Monday, September 14, 2015

The Paragon of Animals

            Where did humanism start in the renaissance? My research pointed me to the introduction of Greek and Roman literature that became more well-known and widespread during the 15th to 16th century. Petrarch is named the “father of humanism” by many scholars. This title for example appears in a review for Carol Quillen's Rereading the Renaissance. He is significant because he was the first of many scholars who did the necessary work of transcribing and reading the great works and discussing them with his contemporaries. This thought of humans being good is a bit obvious to me in our time and day. Inequality is bad, every American deserves their god given rights, every human being should be given an equal chance at their right to live.

            In the Renaissance, this thought of human right and place in the world was different to the prevailing thought of the day, which was that God came first and that all men by nature are sinful and require a redemption. Steven Kreis in his online lectures describes that a normal Renaissance man “lived, as it were, between two worlds. The world of the medieval Christian matrix, in which the significance of every phenomenon was ultimately determined through uniform points of view [or] he had not yet found in a system of scientific concepts and social principles stability and security for his life. In other words, Renaissance man may indeed have found himself suspended between faith and reason.” I would not go far as to say that Humanism is anti-religious, but for that time and age, questioning what your priest was saying and supplanting it with your own ideas was a novel concept. Ironic that this “revolutionary” take on life was gleaned off reading books several centuries older. If the Renaissance man had to choose between science and faith, that may well be true of the modern day man as well.

            Some of our most humanistic writings in America came during the early 19th century. The transcendentalists attempted to logically explain their transcendental views and opinions while walking the line between the absolute ideal and the scientific reality of our world. Men of this group were Johann Fichte, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Edgar Allan Poe. Another man who would be considered outside this category would be Joseph Smith. But we see in his “King Follett Sermon” a claim that is distinctly humanistic, “ We say that God himself is a self-existing being…It is correct enough; but how did it get into your heads? Who told you that man did not exist in like manner upon the same principles? Man does exist upon the same principles…” Though Joseph Smith is not considered one of the great writers, the idea he expresses is on the mind of all the other writers of his time. I don’t provide an answer to the question, but wish to point out that this question holds relevance in our day and can help us understand our place here on this earth. Today in our Post-Modern literature we see several authors and intellectuals still struggling with the same questions that were coming up in the Renaissance.

Works Cited

Kreis, Steven. "Renaissance Humanism." Steven Kreis, 13 Apr. 2012. Web. 14 Sept. 2015. <>.

Smith, Joseph. "The King Follett Sermon." The King Follett Sermon - Ensign Apr. 1971 - Ensign. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 4 Apr. 1971. Web. 14 Sept. 2015.

1 comment:

  1. It's interesting that you point out that humanism resulted in an argument against religion. Although previous perspectives were that man was ugly in his sin, it's interesting that some humanists, like Mirandola, cite the Creation as evidence of Man's divine nature.