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Lecture

Humanism


Department
Philosophy
Course Code
PHIL 3020F/G
Professor
Jeffrey Temple

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October 12 Temple
Humanism
What is it? In its broadest sense : principle intellectual movement of the european renaissance.
Renaissance 14th cent- end of 15th 1300-1500: Rebirth, art, renewal, revival. What was it a recovery of?
The writing and literature of the classical world. There is also an archeological component. They look at
material culture of the romans etc. What was the result of this recovery? The rebirth of european
civilization. New age of learning and civility. 19th century idea of recovery.
Jacob Burckhardt (Historian) He wrote in 1860 Civilization of Italy in the renaissance. He argued that the
renaissance was vastly different from the medieval world. The chief sentiment was this emerging sense of
individuality. The new thing for the renaissance was that people saw themselves as separate. They saw
themselves as different from everyone else. He argues that in the medieval world people saw themselves
as members of groups. Member of family, village, catholic church etc. He says people took off the veil of
faith. The church kept people chained to corporate identity. Medieval historians disagreed with this
argument. There was a big backlash from these historians. Example Johann Huizinga--> he argued there
was a gradual decay of the medieval world. He argues there was not a clear break between these two eras.
He talks about chivalry--> Knights were individual in thinking. These knights thought of themselves in
individual terms. He challenges burkhardts theory. Historians argued that there had been smaller
renaissances in earlier times.
If the renaissance is so hard to define how do we define humanism?
Humanism inspires notions of potentiality.
Humanist believes in the potentiality of man.
(this is how burckhardt would have understood humanism)
However what about the humanists at the time? How would they describe it?
Humanism as a philosophy vs as an activity
Humanism enters english language in the 16th century. Origins are linked to latin word Humanitas Which
means: cultural value/ ethics one could gain from studying liberal arts
Studia Humanitas: study of grammar, ethics, poetry, history, rhetoric, (study of liberal arts)
Italian word Umanista: referred to the teacher of the liberal arts.
There is a debate among historians on what humanism was.
It is both. It is a methodology. There are beliefs involved but it is more so a program of study.
There was a goal to the studia humanitas. Belief that these ancient texts could provide a model for
reform. They wanted to rebuild the classical world in their own time. They wanted to master latin. Read
Virgil etc. Greek was also mastered. They can read plato and aristotle in their original language. Hebrew
is also learned for those interested in religion. Battle Cry: Ad Fontes “Back to the Sources”
Humanism is given a shot in the arm by: the printing press 1450. Makes books more common. 1453 Fall
of Constantinople overrun by the ottoman turks. A lot of books poured into western europe. Two
opponents to humanism, University environment and the church.
Universities: methodology of scholasticism dominated the universities (and medieval world)
Scholasticism: one attempts to resolve differences between contradictory ideas. Use the process of
dialectic to resolve the differences. Apply logic and reason to resolve these differences. Tension between
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