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Humanism

Humanism

BIBLIOGRAPHY

In the widest sense, humanism is conceived as referring to an approach to understanding the world and of living in that world focused first and foremost on humans rather than on God or on nature. Although individualistic, never organized in the form of a movement, and highly variegated and including religious and nonreligious forms, humanisms have exhibited various combinations of freedom and responsibility, learning and observation, reason and values. The term itself only dates from the mid-nineteenth century. The descriptive term, humanist, however, gained wide currency from the late 1400s, and the advent of humanism in the West is usually associated with the classical revival of what has come to be known since the nineteenth century, now often contentiously, as the Italian Renaissance.

Humanists were particularly scholars of the Greek and Latin literae humaniores and engaged in teaching what Cicero (10643 bce) had termed studia humanitatis based on a liberal education, especially grammar, rhetoric, history, poetry, and philosophy. From early in the fourteenth century, they began to develop a periodization of history that, unlike the continuity experienced in the Middle Ages, was marked by a break with the civilizations of Greece and Rome. Thus in antiquity could be found alternative models for thought and life. Humanist scholars then, with Francesco Petrarca (Petrarch, 13041374) and his friend Giovanni Boccaccio (13131375) in the lead and establishing a model widely emulated, were engaged in the recovery of classical texts. Using a philological method, humanists further sought to establish the integrity and the original meaning of the classics in the context in which they were written.

Their passion for antiquity and the proclaimed break with the medieval world presented Renaissance humanists with the problem of reconciling Christian and pagan values in a new historical and intellectual climate. Humanists had attacked scholasticism and, instead of in Aristotle (384322 bce), eventually found more congenial philosophical bases in Plato (427347 bce). An associated question was that of an active versus contemplative life and the role of the scholar in public affairs. Lino Coluccio di Piero Salutati (13311406, chancellor of the Florentine Republic 13751406) and the generation of the first half of the fifteenth century tipped the balance toward civic virtue, civic humanism, and made Florence the center of humanist studies. The life and work of Leon Battista Alberti (14041472) epitomized humanism in the arts. Personifying the Renaissance ideal of the universal man, he shared with many humanists a taste for archaeological studies and campaigned for a return to classical models. He advanced realistic representation, systematized perspective, advocated for principles of harmony and the social function of architecture, and put these into practice himself as an architect. The humanists interests in perspective, anatomy, and the mathematical bases of proportion and harmony (including that of music) provided material groundwork for the development of the natural sciences as an autonomous domain of knowledge production.

Humanist thought and practice spread widely beyond the original center in Florence to other parts of Italy and, following the invasion of the Italian Peninsula in 1494, extended rapidly to the north as the new learning. Education, the key to the discovery of ones humanitas, was a fundamental element in the development of humanism. Although the old universities remained in the grip of scholasticism, existing schools were revitalized and new ones established all over Europe to make available a classical education, at least to an elite, and humanist thought prospered in informal groups, correspondence networks, and academies.

While the violence and dislocations of the Wars of Religion of the late 1500s and the attacks on what was considered the heretical idea of personal freedom of thought in the Reformation and Counter-Reformation shook optimism and faith in fundamental human dignity, a renewed sense of confidence and the possibility of progress; a belief in freedom, including freedom of thought and expression, in reason, and in science; and especially an emphasis on a critical outlook marked the eighteenth-century Enlightenment. The corollary to the accent on emancipation and the individual was secularism, indeed an anticlericalism and atheismdifferent from the accommodation that had satisfied Renaissance humanists. However, the reaction to the French Revolution (17891799) offered a sharp rebuff to the way the Enlightenment philosophes had envisioned the world. The ineluctable reality of change brought forth contradictory attitudes toward the meaning of progress and was translated into the mutually exclusive politicsbased on conflicting value setsof conservatives and radicals. Nonetheless, a belief in the centrality of the human experience and the value of reason and education continued to color nineteenth-century attitudes.

During the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century, humanism evolved in the Germanies with an emphasis on the individual (even to the detriment of social concerns), the pursuit of classicism in the arts, education reform, and the assertion of classical roots as a fundamental element in the establishment and development of the German state. In England in the early 1880s, the relative merits of the arts (especially schooling in the classics) and the sciences (and the unbiased truths they produced) in education were debated by Matthew Arnold (18221888), champion of culture and a liberal of the future, and T. H. Huxley (18251895), Charles Darwins (18091882) apologist. But their positions were not so far apart; both were needed. Indeed after mid-century, liberal humanism was characterized by a confidence in a future of incremental material and social progress, supported by the emerging social sciences, whose principle actor or subject, however, was an autonomous, entrepreneurial, propertied white male. By the end of the century, the new liberalism had co-opted much of both the conservative and radical agendas, and the common culture espoused by Arnold was offered as a substitute for equality.

From the late nineteenth century, the European avant-garde contested realist representation (associated with a bourgeois establishment) and the positivist attitude by figuring an internal world, and the twentieth-century wars undermined confidence in an innate human decency and the improvements to be expected from scientific progress. Furthermore, over the second half of the twentieth century, the humanist tradition was assailed in a series of developments in the production of knowledge itself. In 1946 Jean-Paul Sartre (19051980) extolled existentialism as a humanism, not the liberal/bourgeois humanism with its metaphysical assumptions but a humanism grounded in choice and commitment that linked the individual to the community. In 1947 Martin Heidegger (18891976) responded, rejecting humanism and existentialism as metaphysical; instead of the thinking subject, he placed the accent on being.

The scope of critiques of the possibility of any universal humanism widened from the 1950s through the mid-1960s. Léopold Sédar Senghor (19062001) pronounced négritude, a direct attack on universalizing, Eurocentric culture at the world scale, to be a humanism. Alain Robbe-Grillet, speaking for the nouveau roman and in a debate with Sartre, pointed to the double-edged and paralyzing nature of existentialism that underwrote a hegemony of man, a fundamental ideological pillar of modern thought. For Michel Foucault (19261984), conceding the influence of Friedrich Nietzsche (18441900), not only had humanism as a philosophy reached an end but man, a concept of recent invention, would also have to be abandoned (Foucault 1966).

In response to the crisis on the left occasioned by the events of 1956Hungary, Suez, Nikita Khrushchevs (18941971) secret speechE. P. Thompson (19241993) promoted socialist humanism, which was humanist because it places once again real men and women at the centre of socialist theory and aspiration socialist because it re-affirms the revolutionary perspectives of Communism faith in real men and women (1957, p. 109). The movement, founded on the early Karl Marx (18181883), attracted wide support. In 1964 Louis Althusser (19181990) took the couplet to task, associating the terms socialist with science and humanism with ideology by singling out what he called Marxs break with every theory that based history or politics on an essence of man ([1965] 1986, p. 227). Althusser argued that Marxs structural account of social relations gave rise to theoretical antihumanism, which, however, did not rule out ethical commitments. Despite the many valid criticisms, Althussers work was the primary source for what came to be known as structuralist Marxism and rendered humanist agendas on the left suspect.

By far the most far-reaching development was that of structuralism. Based on the work in linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure (18571913), the structuralisms offered the promise of a new rigor and scientific status, nonreductionist and nonpositivist, for the human sciences. But the emphasis on constructedness spelled the end for any humanism founded in essentialist categories, whether human or material. Saussure insisted that languages, systems of signs that express meaning, should be studied not just in terms of their individual parts, diachronically as philologists had, but also in terms of the relationship between those parts, synchronically. The model rehabilitated a version of relational thinking and was appropriated by the social sciences and applied to nonlinguistic phenomena.

The term secular humanism is generally applied to those who embrace humanist principles and contend that these lead to secularism and who reject the supernatural, especially religious faith, while maintaining a belief in the inherent dignity of humankind. It has at times acquired a pejorative tonality, especially when used by religious conservatives to describe nonreligious opponents such as some scientists and intellectuals.

Edward Said (19352003) reclaimed the term humanism in a positive sense to describe a practice for what is in the end a defense against inhumanity: historical, rational, and critical thinking (which includes the philological method) informing responsible, activist social agency.

SEE ALSO Althusser, Louis; Aristotle; Enlightenment; French Revolution; Hungarian Revolution; Plato; Poststructuralism; Revolution; Said, Edward; Schooling; Social Science; Socialism; Structuralism; Thompson, Edward P.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Althusser, Louis. [1965] 1986. For Marx. Trans. Ben Brewster. London: Verso.

Burckhardt, Jacob. [18551860] 1995. The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy. 2 vols. Trans. S. G. C. Middlemore. Oxford: Phaidon.

Davies, Tony. 1997. Humanism. London: Routledge.

Dosse, François. 1997. History of Structuralism. 2 vols. Trans. Deborah Glassman. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Foucault, Michel. [1966] 1973. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. New York: Vintage.

Said, Edward. 2004. Humanism and Democratic Criticism. New York: Columbia University Press.

Soper, Kate. 1986. Humanism and Anti-Humanism. London: Hutchinson.

Thompson, E. P. 1957. Socialist Humanism. New Reasoner 1 (1): 105143.

Richard E. Lee

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Humanism

Humanism


The term humanism over the past several centuries of Western thought has been used to express two different concepts. It is not too much to say that humanism in its original form created the intellectual foundation of the Renaissance. In modern times, humanism has most often come to mean an approach that characterizes all things in a human, rather than theistic, framework and emphasizes human rationality and experience in contrast to classic authority. It is arguable, however, that the adversarial relationship between theism and the human, including scientific knowledge and rationality, that is often imputed to modern humanism is unnecessarily simplistic, ignoring, for example, today's Christian humanists. Moreover, it is possible to detect the evolution of a new, more integrative, humanism as a response to a world whose natural cycles and processes are increasingly dominated by the human.

Humanism in its original sense meant simply the rediscovery and study of classic Greek and Latin language and texts, and the use of them to assess the work of doctrinal Scholastics and secondary commentaries of late Medieval Europe. Humanism during this time was more a cultural attitude and an academic program than a formal conceptual framework or a particular philosophy. Indeed, the first self-conscious humanist, the Italian poet Francis Petrarch (13041374), is notable for urging a new curricula based on original classical sourcesthe studia humanitatis, consisting of grammar, rhetoric, poetry, history, and moral philosophy. During this period, the term humanist had no ideological content and simply referred to anyone, layperson or Church official, who had a competence in classical Greek, Latin, and to a lesser extent Hebrew, and some familiarity with classical texts.

Early humanism led to the recovery of the direct study of the Bible. Many early medieval Church figures such as Thomas More (14781535) and Desiderius Erasmus (14691536), and a number of reformers, strongly supported the humanist approach. In general, however, early humanism was stronger in Italy than in the more medieval north of Europe. Thus, Pope Nicholas V (14471455) is referred to by Bertrand Russell in A History of Western Philosophy (1945) as "the first humanist Pope" (p. 498). Nicholas's apostolic secretary was the epicurean humanist Lorenzo Valla (14071457). Reflecting their culture, the vast majority of humanists were practicing Christians, although they tended to react against the medieval Scholastic veneration of authority. Valla, for example, wrote a long treatise somewhat inelegantly titled Restructuring of All Dialectic with the Foundations of the Whole of Philosophy, in which he purported to demonstrate the invalidity of Aristotelian logic, a foundation of Scholasticism.

As Western culture evolved, however, humanism inevitably began to challenge medieval world-views in fundamental ways. Rather than the authority of Aristotle (384322 b.c.e.), Augustine of Hippo (354430), and Thomas Aquinas (c. 12251274), humanists rediscovered and began to teach classical texts of all types. These not only greatly broadened the knowledge base available to scholars and the educated, but stimulated both increased curiosity about the world in general and a different concept of validity. During the early medieval period, reference to accepted authority was the highest demonstration of truth; humanism over time led to increased reference to the physical world as the ultimate source of validity in argument. The authority of Galen (c. 130201 c.e.) in medicine or Aristotle in physics was increasingly challenged by data and argument derived not from accepted texts but from observation of the world itself. In doing so, humanism created the foundations for the profound ontological shift from the otherworldliness of medieval faith to scientific knowledge that characterized the Enlightenment and, subsequently, modernity.

The Enlightenment is often characterized as a conflict between faith and reason, but that is misleading. Major Enlightenment figures, including on the nascent rationalist side Francis Bacon (15611626) and, later, Isaac Newton (16421727), clearly viewed their scientific work as aligned with the Christian faith, even mandated by it. On the literary side, the Romantic project was seen by many of its leading figures as an effort to modernize and humanize Christian theology in light of Enlightenment science, which had come to represent an independent and in some ways equally powerful ontology. Thus, the poet John Keats (17951821) saw his goal as creating "a system of Salvation which does not affront our reason and humanity" (quoted in Abrams, p. 33), a goal that can be broadly attributed to the Romantic movement in general.

Attitudes toward modern humanism mirror the distortions of the Enlightenment characterization. In particular, the attacks by Christian fundamentalists on "secular humanism" in the United States, especially regarding the teaching of evolution, have created an impression that humanism is necessarily opposed to religion. Secular humanism, a tradition flowing from eighteenth-century Enlightenment rationalism and subsequent freethinking movements, is indeed characterized by a Promethean suspicion of theism and religious authority, and a belief that humans are the measure of all things; it is, however, but one branch of the humanist project. Modern humanists fall into many categories, including literary humanism, characterized by a devotion to the humanities; cultural humanism, the rational, empirical tradition derived from ancient Greece and Rome that forms the basis of modern Western societies; and philosophic humanism, systems of thought focused on human needs and realities.

Of particular interest, however, are the schools of humanism that explicitly integrate religious and scientific worldviews. Thus, Christian humanism, the philosophy that posits the self-fulfillment of humans within the framework of Christian principles and beliefs, has evolved from More and Erasmus through elements of the Anglican and German pietist traditions and philosophers such as Immanuel Kant (17241804). It is represented by modern theologians such as Jacques Maritain, Hans Küng, Paul Tillich, and James Luther Adams. More explicitly, the Unitarian Universalist tradition includes among its seven Principles three that are obviously humanist; they affirm (1) the "inherent worth and dignity of every person," (2) justice, "equity and compassion in human relations," and (3) a "free and responsible search for truth and meaning." The Unitarian Universalists also identify as among the sources of their tradition humanist "teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit."

This integration of faith and rationality will become increasingly important in light of the recognition that, as a result of the Industrial Revolution, population and economic growth, and globalization, the dynamics of most major natural systems are increasingly influenced by human activity. Since this results in a world where teleologies and belief systems are increasingly reified in natural systems through intentional human activity, a rational humanistic understanding, combined with the religious faith that is central to the human experienceperhaps an "Earth systems" humanismmay well be a future evolutionary path of humanism.


See also Aristotle; Augustine; Christianity; Creationism; Evolution; Newton, Isaac; Teleology; Thomas Aquinas


Bibliography

abrams, m. h. natural supernaturalism: tradition and revolution in romantic literature. new york: norton, 1971.

adams, james luther. on being human religiously: selected essays in religion and society. boston: beacon, 1976.

allen, michael j. b. "humanism." in the columbia history of western philosophy, ed. richard h. popkin. new york: columbia university press, 1999.

allenby, braden richard. "observations on the philosophic implications of earth systems engineering and management." batten institute working paper. charlottesville, va.: batten institute at the university of virginia darden school of business, 2002.

derr, thomas sieger. environmental ethics and christianhumanism. nashville, tenn.: abingdon, 1996.


küng, hans, and, schmidt, helmut, eds. a global ethic and global responsibilities: two declarations. london: scm, 1998.

noble, david f. the religion of technology. new york: knopf, 1998.

russell, bertrand. a history of western philosophy (1945). new york: simon and schuster, 1972.

unitarian universalist association. "principles and purposes." available from http://www.uua.org/aboutuua/principles.html.


brad alleby

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humanism

humanism was an intellectual and cultural movement based on the recovery, interpretation, and imitation of Greek and Roman antiquity. It began in the fourteenth century and continued to flourish until the seventeenth, making an impact not only on scholarship but also on literature, art, and science. A variety of different attitudes towards the body can be found in the writings of humanists. What all these views have in common, however, is that they derive from the study of the classical past.

Many humanists were teachers, and in their pedagogical theory and practice they devoted attention to physical development as well as to intellectual formation. The Education of Boys (1450), for example, by Enea Silvio Piccolomini (1405–64), later to become Pope Pius II, is divided into two parts: the first concerned with the body, the second with the mind. Piccolomini stressed the necessity of developing a sturdy physique by avoiding feather beds, silk clothing, and other luxurious items which encouraged softness and effeminacy. Youths were advised to obey Plato's dictum, as recounted by St Basil, that the body should be indulged with food and drink only to the extent that it was of service to philosophy. Relying on the Roman rhetorician Quintilian and the Greek moralist Plutarch (to whom an influential pedagogical treatise was falsely attributed), Piccolomini counselled against corporal punishment, ‘since boys must be led to virtue by rational arguments, and admonitions, not by wounds and blows’. He was nevertheless a keen advocate of energetic physical training and martial exercises, as practised by the ancient Spartans and described by the Roman military theorist Vegetius, since these helped to develop a strong and vigorous body, which his noble and princely students would need for future exploits in battle.

In addition to the pedagogical value of physical exercise, humanists took an interest in its health-giving benefits. The physician Hieronymus Mercurialis (1530–1606) drew on an enormous range of Greek and Latin texts in his Six Books on the Gymnastic Art, Famous among the Ancients but Unknown in Our Times (1559). Although Mercurialis wanted to revive this lost art, he recommended exercising only in the morning and taking a nap in the afternoon, because man's physical constitution had weakened considerably since antiquity on account of changed eating habits and daily routines.

For the French medical humanist Jacobus Sylvius (1478–1555), the difference between ancient and modern bodies was more than a matter of physical condition. A passionate defender of Galen, Sylvius argued that where the Greek physician's anatomical descriptions differed from those of his critic Andreas Vesalius (1514–64), which were based on dissection, it was due to the fact that the massive Roman frame had degenerated over the centuries into the puny body of contemporary man. Despite such cases of misguided devotion to antiquity, the philological study of Greek medical works, many newly available in print in the Aldine editions of Galen (1525) and Hippocrates (1526), contributed in no small measure to the increasing knowledge of human anatomy in the first half of the sixteenth century.

Humanists also gained knowledge of the body through their study of Greek and Latin tracts on physiognomy, which taught them to infer mental and moral characteristics from corporeal signs. In On Good Manners for Boys (1530), Erasmus (c.1469–1536) maintained that a smooth brow indicated a good conscience and that a well-ordered mind would reveal itself through calm, steady eyes. In addition, he showed how to decode body language: crossing one's legs when sitting was a sign of uneasiness, while standing with one's legs wide apart was the hallmark of a braggart. Among the bodily habits for which Erasmus laid down behavioural guidelines were spitting, nose-wiping, and answering the call of nature (to be done in private, but even so with modesty and decency, ‘for the angels are always near’).

Another ancient source from which humanists took ideas about the body was Greek philosophy. Marsilio Ficino (1433–99) translated all of Plato's dialogues into Latin, thus making generally available the Platonic belief that the body occupied the lowest level of reality, that it was the prison of the soul, and that the truly wise man would attempt to escape its material confines through contemplation of immaterial ideas, such as Truth and Beauty. From Epicurus, on the other hand, humanists such as Thomas More (1478–1535) learned to appreciate the value of corporeal pleasures. In his Utopia (1516) More imagined an ideal society, whose entirely rational inhabitants had a high regard for the stable and calm pleasures which derive from health, beauty, and strength, and even took unashamed delight in those which come by way of the senses.

A popular humanist genre was the praise of mankind, which usually included sections on both the body and the soul. The first book, for instance, of On Man's Dignity and Excellence (1452), by Giannozzo Manetti (1396–1459), is a hymn to the beauty, utility, and divine craftsmanship of the human body. Quoting long passages of Cicero's On the Nature of the Gods and Lactantius's On the Handiwork of God, Manetti lovingly describes each organ and limb, noting how man's erect posture, unique among all living beings, allows him to observe and contemplate the heavens; and how the placement of his eyes, ears and nose ‘in the citadel of the head’ is marvellously adapted to sense perception, while nevertheless keeping these delicate organs far away from the bodily equivalent of drains, which, as in the best-designed houses, are relegated to the rear.

Humanists uncovered a more inspiring parallel between buildings and the human body in the architectural treatise of the Roman author Vitruvius. He compared the symmetry of a temple to that of a well-proportioned man, who, with extended hands and feet, fits exactly into both a circle and a square, the two most perfect geometrical figures. The famous drawing of ‘Vitruvian man’ (Venice, Accademia) by Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) is a good example of the way in which the humanists' study of ancient texts influenced the Renaissance perception of the human body.

Jill Kraye

Bibliography

Kraye, J. (ed.) (1996). The Cambridge companion to Renaissance humanism. Cambridge University Press.
Nutton, V. (1988). From Democedes to Harvey: studies in the history of medicine. Variorum Reprints, London.

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‘humanism’

‘humanism’ is the term conventionally used to describe a set of moral and literary values and techniques chiefly associated with the Renaissance of the 15th and 16th cents. It embraced enthusiasm for the Greek and Latin classics in their purest, most original forms; preference for rhetoric over logic as the means to persuade; the belief that good literary education would produce better people; and optimism about mankind's dignity and worth. However, this value-system was neither watertight nor exclusive: ‘humanists’ varied in their attachment to any of these elements, and often combined them with traditional learning.

Renaissance ‘humanism’ originated in Italy: even the word ‘humanist’ in this sense was derived from the Italian for a teacher of grammar. It was through literary and church contacts with Italy that humanism spread to England in the first half of the 15th cent. At first, some English patrons employed Italian secretaries and scribes to prepare for them manuscripts of ancient and more recent texts in the round, open, clear characters favoured by Renaissance book-collectors. Humphrey, duke of Gloucester (1390–1447), youngest brother of Henry V, employed such writers as Tito Livio Frulovisi, Antonio Beccaria, Lionardo Bruni, and Pier Candido Decembrio to prepare texts for him. John Tiptoft, earl of Worcester (d. 1470), collected books in Italy and patronized English scholars working there. The majority of the early English enthusiasts for humanism, however, were not noblemen but academics and churchmen, especially royal representatives at the papal curia such as George Neville, bishop of Exeter, or James Goldwell, bishop of Norwich.

By c.1500 the teaching of rhetoric, poetry, and those classical writers neglected in the Middle Ages had become appreciated at both Oxford and Cambridge universities. Humanist propaganda often depicted the campaign for ‘good letters’ as a gladiatorial struggle against the ‘barbarism’ of Gothic Latin and medieval school-logic. The reality, in England as elsewhere, was rather that humanistic studies developed alongside older styles of scholarship, within the traditional institutions. William Grocyn (c.1449–1519) introduced Greek studies to Oxford on his return from Italy in 1491. The royal physician and Oxford academic Thomas Linacre (c.1460–1524), pupil of Angelo Poliziano, wrote works on Latin composition and also encouraged good medical practice. In 1511–14 John Fisher recruited the famous Netherlands humanist Desiderius Erasmus (c.1466–1536) to teach Greek at Cambridge, and fostered the inclusion of humanist courses within the university curriculum.

The apogee of English humanism as a conscious movement was reached in the first four decades of the 16th cent. John Colet (1467–1519) learned Greek in Italy and taught at Oxford from c.1497; as dean of St Paul's from 1504 he refounded St Paul's School with a curriculum based on the new classical learning. His pessimism about human nature and emphasis on mordant criticism of failings among the clergy, however, were not typical of all humanists. Thomas More (1478–1535), unusually for humanists a lay lawyer rather than an ecclesiastic, cultivated the friendship of Erasmus and produced the most bewildering literary fantasy of the movement, Utopia (1516). Sir Thomas Elyot (c.1490–1546) in The Boke Named the Governour produced an English equivalent of the many treatises on education and politics current in Europe at the time.

As in France, Germany, and Italy, the advent of the Lutheran movement provoked a crisis in English humanism. The older generation of scholars, who had previously mocked or bemoaned the state of the church, rallied zealously to its defence when dogma was threatened. Both Thomas More and John Fisher deployed their rhetorical techniques to lambast reformers such as Luther, Oecolampadius, or Tyndale without mercy. Younger scholars such as Thomas Starkey (c.1495–1538) were pulled between two poles of attraction: the household of Thomas Cromwell, who encouraged humanist writers to produce work defending the royal divorce, the supremacy, and the changes to religious practice; and the group around the expatriate English Cardinal Reginald Pole in Italy, which wavered on the royal marriage before c.1535, was moderate in theological controversy, but stayed loyal to the papacy.

By the mid-16th cent. it becomes impossible to speak of ‘humanism’ as a distinct entity, because its influence was spread so widely. Renaissance techniques for learning classical languages and editing classical texts became generally accepted. Erasmus' Colloquies were repeatedly printed in England well into the 17th cent. Humanist opinions on such issues as structured poor relief, proper family relationships, even maternal breast-feeding became standard elements in the teaching of English protestants. The belief that exposure to vast quantities of Greek and Latin literature, combined with vigorous physical exercise, would produce healthy, moral young men survived in the public school system until about a generation ago.

Euan Cameron

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humanism

humanism

The culture of the Renaissance was modeled on a new doctrine of art and philosophy known as humanism. Based on the revival of classical scholarship in medieval Italy, humanism took man as the new measure of things, and ignored the Christian traditions of miracles, sin and repentance, and ultimate salvation. Humanism lay outside the doctrines of the church, the dominant social and cultural institution of the Middle Ages. It broke with the past in elevating individual talent and inspiration above spirituality and faith. Humanism was the aspect of the Renaissance that had the most drastic and lasting impact on European culture, one that remains significant in modern times.

The study of ancient Latin and Greek authors revived the field of natural philosophythe investigation of the surrounding world, without considering mythology or religious faith, and how that world is organized and functions. The Christian emphasis on humility and faith took a secondary position, replaced by the contemplation of beauty and how a sense of balance, proportion, and seriousness reflects inner virtue. To reach these ideals, education and study of the liberal artsand the classical textswere held as a basic requirement of the well-rounded Renaisssance individual, and absolutely necessary to the ability of a prince to rule justly and wisely.

Humanism was first displayed in the work of Petrarch, the Italian scholar and poet who was the first to offer a critical analysis of classical authors. Petrarch represented thinking contrary to that of the medieval scholastics, who founded their philosophies on interpretations of the Bible and the early church fathers, and on medieval scholars who concentrated on dry, lifeless, logical theories to explain the workings of the divine. Petrarch studied original texts, ignoring interpretations of medieval commentators and striving to reach the original meaning as revealed in the language used by classical authors. He began the craze for manuscript hunting, in which scholars fanned out to monasteries and cathedral libraries to uncover long-forgotten manuscripts and bring the works of Greek and Roman authors to light. In some cases, these newly discovered works had a direct effect on the work of artists and architects; a first-century work by the Roman architect Vitruvius, for example, discovered by Poggio Bracciolini, influenced the design of the dome of the cathedral of Florence, a work completed by the architect Filippo Brunelleschi in the fifteenth century.

Following in Petrarch's footsteps were several generations of scholars, who were invited to Renaissance courts of Italy and offered positions as teachers, tutors, and advisers to aristocrats and princes. Their principle subjects were rhetoric, grammar, music, history, philosophy, and poetry. To have a humanist scholar in one's household was the mark of breeding and good taste; the leading families, such as the Medici of Florence, set up academies within their palaces for an education that would stamp young people with the new outlook and make them loyal to new ideals. Leading humanists of the Renaissance include Desiderius Erasmus, who attempted to combine classical philosophy with Christian outlook, as well as Sir Thomas More, Marsilio Ficino, and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, whose Oration on the Dignity of Man was an important humanist manifesto. In this work, Pico della Mirandola held man to be an essential intermediary between the Divine and the natural world, and unique in his ability to choose his own nature and develop his natural abilities. Writers such as Francois Rabelais adopted the humanist outlook, as did painters such as Leonardo da Vinci, whose wide-ranging genius allowed him to master painting, military engineering, anatomy, and the science of flight. One notable Renaissance humanist, Silvius Piccolomini, also was a scholar of ancient pagan and Christian values and attained the highest position in the church as Pope Pius II.

The trial of the Italian scientist Galileo Galilei represented the climax of the struggle between faith and reason. Having discovered the moons of Jupiter with a telescope, Galileo was forced to explain his observation by a contradiction to accepted doctrine of the Christian faiththat the earth was the center of the universe, around which all other observed celestial phenomena revolved. Galileo escaped with his life, but his works were banned and humanist learning was, temporarily, sup-pressed. But humanism in the way of scientific investigation eventually triumphed over the church's attempts to suppress it, and went hand in hand with the dawning of a new age of reason in Europe.

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humanism

humanism A very wide-ranging set of philosophies that have at their core the belief that human interests and dignity should be of primary importance. Its roots are usually traced to ancient Greece, but seeds are also observed elsewhere: in the Renaissance concern with directing attention away from God and spirituality towards the study of ‘men’ and their work in art, literature, and history; in the progressive Enlightenment concerns with rationality; and in the Modernist movement with its belief in the death of God.

With variations, the humanist philosophies stress with Protagoras that ‘man is the measure of all things’, or with Pope that ‘the proper study of mankind is man’. Most commonly, humanism involves a rejection of religions which place a God at the centre of their thought. Humanist Associations throughout the world (as embodied, for example, in the journal the Humanist) affirm that ‘the nature of the world is such that human intention and activity may play the determining role in human enterprise, subject only to the conditioning factors of the environing situation’ ( C. W. Reese , The Meaning of Humanism, 1945
).

Humanism appears in many forms in contemporary social science. For example, there is a Marxist humanism usually associated with the early writings of Karl Marx, and particularly his concern with alienation. Humanistic psychology, sometimes called the Third Force, stands in contrast to both behaviourism and psychoanalysis, and focuses upon the self and its potential, as for example in the work of Gordon Allport, William James, and A. H. Maslow. There is also a humanistic sociology, identified with the works of C. Wright Mills, Alfred McClung Lee, and others.

From the 1970s onwards a strong critique of humanism emerged in the writings of structuralists and deconstructionists. The work of Michel Foucault, for example, provided an ‘archaeology’ of the growth of the knowledges which centred themselves upon a human subject; the semiological work of Jacques Derrida and Roland Barthes proclaimed the death of the author, and the ‘decentred’ nature of things, thus removing the human subject from the centre-point of creativity; and Louis Althusser claimed that a belief in the human being was an epistemological disaster, an ‘idealism of the essence’, and a ‘myth of bourgeois ideology’. However, despite such attacks, humanism has remained a pervasive influence on Western thought.

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humanism

humanism, philosophical and literary movement in which man and his capabilities are the central concern. The term was originally restricted to a point of view prevalent among thinkers in the Renaissance. The distinctive characteristics of Renaissance humanism were its emphasis on classical studies, or the humanities, and a conscious return to classical ideals and forms. The movement led to a restudy of the Scriptures and gave impetus to the Reformation. The term humanist is applied to such diverse men as Giovanni Boccaccio, Petrarch, Lorenzo Valla, Lorenzo de' Medici, Erasmus, and Thomas More. In the 20th cent., F. C. S. Schiller and Irving Babbitt applied the term to their own thought. Modern usage of the term has had diverse meanings, but some contemporary emphases are on lasting human values, cultivation of the classics, and respect for scientific knowledge.

See M. Hadas, Humanism: The Greek Ideal and Its Survival (1960, repr. 1972) and The Living Tradition (1966); J. Maritain, Integral Humanism (tr. 1968, repr. 1973); R. W. Southern, Medieval Humanism (1971).

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humanism

hu·man·ism / ˈ(h)yoōməˌnizəm/ • n. an outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters. Humanist beliefs stress the potential value and goodness of human beings, emphasize common human needs, and seek solely rational ways of solving human problems. ∎  (often Humanism) a Renaissance cultural movement that turned away from medieval scholasticism and revived interest in ancient Greek and Roman thought. ∎  (among some contemporary writers) a system of thought criticized as being centered on the notion of the rational, autonomous self and ignoring the unintegrated and conditioned nature of the individual. DERIVATIVES: hu·man·ist n. & adj. hu·man·is·tic / ˌ(h)yoōməˈnistik/ adj. hu·man·is·ti·cal·ly / ˌ(h)yoōməˈnistik(ə)lē/ adv.

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humanism

humanism an outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters. Humanist beliefs stress the potential value and goodness of human beings, emphasize common human needs, and seek solely rational ways of solving human problems.

Humanism (often with capital initial) denotes a Renaissance cultural movement which turned away from medieval scholasticism and revived interest in ancient Greek and Roman thought. Among some contemporary writers, the term also denotes a system of thought criticized as being centred on the notion of the rational, autonomous self and ignoring the unintegrated and conditioned nature of the individual.

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humanism

humanism Philosophy based on a belief in the supreme importance of human beings and human values. The greatest flowering of humanism came during the Renaissance, spreading from Italy to other parts of Europe. Early adherents included Petrarch and Erasmus. Modern humanism developed as an alternative to traditional Christian beliefs. This movement, associated with social reform, was championed by Bertrand Russell. See also atheism; existentialism

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humanism

humanism (hew-măn-izm) n. a way of thinking and living based on acceptance of the moral values of humanity. Humanists reject all religious and authoritarian beliefs, emphasizing rational and scientific inquiry, individual freedom and responsibility, and the need for tolerance and cooperation.
humanist adj., n.

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Humanism

HUMANISM.

This entry includes five subentries:

Africa
Chinese Conception of
Europe and the Middle East
Renaissance
Secular Humanism in the United States

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