Monday, September 14, 2015

Oh, the Humanity!!!!

"God Made Man and His Reason"-Young the Giant

The Renaissance humanists argued that among all observable creations, man was exceptional. Mirandola argued that this was because of man's potential, his agency to choose either to associate with base creations and give in to his more brutish side or to nurture the inner intellectual and make himself heavenly. What is interesting about Mirandola's argument is that it focuses on man's greatness in relation to his agency. Man is exceptional because of what they can become, not necessarily for what they are, "On man when he came into life the Father conferred the seeds of all kinds and the germs of every way of life"(Mirandola).
In reading the works of other humanists, I wonder if this perspective was popular. Consider the contrasting characters of Ferdinand and Caliban in The Tempest. Although Ferdinand is a relation of Prospero's old enemy, he recieves more respect than Caliban had because of the civility of his manner. Caliban, the island native, is portrayed as physically ugly and naturally treacherous. Although Prospero tried to educate him, he rebelled and assaulted his daughter. Ferdinand desires Miranda as well, and Miranda in this situation acts as a chalice to be bestowed upon the winner. Mirandola's agency doesn't appear to play a part in Shakespeare's humanism.
Currently, social media plays an enormous part in modern-day humanism. We have access to the knowledge, but does culture translate? For example, among the "Never Forget" memorial posts dedicated to the victims of the September 11th Trade Center bombings Islamic youth across America responded with their own "Never Forget" posts about how their own lives were hurt due to the proximity hatred they became the victims of. Social media has been acknowledged as a tool used by revolutionaries during the Egyptian Arab Spring, as a way to raise awareness of police brutality in the United States. It's apparent that humanism in the modern century is about bringing awareness down to the individual level, rather than identifying and uplifting all of humanity.
In considering Shakesperean ideals of humanity and the reality of the modern era, Mousley postures that "It may be that the egalitarian concept of a common humanity in which women and men are bound together by their recognition of similar emotional needs, is not enough to withstand the pressures and/or pleasures of individuality, diversity, cultural difference and the tendency...for people to be explicably or inexplicably drawn to some more than others"(174 Mousley).

Mirandola, Pico della. "On the Origin and Dignity of Man." Web.

Mousley, Andy. Re-humanising Shakespeare: Literary humanism, wisdom and modernity. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015. eBook.


  1. I love your thoughts about choice. Choice seems to be a new celebrated thought, but it seems to be the celebration of the white intellectual man's ability to chose and become like God. It is fascinating to see the evolution from then to now of who is considered human.

  2. Good video! In regards to your post your thought process and questions are provoking. I like the connection with modern day humanity and the question of whether the Renaissance humanism was more based around humanity as a whole rather than celebrate the individual as we do today.