Defining Humanism in the Early Italian Renaissance

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Defining Humanism in the Early Italian Renaissance

The Renaissance was a birthplace of revolutionary ideas starting around the middle of the 14th century. The earliest traces of this era can be linked back to Italy. During this time, many new ideas as well as resurfacing old ones began to change how the average person thought. One of the major concepts during the early Italian Renaissance was Humanism, though it is important to note that present-day Humanism is an evolution of the Humanism of the Italian Renaissance, and as such they bear some rather distinct differences.

Often called the father of Humanism, a man named Petrarca was “the first major representative [of Humanism]... since his authority and influence gave the whole movement a strong impulse” (“The Renaissance Philosophy of Man”, class handout). Humanism of the Italian Renaissance emphasized learning from classical literatures, and “the major concern of the Humanists was an educational and cultural program based on the study of the classical Greek and Latin authors” (“The Renaissance Philosophy of Man”, class handout). As such, many Humanists greatly admired these authors, going so far as to frequently quote them when the movement began to pick up steam. By reviewing these works, Humanists also laid the groundwork for analytical philosophers of the future by defining many of the methods used to interpret classical Greek and Latin texts.

Humanists had a variety of interests past moral philosophy. They also practiced rhetoric and poetry, as well as, obviously, history. Due to the Humanists heavy emphasis on learning from classical literatures, they began to believe these “classics represent the highest level of human achievement and should hence be the primary concern of every man” (“The Renaissance Philosophy of Man”, class handout). It is because of this that early Renaissance Humanists disliked both the study of logic and of natural philosophy, as they would often contradict the idea that...
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