A Look into Classical Humanism

Humanism can be described as a way of life that revolves around the interests of people. In particular it stresses human worth and building up self realization through inner reasoning. Humanism was developed in Greece and Rome, and is generally due to philosophy and current literary works during 1400-1650. It is termed “Classical Humanism” because it was born during thattime period. Classical Humanism had an incredible impact during the Renaissance Era. On one hand, people during this era were still caught in medieval times, yet on the other hand, life was beginning to change as new concepts and principles came about.

Before the Renaissance, faith in God and the afterlife seemed to dominate. Eventually, this belief began to weaken as people started thinking more about the here and now, and the importance of the human mind. An aesthetic movement, classical humanism put a lot of interest in beauty. Instead of waiting to see Heaven in another world, people began to look for the beauty that they could see at the moment, in this lifetime. This may explain why beauty seems so important even to this day. Almost everywhere, people began to drift away from faith and began to look at the world through secular eyes, seeing the beauty around them and appreciating it. However, this did not mean that people threw away their respect for medieval authority. They just simply found others that they began to look up to. For example, if people worshipped Aristotle, there was a good chance that they now worshipped Neoplatanism. The Catholic Church became far less powerful because of the Protestant Reformation led by Martin Luther. Churches were no longer able to monopolize learning and ways of thinking as before.

Classical Humanism began in Florence, Italy during the latter part of the 14th century. Giovanni Pico Della Mirandola was a famous for the “Oration of on the Dignity of Man”. It was written in the 1480s, and became an important text on Humanism. Petrarch was another famous person during this time, and was called The father of Renaissance humanism in Italy.

Because of the works of important people during this time, the lives of humans began to change during the Renaissance. First, there were major political changes. The old Feudal system became a much more lenient liberal system. This created arguments, especially in Italy, because the political system was divided up into classes (rich, middle class, and lower class). The upper class, of course, seemed to have the upper hand.

Education saw a remarkable change during this period. Most humanists wanted to be well educated and speak eloquently. Education became an important agenda, and ancient Greek studies such as Aristotle and Plato were revived. People also began questioning science and scientific theories. Merely accepting science was a thing of the past. Testing, retesting, and confirming was becoming the way.

Art and music also saw a change. Artists during the Renaissance were no longer encumbered by having to do as the clergy wanted. They now had free will to explore and create anything that came to mind, and it was not just limited to religious themes. New techniques were also available which included oil painting and linear perspectives. Artistic work in turn, became more complex. Michaelangelo, a sculptor of the Renaissance, proves this with his sculpture of “David”, a nude human body, which had been an object of shame and concealment during the Middle Ages. Leonardo Da Vinci was considered one of the greatest artists of all times. Using the linear perspective, he created a masterpiece called “The Last Supper”, which is not only renowned for its for its dynamic portrayal of Jesus Christ and the Apostles at the Passover meal before the Crucifixion, but it’s also a magnificent example of realistic painting and a hallmark of art of the Renaissance. Music was influenced by Classical Humanism by holding a close relationship between words and music. Composers enhanced the meaning and emotion behind the music more so than ever before. They also used word paintings, which is a musical representation of poetic images. Josquin Desprez, who was a contemporary of Leonardo Da Vinci, was a master of Renaissance music. His piece “Ava Maria” is a perfect example of the way emotion and lyrics were expressed during that period. Even though the church still had an influence on music, composers and singers began to expand their horizons.

Classical Humanism had an effect in every aspect of people’s lives during the Renaissance Era. Not only were people more open minded about life, but they were also learning to think more own their own in regards to God, church, art, politics, and music. This was a major turning point in just about every area of society. Personally, I feel that Cultural Humanism is the roots to our Western Culture. By questioning the past, people returned to education and built a whole new foundation on the way of living. Life after Cultural Humanism had changed forever.

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