Humanism

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  • Topic: Humanism, Secularism, Secular humanism
  • Pages : 7 (2413 words )
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  • Published : April 23, 2013
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Humanism Research paper

Humanism is the philosophical idea that emphasizes the dignity and worth of the individual. The term humanism is most often used to describe a literary and cultural movement that spread through Florence, Venice, Pisa, Milan, Rome and other Italian cities in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. It involved a revival of study of the ancient Latin and Greek authors and trying to see what they actually meant. The time in which humanism grew was called the Renaissance, which means rebirth. Humanism expressed a confidence in humanity’s ability to exert control over nature or to shape society according to its needs and desires. There are many different forms of humanism and it exists in different parts of the world. The collection and translation of classical manuscripts became widespread, especially among the nobility and higher clergy. The invention of printing with movable type “gave a further impetus to humanism through dissemination of editions of the classics” (Encarta 1). Although in Italy humanism developed principally in the fields of literature and art, the movement extended into the fields of theology and education, and was a major underlying cause of the Reformation. Neither religion nor God was rejected by humanists. Their goal was to remove religion as a “prime dominating and obstructive force in their lives and to establish it as one of several institutions in society” (Compton’s 2). Religion was seen to have a logical civil function because it no longer pointed only toward heaven as mankind’s main goal; it opened the possibility of happiness and prosperity on Earth. This attitude toward religion helped create tolerance among humanists. Because they believed in the unity of all truth, “they regarded diverse religious points of view as expressions of that one truth” (Compton’s 2). It took several centuries of conflict and effort before the idea of general religious tolerance became widely accepted. By the late fourteenth century, the term studia humanitatis (humanistic studies) had come to mean a well-defined cycle of education, including the study of rhetoric, poetry, grammar, moral philosophy, and history. One of the most influential scholars in the development of humanism in France was the Dutch cleric Desiderius Erasmus. He also played an important part in introducing the humanism movement into England (Encarta 1). From the universities in England, humanism also spread throughout “English society and paved the way for the great flourishing of Elizabethan literature and culture” (Encarta 1). In central Europe, the idea of humanism was introduced by German scholars Johann Reuchlin and Melanchthon. The humanism movement began in Italy with the contributions from Italian writers, Dante, Giovanni Boccaccio, and Grancesco Petrarch. Italian Pico della Mirandola expressed his humanist views in his Oration on the dignity of man. More thoughts came from Byzantine scholars who came to Italy after the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453, and also by the establishment of the Platonic Academy in Florence. Socrates is the most famous skeptical Humanist (Edwords 4). He stands as a symbol, both of Greek rationalism and the Humanist tradition that grew out of it. Humanism was not confined to only Italy. By the fifteenth century, it had spread north of the Alps (Compton’s 2). If one wanted to study humanism, they would have “to travel to the universities of Italy, but near the end of the fifteenth century such cities as Antwerp, London, Paris, and Augsburg were becoming humanist centers” (Compton’s 2). Humanism north of Italy was not specifically of a Christian type. There was a great emphasis on study of Biblical texts and the message of the New Testament (Compton’s 2). However, the tools with which to study the biblical texts in Greek and Hebrew were not available earlier than the late fifteenth century. When the Bible texts were more fully understood, they were used to “urge reform in the...
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