Friday, June 30, 2017

The Humanities and The Origins of the Italian Renaissance

The Humanities
Beginning in the 1300s, a number of Italian scholars developed a lively interest in classical Greek and Roman literature. Medieval scholars who had studied ancient history had tried to bring everything they learned into harmony with Christian doctrine. By contrast, the Italian scholars studied the ancient world to explore its great achievements.

These Italian scholars stressed the study of grammar, rhetoric, history, and poetry, using classical texts. We call these studies the humanities; people who specialized in the humanities were called humanists. Humanists searched out manuscripts written in Greek and Latin. Often they would find more than one copy of a work. If the copies differed, humanists compared the different versions to try to determine which was most authentic. In doing so they displayed a critical approach to learning that had been lacking.

As humanists studied classical manuscripts, they came to believe that it was important to know how things worked. This belief led them to emphasize education. However, they also felt that a person should lead a meaningful life. Humanists became convinced that a person had to become actively involved in practical affairs such as patronage of the arts.

Humanists viewed existence not only as a preparation for life after death but also as a joy in itself. Along with a belief in individual dignity came an admiration for individual achievement. Many individuals of this period displayed a variety of talents, such as being both poet and scientist.

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