article expresses a very old-fashioned interpretation of Renaissance Humanism and of Rabelais, in particular, that has been completely discredited by modern scholars. Someday, I'll get to this, if someone else doesn't do it first. They should refer to Nauert's book on Humanism, which is quite solid and reliable.Mballen (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 00:16, 11 April 2010 (UTC).

Relation to Humanities[edit]

I strongly believe that the Renaissance humanism erected the academic field of Humanities. I propose more links between Renaissance humanism and Humanities. If I'm wrong, object! Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 11:08, 4 May 2010 (UTC)

You are correct, IMO. But it is a long and involved story and rather difficult to trace accurately. The Humanists were against the Aristotelians because they didn't read Greek, wrote in an barbarous inelegant jargon-filled Latin, and engaged in hair-splitting arguments, and not for theological reasons. The Middle Ages revered Aristotle (particularly his ethics) but in a Platonist framework, and this went on in the Renaissance. Petrarch felt that the study of grammar, poetry, and history would teach men to write and speak better. Lack of clarity could conceal deception. He felt that is was better to be good than to be learned. The only branch of philosophy that the humanists were concerned with was that of ethics. They believed that becoming eloquent and persuasive could make men good. Despite the humanists, Aristotealiansm, including jargon and incorrect Latin continued for a very long while to be as influential as before in the Universities, to be undermined only by the Scientific revolution of the 17th century.
Petrarch also recommended a clear legible handwriting and simple ornament of books, whereas books of the day were written in a cramped angular style with many abbreviations. Petrarch's disciple Salutati and his circle began to write using the round Carolingian script, which Poggio perfected. It is owing to the humanists that books today look as they do.
I think a good article on Renaissance humanism would touch on 1) precursors of Renaissance humanism a) Albertino Musato and the school of Padua b) the Dictatores (teachers of rhetoric 2) Petrarch's discovery of Cicero's defense of poetry, the Pro-Archia in 1333 and the discovery of other works, such as lost books of Livy, etc. 4) Introduction of Greek studies 5) Epicureanism 6) the Bible and Hebrew 7) Ciceronianism and humanism after the Reformation. 7) the book and printingMballen (talk) 05:42, 6 May 2010 (UTC)

Fallacy of interpreting Renaissance Humanism as "pagan"[edit]

To say that Renaissance humanists were more accepting of "pagan" philosophy than "orthodox" Catholics is absurd. Doesn't anyone see that Aristotle, was as much a "pagan" as Epicurius!!? In any case, Aristotelianism only became "orthodox" after the Council of Trent, which occurred after the Italian renaissance was over. The Renaissance humanists were followers of Saint Augustine, who preferred Plato, as more Christian than Aristotle. They also liked Lactantius, a late Roman Christian who was a big fan of Graeco-Roman literature, as was Saint Augustine. Someday someone can fix this. But in the meantime it is not kosher to go around changing the wording of quoted citationsMballen (talk) 00:48, 29 May 2010 (UTC)

The Use of Christians to Describe a "Secular" Worldview[edit]

There is a mistake here. Francesco Guicciardini, Francis Bacon and Michel Montaigne were Christians, noted on their articles and quotes. Either they must be removed from the examples, keeping the true secularists, or "secular" replaced with "nonclerical". I thought the rewording would help to point this out, since they did not disregard their theology, but strangely combined it with humanism. The real secularists, or at least skeptics/fallibilists/agonists, should be used instead of these to show the secular influence. See the quotes and articles on these three men, and find better examples than them. ~~Fallible&Probable —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:25, 29 May 2010 (UTC)

There is no need to specify that they were Christians. Everyone was a Christian in those days. Francis Bacon, Guicciardini and Montaigne wrote on secular topics and were not members of the clergy, therefore it is confusing to use the epithet "Christian" in referring to their writings.Mballen (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 02:56, 29 May 2010 (UTC).

Second section[edit]

As Renaissance Neo-Platonism replaced the Aristotelianism of Thomas Aquinas, attempts were made to compare the great works of antiquity with Christian values into Christian humanism, such as those by Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola.

One example of such pagan philosophy and Christian doctrine agreement is found in The Epicurean, by Erasmus, the "prince of humanists:"

If people who live agreeably are Epicureans, none are more truly Epicurean than the righteous and godly. And if it is names that bother us, no one better deserves the name of Epicurean than the revered founder and head of the Christian philosophy Christ, for in Greek epikouros means "helper." He alone, when the law of Nature was all but blotted out by sins, when the law of Moses incited to lists rather than cured them, when Satan ruled in the world unchallenged, brought timely aid to perishing humanity. Completely mistaken, therefore, are those who talk in their foolish fashion about Christ's having been sad and gloomy in character and calling upon us to follow a dismal mode of life. On the contrary, he alone shows the most enjoyable life of all and the one most full of true pleasure. (Erasmus 549)

The problem with this section is that it is based on Burckhardt's interpretation of Renaissance Humanism as a "return to Paganism" or an attempt to replace St. Thomas Aquinas with Platonism. This is not born out by the facts. In the first place, as I noted before, St. Thomas Aquinas's Aristotelianism was only declared the official philosophy of the Church after the Italian Renaissance was over and in response, not to the humanists, but to the challenge of Protestantism. The humanists objected to Aristotelianism because of the technical jargon and uncouth Latin used in the universities and also because the Aristotelians adulated Aristotle but did not read him in Greek. They did not object to the theology of the Aristotelians. This continued to be taught in the theology disciplines of universities all during the Renaissance and was not challenged by the humanists at any point (most of them worked for the Vatican, why would they?). Neither did they challenge Aristotelian medicine or science. Nor did they replace it with neo-Platonism. The humanists were strictly concern with rhetoric, ethical philosophy, and the revival of Classical letters. As far as Plato, Neo-Platonism was extremely popular from Late Antiquity and all during the Middle ages and underwent a resurgence in the Renaissance. St Augustine considered Plato virtually a Christian and superior to Aristotle. Dante's Divine Comedy is based on Aristotelian ethics in a larger framework of Christian Platonism, and this was how the Middle Ages and Renaissance viewed the two. Aristotle's ethics rules Dante's Hell, determining the punishments, Christian Platonism and the Theological Virtues rule Purgatory and Heaven. The difference was that in the Renaissance Plato began to be read for the first time in Greek and in Ficino's Greek translation (Pico was not a Platonist, see above). However, according to some scholars, such as Kristeller, there were no differences at all between the attitudes to Plato and Aristotle between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, but rather almost complete continuity. He famously said, the humanists were not good or bad philosophers, they were no philosophers at all. (Of course not all scholars accept this view, but it was considered a salutary correction to errors introduced in the nineteenth century by Burckhardt.

As far as Epicureanism, I wrote a long explanation of the relationship of Epicureanism to humanism, which was deleted by Johnbod as being "too drastic" a change. I hope he will reconsider. (It was only in the eighteenth century that Epicureanism gained real adherents.) I would like Johnbod or someone to respond to this. Since he reverted my work.

Here is my proposed change (which moved some paragraphs around for clarity). First half:

Many humanists were churchmen, most notably Pope Pius II (Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini), Sixtus IV and Leo X,[6][7] and there was often patronage of humanists by senior church figures.[8] Much humanist effort went into improving the understanding and translations of Biblical and early Christian texts, both before the Protestant Reformation, on which the work of figures like Erasmus and Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples had a great influence, and afterwards.

The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy describes the rationalism of ancient writings as having tremendous impact on Renaissance scholars:

Here, one felt no weight of the supernatural pressing on the human mind, demanding homage and allegiance. Humanity—with all its distinct capabilities, talents, worries, problems, possibilities—was the center of interest. It has been said that medieval thinkers philosophized on their knees, but, bolstered by the new studies, they dared to stand up and to rise to full stature.[9]

This view, however, of the Renaissance as a return to "paganism", although popular in the nineteenth century, is no longer accepted by historians. Nevertheless, the discovery of classical philosophy and science would eventually challenge old beliefs.

In 1417, for example, Poggio Bracciolini discovered the manuscript of Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, which had been lost for centuries and which contained an explanation of Epicurean doctrine, though at the time this was not commented on much by Renaissance scholars, who confined themselves to remarks about Lucretius's grammar and syntax.[10]. Lorenzo Valla, however, puts a defense of epicureanism in the mouth of one of the interlocutors of one of his dialogues.[11] Valla's defense (or adaptation) of Epicureanism was later taken up in The Epicurean, by Erasmus, the "prince of humanists:"

If people who live agreeably are Epicureans, none are more truly Epicurean than the righteous and godly. And if it is names that bother us, no one better deserves the name of Epicurean than the revered founder and head of the Christian philosophy Christ, for in Greek epikouros means "helper." He alone, when the law of Nature was all but blotted out by sins, when the law of Moses incited to lists rather than cured them, when Satan ruled in the world unchallenged, brought timely aid to perishing humanity. Completely mistaken, therefore, are those who talk in their foolish fashion about Christ's having been sad and gloomy in character and calling upon us to follow a dismal mode of life. On the contrary, he alone shows the most enjoyable life of all and the one most full of true pleasure. (Erasmus 549)


# ^ Löffler, Klemens (1910). "Humanism". The Catholic Encyclopedia. VII. New York: Robert Appleton Company. pp. 538–542.

  1. ^ See note two, above.
  2. ^ Davies, 477
  3. ^ ""Humanism"". "The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, Second Edition. Cambridge University Press. 1999.
  4. ^ Only in 1511, did a French commentator, Denys Lambin, announce in the preface to the work that "he regarded Lucretius's Epicurean ideas as 'fanciful, absurd, and opposed to Christianity". Lambin's preface remained standard until the nineteenth century. (See Jill Kraye's essay, "Philologists and Philosophers" in the Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Humanism [1996], p. 153.) Epicurus's unacceptable doctrine that pleasure was the highest good "ensured the unpopularity of his philosophy" (Kraye [1996] p. 154.)
  5. ^ Charles Trinkhaus regards Valla's "epicureanism" as a ploy, not seriously meant by Valla, but designed to to refute Stoicism, which he regarded together with epicureanism as equally inferior to Christianity. . See Trinkaus, In Our Image and Likeness Vol. 1 (University of Chicago Press, 1970), pp. 103–170

Mballen (talk) 02:57, 1 June 2010 (UTC)

Addendum: I would like to remove the quote by Steven Kreis. For one thing it is absurd. Medieval costume was far more flamboyant than that of the Renaissance. In the Renaissance Castiglione recommended that people wear all black (except on festive occasions). This was not due to the influence of the orient, but because the revival of the classics signified a revival of sobriety, restraint, and moderation. (talk) 07:44, 1 June 2010 (UTC)

I generally agree we should be looking beyond Burckhardt. On clothing, "The period from the fourteenth century to the seventeenth" covers a lot, in many areas. There was much more extravagant costume in Italy in the 15th & early 16th century than before, before the wave of black (for men only) took over. Costume historians tend to relate this to the vow of Philip the Good of Burgundy on the death of his father, starting a fashion his Habsburg descendants took to Spain & elsewhere, and to the fact that black was the most expensive colour to get dyes for. Johnbod (talk) 12:39, 1 June 2010 (UTC)
I think the flamboyant clothes can just as easily be regarded not as an expression of Renaissance Humanism but as one of continuity with the Middle Ages. Certainly, in the documentary by Roberto Rossellini on Alberti and Cosimo de' Medici (The Age of the Medici), the Florentines are made to comment negatively on the elaborate costume of the visiting Greek Orthodox prelates and their attendants, saying that Florentines prefer to dress simply, regardless of rank. In other words the inspiration of the East, if any, is a negative one, prompting the Italians to want to be less like them not more. I think Rossellini's script was almost entirely based on writings of the period, by the way (it's a wonderful series, now on Criterion). Castiglione may well have been indirectly influenced by the Hapsburgs, as you say, since he does praise the sober attire of the Spaniards. In any case, what is needed is a short account of the historiography of the Renaissance from Burckhardt on.Mballen (talk) 06:23, 3 June 2010 (UTC)
The Medici & their circle liked to affect dressing down as good Republicans for political reasons. There was none of that in Venice, Naples or Rome at the same time. It didn't stop the Medici's artists, like those of the rest of Italy, copying all the styles of the Emperor & his retinue (I presume you mean the Council of Florence in 1437) & using them for all sorts of figures in paintings. Johnbod (talk) 11:16, 3 June 2010 (UTC)
Umm, Are we talking about what people actually wore? Or what artists painted? Alberti was a humanist, the Florentine artists were not.
The quintessential Renaissance ideal of costume would be those depicted in the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, which are quite simple. For example:
Isn't it a bit reductive to ascribe this as the result of "dressing down" for "political reasons"? The book, incidentally, exemplifies the classicizing clarity & simplicity of design recommended by Petrarch and Poggio.

Mballen (talk) 22:02, 4 June 2010 (UTC)

The Effects of Humanism, as visible in societies today[edit]

The main article and discussions all leave me ... unsatisfied.

In studying World War 2, and having lived much of my adult life in China and Korea, I have sought to understand (and explain to my college students) the origins of the differences between East Asian and Euro-American societies. As an example, the Geneva Convention, and treatment of prisoners of war in general, seems to me an excellent example of the result of humanist thinking. Your enemy lays aside his weapon and surrenders. Now you are required to treat him humanely. That is, in Western societies. In East Asia, armies have traditionally not taken such a burden on themselves. Indeed, in East Asian societies, officers and soldiers alike would scoff at the notion of feeding, clothing and providing medical care to their enemies.

And surely this is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, the most obvious difference between societies steeped in humanism and those which have not been.

How about some grounded and directly applicable discussions?

Ertdfgcvb (talk) 05:23, 4 January 2012 (UTC)

Many would say this is originally Christian rather than humanist ethics. Pre-Christian classical civilization was hardly noted for this. Bur Wikipedia is not a blog, or a place for general discussions not related to improving the encyclopedia. Johnbod (talk) 15:26, 4 January 2012 (UTC)

Strict practice[edit]

I partially reverted Editor of 02:38, (talk)4 September 2010 who had changed from "Humanists reacted against this utilitarian approach and the dense jargon associated with it" to "Rather than train professionals in jargon and strict practice, humanists" (. )

I am not sure that this clarified the transition from Scholasticism to Humanism, as this editor asserted. However if that is the problem, I will work on it. For me, "strict practice" makes no sense. Humanists, according to historians, felt that Scholasticism was too specialized and dealt with abstract issues rather than addressing the cares of parishioners. Petrarch wrote about this in his Invective "On Learned Ignorance." He also faulted the Aristotelians for not reading Aristotle in the original Greek and he hinted that they were irreligious. Petrarch also criticized contemporary book design and calligraphy. He said that the spiky lettering and practice of using lots of abbreviations made books appear to be designed for any purpose except reading. He attempted to modify his own handwriting, but it was Poggio Bracciolini in the next generation who introduced a rounded lower-case hand (based on Carolingian writing). Following Petrarch's recommendations, fifteenth century Italian Renaissance books had spacious margins and minimal ornamentation, even before the invention of printing. However, an important point is that scholasticism never really died until long after the Renaissance. Doctors theologians and lawyers went on being trained in the same old way. Mballen (talk) 22:59, 21 April 2012 (UTC)

Part of a series on 'Humanism'[edit]

I note that this is being discussed in part in several sections already, but an article on Renaissance humanism really shouldn't be part of the series entitled 'humanism' as the two refer to different concepts.

All the other articles in the series (Marxist humanism, rational humanism, etc) refer to the definition of humanism that heads it: "Humanism is a group of philosophies and ethical perspectives which emphasize the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers individual thought and evidence (rationalism, empiricism) over established doctrine or faith (fideism)." (taken from the page). 

As the article explains, Renaissance humanism is so called because it refers to the study of the studia humanitatis (humanities) that was undertaken anew during the Renaissance. This article and the 'humanism' series refer to completely different concepts and, while they may be complementary, aren't close enough to be directly linked. It's simply that one word has two different definitions. I'm loath to edit this myself as I think I lack Wikipedia experience, but if someone could sort this out it should be really great! — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:34, 29 October 2013 (UTC)