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Yoga Korunta

Life & Politics

Location: United States

One learns, as nothing endures but change.

14 February 2006

Tuesday's Word

humanism*An attitude of the mind that accompanied the flowering of the Renaissance. The term refers to several varied literary and scholarly activities inspired by the study of antiquity but differing in aim and scope. Humanism in the Renaissance took its name from the studia humanitatis, those studies (grammar, rhetoric, poetry, history, and moral philosophy) that were thought to possess human value: the ability to make man a fully realized human creature, elevated and distinct from the lower animals. The ancient writers of Greece and Rome were particularly revered, as it was felt that they had excelled in such studies and would thus be of value in teaching the modern Christian how to attain the perfections of life. This aspect of humanism, sometimes called the Revival of Antiquity, includes the study of the classics; editorial and philological work on ancient texts; the search of enthusiasts for unknown but extant manuscripts, statues, medals, and coins; the writing of modern works in classical Latin; and the teaching of the classics in universities and to the children of the nobility.

Our English term humanists, used to designate the participants in the above-mentioned activities, is derived from the Italian word umanista, which was first used in the late 16th century to describe a university teacher of the humanities. Renaissance humanist include scholars and poets such as Petrarch, often called the first humanist; instigators of "the revival" such as the Greek scholar Chrysoloras; the philologists Valla and Erasmus; archaeologists and antiquarians such as Poggio and Ciriaco; the educators Vittorino of Feltre and Guarino of Verona; philosophers and antiquarians such as Poggio and Ciriaco of Verona; philosophers, historians, and men of letters such as Pius II and Leonardo Bruni; and a host of secretaries, chancellors, legates, and other royal advisors who, having imbibed the spirit of the period, used their mastery of eloquence in practical labors. Outstanding English humanists during the Renaissance were More, Elyot, and Ascham.

The origins of humanism have been found to lie in introduction of Greek studies into Italy by refugee and other visiting scholars from the Byzantine world and in the economic flowering of the Italian city-states, which provided the necessary wealth and leisure for cultural activities. From Italy, humanism spread north to France, England, the Netherlands, and Germany as well as Spain. By the time of its arrival in the northern countries, however, the purely cultural aims gave way to the needs of the Reformation; theological disputation and educational theory assumed greater importance than the study and imitation of pagan authors and text. In succeeding centuries, the influence of humanism persisted mainly in the school cirricula.

Modern humanism (see New Humanism) only vaguely resembles the Renaissance brand, and is primarily a secular philosophy devoted to the propagation of a self-sufficient system of human values.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good word - how did you come up with this one?


Blogger Yoga Korunta said...

Thanks, John! This week's Word was one of the few remaining unpublished posts saved for days when I was too busy to write. Life has been that way of late!

If you have any ideas for next week, please write!

Anonymous Doug Hoffman said...

How about Manichaeism?

Here's the Wiki.

Blogger Yoga Korunta said...

Thank you, Doug! I will start work on this one for you!

Blogger Douglas Hoffman said...

Cool. It's one of those words that keeps popping up among the literati (especially the political literati). I finally forced myself to read the Wiki and figure out what the damned thing meant.

Looking forward to it.


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