HIS109Y1 Lecture Notes - Coluccio Salutati, Secular Education, Secular Humanism

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18 Nov 2012
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October 4, 2010
-Urban townsmen wanted to use what happened in city walls to benefit them --> need-
ed political power
-Growing new perspective = ideological
-People were replacing the old feudal laws with new ideology
-Needed ideology to define what they were doing + give comfort
-New class: people who made their own way (not born into riches => product of social
mobility i.e. they worked for their wealth, and rose from obscure origins to have power,
-These people were part of the secular world (but weren’t knights or artisans or ser-
-They had to find their own mechanisms to define their position
-They were educated (usually only clergy was educated in order to teach the masses;
nobility didn’t need education to attack people and kill them; they weren’t educated in
crafts) laymen (did own work)
-Their education was for business, etc. --> they weren’t like the other classes
-Secular education = very important to merchants, which kept them going
-Italian cities developed culture of urban, secular life (secular education never really
died out b/c trade in the Mediterranean passed through Italy)
-Italy had advantage of wealth, opportunity, privilege, education
-All the values they held were actually in place for others’ purposes (i.e. it didn’t benefit
the merchants) - e.g. merchants need to take usury to make money, even though it’s
against Christian values
-Merchants didn’t fit into the Middle Ages’ society: couldn’t fight on horseback, they
were educated unlike the masses...
-They looked for ways to reconcile the discomfort they felt about “not fitting in” to the
Middle Age society
-The solution: return to Classical ideologies (which were never altogether lost in Italy)
-New Latin: used in legal docs, used in Middle Ages for prayer etc.
-Old Latin: used in Ancient Rome
-They looked to Ancient Roman Latin to expand their vocabulary (b/c Medieval Latin
was dull and didn’t suit their lifestyle --> they wanted something “cultured”, something
they could relate to)
-They found people in Ancient Rome who were like them: merchants, educated, lived
secular life, worked for a living, married and had children, and worked out own morality
based on what you think is right, rather than doing it b/c a book tells you
-They found books by: Cicero (who was much like them)
-Elements of humanism: use of secular (not religious) values, individual can create him-
-Problem: Romans were pagans!
-Beauty of Roman writings were too great that it would make you think too much of this
world and not spiritual world
-Petrarch: 1304-1374
-Grew up in Avignon; part of urban bourgeois class, realized Latin had value
-He wasn’t part of a group, clan, etc. b/c father was exiled
-Father wanted him to become a lawyer to become part of that class
-He realized men like Cicero were good men - good people to get you through the day;
they can give you good life lessons
-So what if these people were pagans? So they won’t give you salvation - they can help
you in your family life, in your business life, in this life
-He said Cicero was a good man b/c he produced good words (your words reflect your
-What matters to him is nature of individual human; human agency (we make ourselves
who we are) mattered
-Becomes obsessed with himself: was one of first since antiquity who wrote psychologi-
cal autobiography and defined who he was
-Language (words) = tool to describe the essence of your personality, who you are
-Learned about love and writing of love (poetry) from Ancients --> he wrote love
songs/poems but not about the person he was in love with, but he wrote how he feels
about that person, every perspective about how he felt
-Petrarch offered an ideology for humanism to take deep roots because of his explo-
ration of deep feelings and that you need language to express how you feel
-Father of humanism”
-Ideas became so powerful --> he had followers
-Boccaccio d. 1375 --> was Petrarch’s good friend and moved his ideas to Florence
-C. Salutati d. 1406
-Salutati took Petrarch’s ideas and applied them to his life, so imbued with concepts of
the human condition, secularism
-Salutati suddenly became the most important job in Florence