Middle Ages vs. the Renaissance

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There are many contrasts in the beliefs and values of the Renaissance and the Middle Ages. The Middle Ages was a time of great suffering, including famine and widespread disease. The Renaissance, however, was a revival of art, learning, and literature. Their views of the purpose of life in the present world and man's place in the world was, perhaps, the greatest contrast. However, their views on politics, religion, and education were very different as well.

The purpose of life and man's place in the world was viewed differently during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. During the Middle Ages, also known as "The Age of Faith," man's purpose was to serve God. Life was looked upon as a journey. The focus of life was on the afterlife because there were no guarantees in the present life. The life of highest value was the contemplative life, one devoted to God. The passive virtues such as compassion, suffering, and humility were highly regarded. God was the center of man's world during the Middle Ages. On the Great Chain of Being, man was below God and the angels and above the animals, plants, and inanimate objects.

In sharp contrast, man's purpose during the Renaissance was to exercise one's virtu, or one's excellence as a man. People believed that life should be lived for itself, and the beauty of this world should be appreciated in the here and now. The focus of life was on the secular world of the here and now. Active virtues such as courage, intelligence, and a skill in many fields were highly valued during this time. The greatest virtu of the Renaissance was action. There was a zest for living, and man began to love the rich, ornate, and lavish lifestyle. The concept of hard work to obtain secular goals was conceived during the Renaissance. Man strongly agreed with the Greek view, "Man is the measure of all things," and was viewed as the center of the world.

Another contrasting view was that of politics. During the Middle Ages, the political structure...
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