Origin of Renaissance humanism

For humanism it means that cultural movement, inspired by Francesco Petrarca and partly by Giovanni Boccaccio, aimed at the rediscovery of Greek and Latin classics in their historicity and no longer in their interpretation allegorical, then adding even ancient customs and beliefs in their daily lives through which you can start a “rebirth” of European culture after the ” dark ages ” of the Middle Ages.

The Petrarch humanism, strongly imbued with neo – Platonism and tending to the knowledge of the human soul, spread throughout every area of the peninsula (with the exception of the Piedmont region of Savoy), thus determining the accentuation of an aspect of classicism according to the needs of the “protectors” of the humanists themselves, that is to say of the various rulers. In the fifteenth century, the humanists of the various Italian states began to maintain strong links with each other, updating themselves regarding the discoveries made in the various capitular or cloistered libraries of Europe., allowing Western culture to rediscover authors and works hitherto unknown.

To confirm the authenticity and the nature of the manuscripts found, the humanists, always following Petrarch, favored the birth of modern philology, a science intended to verify the nature of the codes containing the works of the ancients and determine their nature (ie the age in which the pine code was transcribed, the origin, the errors contained with which to make comparisons with variants). From the point of view of the areas of interest in which some humanists concentrated more than others, then, we can recall the various “ramifications” of humanism, passing from philological humanism to philosophical humanism.

Humanism, which found its basis in the reflections of Greek philosophers on human existence and in some works also taken from the Hellenic theater, also availed itself of the contribution of the Roman philosophical literature, first of Cicerone and then Seneca. Although the humanism properly said was the Italian and then European that spread in the fifteenth and much of the sixteenth century (until the Counter-Reformation), some historians of philosophy used this term to express certain manifestations of thought within the nineteenth and of the twentieth century.

Historiography on humanism
The term “humanism” was coined, for the first time, in 1808 by the German pedagogist Friedrich Immanuel Niethammer, with the aim of enhancing the Greek and Latin studies within the curriculum studiorum. From Niethammer onwards, the term humanismus began to be used in the German circles of philological and philosophical specialists throughout the nineteenth century, including the Swiss German Jacob Burckhardt, author of The Renaissance in Italy of 1860, and Georg Voigt, author of Die Wiederbelebung des classischen Alterthums, oder das erste Jahrhundert des Humanismus, whose second extended edition (1880-81), translated into Italian by Diego Valbusa (The Risorgimento of classical antiquity or the first century of humanism, 1888-90), made the term familiar in Italy. The contributions on humanist historiography reached full maturity, however, during the twentieth century, thanks to the German naturalized American scholars Hans Baron (coiner of Florentine civil humanism) and Paul Oskar Kristeller, specialized in studies on Giovanni Pico della Mirandola and Marsilio Ficino. In the Italian territory, after the revival started by Francesco De Sanctis in 800, the magisterium of philosophers such as Eugenio Garinon the one hand, and the studies conducted by philologists of the caliber of Giuseppe Billanovich and Carlo Dionisotti on the other, allowed the birth and the rooting in Italy of a solid school of studies.

Self-understanding and goals of the humanists

The educational program and its literary foundation
The starting point of the movement was the concept of humanity (Latin humanitas “human nature “, “the human being, the people awarding”), which was formulated in ancient times by Cicero. Cicero’s aim was to shape humanitas as studia humanitatisdesignated educational aspirations. In ancient philosophers circles – especially in Cicero – it was emphasized that humans differ from animals through language. This means that he lives his humanity in the learning and nurturing of linguistic communication and lets the specifically human emerge. Therefore, the idea was obvious that the cultivation of the linguistic expressiveness makes man really human, while also raising him morally and enabling him to philosophize. From this it could be concluded that language usage at the highest achievable level is the most basic and noble activity of man. From this consideration emerged in the early modern period the term studia humaniora(“More studies [than other subjects] human studies” or “studies leading to higher humanity”) to designate education in the humanistic sense.

Based on such lines of thought, the humanists have come to the conclusion that there is a necessary connection between the quality of the linguistic form and the quality of the content communicated, in particular that a text written in bad style does not take its content seriously and its author is a barbarian be. Therefore, severe criticism was made in the Middle Ages and medieval Latin, allowing only the classical models (especially Cicero) to be accepted. Especially the scholasticismwith its own terminology, which was particularly distant from classical Latin, was despised and mocked by the humanists. One of her main concerns was to cleanse the Latin language of “barbaric” adulterations and restore their original beauty.

The culmination of the cultivation of language came from the point of view of the humanists in poetry, which therefore enjoyed the highest esteem among them. As for the prose Cicero was the epilogue for the poetry Vergil. Very well the art of literary demanding correspondence, which were estimated rhetoric and literary dialogue. The dialogue was regarded as excellent means to exercise ingenuity and reasoning art. The rhetoric has been upgraded to the central discipline. Because many spokesmen of the humanist movement were rhetoric teachers or appeared as speakers, humanists were often simply called “speakers” ( oratores ).

Anyone who thought and felt like this and was able to express themselves elegantly and without errors in oral Latin in classical Latin was considered by the humanists to be one of their own. It was expected of a humanist that he mastered the Latin grammar and rhetoric and knew well in ancient history and moral philosophy and in the ancient Roman literature and was able to write Latin. From the extent of such knowledge, and above all the elegance of their presentation, the rank of humanist depended on his peers. Greek knowledge was very desirable but not necessary; many humanists read Greek works only in Latin translation. [8th]

The intense humanistic interest in language and literature also extended to Oriental languages, especially to Hebrew. This formed a starting point for the participation of Jewish intellectuals in the humanist movement.

Since the humanists believed that as many people as possible should be educated, women were open to active participation in humanist culture. Women emerged above all as patrons, poets and authors of literary letters. On the one hand, their accomplishments found exuberant recognition, on the other hand, some of them also had to deal with critics who complained that their activities were unfeminine and therefore unreasonable.

Philosophical and religious aspects

In philosophy, ethics dominated ; Logic and metaphysics took a back seat. The vast majority of humanists were philologists and historians rather than creative philosophers. This was related to their conviction that knowledge and virtue arise from direct contact of the reader with the classical texts, as long as they are accessible in an unadulterated form. There was a conviction that orientation to role models was necessary for the acquisition of virtue. The desired virtues rooted in the (non-Christian) antiquity, they repressed Christian medieval virtues such as humility, The humanist personality ideal consisted in the combination of education and virtue.

In addition, there are other features that are used to distinguish the humanist image of the world and man from the medieval. These phenomena, which are to be catchword-like with terms such as ” individualism ” or “autonomy of the subject”, are concerned with the Renaissance in general and not only specifically with humanism.

It is often said that a characteristic of the humanists was their distanced relationship to Christianity and the church. But that’s not the case in general. The humanists started from the general principle of the universal model of antiquity and also included the “pagan” religion. Therefore, they had to the ancient ” Paganism ” usually an unbiased, mostly positive relationship. It was customary for them to also present Christian content in classic-antique garb, including relevant terms from the ancient Greek and ancient Roman religion and mythology. Most of them could reconcile this with their Christianity. Some of them were probably Christians in name only, others pious according to church standards. Their religious and philosophical positions were very different and in some cases – for reasons of expediency – vague, unclear or wavering. Often they sought a balance between opposing philosophical and religious views and tended to syncretism. There were among them Platonists and Aristotelians, Stoics and Epicureans, Ministers and Anticlericals.

Although there were also monks among the humanists, monasticism (especially the mendicant orders ) was generally the main enemy of humanism, for the monastic orders were strongly rooted in a medieval spirit. With their emphasis on human dignity, the humanists distanced themselves from the dominant image of mankind in the Middle Ages, in which the sinful depravity of man played a central role.

As regards the assessment of the status of humanity, there was also a contrast between humanism and the Reformation. This was particularly sharp in the dispute over the free will towards God. According to humanistic understanding, man, through the power of his free will, turns to or from God. In contrast, Martin Luther protested in his polemical De servo arbitrio, in which he denied the existence of such free will violently.

understanding of history

The emphasis on ethics, the question of the correct (virtuous) behavior, was also asserted in humanistic historiography. The story was (as in Cicero and other ancient authors) as a teacher. The exemplary behavior of heroes and statesmen described in historical works was intended to spur on imitation, and the wisdom of role models to help solve contemporary problems.

In the school system, however, the focus on ethical issues led to a limited understanding of history; Attention was not focused primarily on history as such, but on its literary processing. The focus was on the work of individual personalities and military events, while economic, social and legal factors were usually treated superficially. Although knowledge of history was imparted within the framework of the science of antiquity, history as an independent school subject was established only very slowly, later than the other humanistic subjects. First, the historiain humanistic teaching systems an auxiliary science of rhetoric, later it was often assigned to ethics. On the other hand, Renaissance humanism for the first time produced important historical-theoretical works; In the Middle Ages, there had been no systematic discussion of historical questions.

Important occupational fields for humanists were librarianship, book production and book trade. Some founded and ran private schools, others reorganized existing schools or worked as tutors. In addition to education, the civil service and, in particular, the diplomatic service offered career opportunities and advancement opportunities. At princely courts or city councils, humanists found employment as councilors and secretaries; they served as publicists, keynote speakers, court poets, historians, and princedor educators for their employers. An important employer was the church; many humanists were clerics and received income from benefices or found employment in church service.

Initially humanism was aloof from university life, but in the 15th century Italians were increasingly appointed to chairs of grammar and rhetoric, or special chairs were created for humanistic studies. There were separate professorships for poetics (poetry theory). By the middle of the fifteenth century, humanist studies had become firmly established at Italian universities. Outside of Italy, humanism in many places was only able to assert itself permanently in the universities in the 16th century.

The roots
Classical thinking about man
The first humanistic affirmation in Western philosophy can be referred to the sophist philosopher Protagora (5th century BC) who, on the basis of the fragment 80 B1 DK, stated:

“… of all things man is the measure, of those who are, for what they are, of those that are not for what they are not. »

This statement shifted philosophical interest from nature to the human being, which, from this moment on, became the central character of philosophical speculation. Man, since the dawn of Greek philosophy, has always been at the center of philosophical speculation since the Ionic and Eleatic school, with the difference that before the human being was seen as part of nature; then, with the advent of sophistry first and Platonic socratism then, the focus has definitely moved on man as such and on his reality regardless of relationships with the forces of nature. With Socrates and Protagora, in fact, we moved on to the stage, in the classifications given by Nicola Abbagnano and Giovanni Reale, “humanistic” or “anthropological”, for which the investigation on man takes place through speculation focused on its ontological dimension and its relationship with other men. After the end of the classical age and the beginning of the Hellenistic season, reflection onZenone di Cizio, founder of Stoicism; Epicurus, founder of Epicureanism; and the skepticism, current evolved from Pirrone and then continue until the full Roman age, try to give man a practical ethic with which to face daily life and the dilemmas of his own existence, including death.

The works of comedians such as Menandro, compared to the universal dilemmas proposed by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, give way to the daily interfamiliar relationships, centered especially on the father-son relationship: “fatterelli of everyday life with sentimental background and happy ending, put in scene for pure entertainment purpose “. This ethical acceptance continues within the Roman culture, both literary-theatrical and philosophical, imbued with the ideas professed by the Hellenistic schools. Beginning in the second century, in fact, the playwright Publio Terenzio Afro, referring to the menandrea tradition, further elaborates the ethical function in theatrical drama, reaching to stretch, in ‘ Heautontimorumenos, the famous joke: ” Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto “, in which:

” Humanitas, for Terence, means above all the will to understand the other’s reasons, to feel his pain as a penalty for all: man is no longer an enemy, an adversary to be deceived with a thousand ingenious tricks, but another man to understand and help »

(Pontiggia-Grandi, page 308)
Along the same ethical-anthropological vein lies within the Roman philosophical culture, characterized by ‘ eclecticism, combining the various Hellenistic philosophies in itself. The proclamation of virtue by Cicero in his writings and the elitist and self-sufficient dimension of the essay proclaimed by the stoic Seneca inevitably refer to the question of human ethical principles, understood not as moral speculation, but as practical life. All themes that will fascinate and conquer, more than a thousand years later, the soul of Francesco Petrarca.

The origins of Humanism

The birth of modern philology

Francesco Petrarca showed, since he was a young Italian exile in Avignon, a deep love for the Latin classics, buying precious codes on the antiques market and trying to reconstruct the pieces of the epic poems, which he loved so much, in collations that they could rebuild the original integrity. An admirer of Cicero, Virgilio and Tito Livio, during his life Aretino consulted from top to bottom the most important Chapter librariesof Christian Europe, in the hope of rediscovering that book and spiritual heritage that he so loved. Thanks to numerous trips as a representative of the Colonna family, Petrarch had important human and epistolary links with those scholars who had accepted his cultural proposal, reaching to extend his network at European level: Matteo Longhi, learned archdeacon of the Cathedral of Liège; Dionigi di Borgo San Sepolcro, an Augustinian scholar working first in Avignon and then in Italy; the cultivated king of Naples Roberto d’Angiò; the Veronese politician Guglielmo da Pastrengo, key to the reading of theEpistles to Attico di Cicerone in the Capitular Library of Verona. Then, during his wanderings in Italy, Petrarca attracted to himself other intellectuals from various Italian regions, constituting “proto-humanistic” nuclei: Milan with Pasquino Cappelli; Padua with Lombardo della Seta; and finally Florence.

The rediscovery of the classical dimension and anthropocentrism
Francesco Petrarca is one of the founders of humanism. The sharp split that he made with respect to the past in philosophical and literary matter produced the birth of that revolutionary movement that will push the new intellectual elite to affirm the dignity of man according to his own intrinsic capabilities, the identity autonomy of classical culture and the use of the latter to construct an ethic in sharp contrast with the Aristotelian scholasticism, seen as far from the purpose of investigating the nature of the human soul. The study of this identity must lead to a revitalization of the ancient, consisting of the study and worship of the word (that is to say the philology), from which the understanding of classical antiquity with all its ethical and moral values. Ugo Dotti summarizes the petrarchy cultural program:

«Praise of human activity, letters as nourishment of the soul, study as an incessant and unstoppable fatigue, culture as an instrument of civil life: these are the themes proposed by Petrarch. »
(Dotti, p.534)

The modernity of the ancients and Christian humanism
Knowing the mentality of the ancients, made possible through a titanic search for manuscripts in all European Capitular libraries, Petrarch and the humanists could declare that the moral lesson of the ancients was a universal lesson and valid for every epoch: humanitas of Cicero is no different from that of a Saint Augustine, as they express the same values, such as honesty, respect, fidelity in friendship and the cult of knowledge. Although Petrarch and the ancients were separated, much to the chagrin of the former, from the knowledge of the Christian message and hence from baptism Petrarch passed the contradiction between “paganism” and his faith “through moral meditation, which reveals a continuity between ancient thought and Christian thought”.

The role of Giovanni Boccaccio
The Florentine roots and the revaluation of the Greek
Petrarch, in the course of his life, had important epistolary links with the scholars who had accepted his cultural proposal. The most nourished group of these disciples of Petrarch was in Florence: Lapo da Castiglionchio, Zanobi da Strada and Francesco Nelli formed the original group, soon joined by Giovanni Boccaccio, admirer of the fame that Petrarch had conquered with his his coronation in Campidoglio, in 1341. The association between the two intellectuals, begun in 1350 and lasted until the death of Petrarch in 1374, allowed Boccaccio to fully acquire the humanistic mentality and, at the same time, also the philological tools necessary for the recovery and identification of the manuscripts.

Boccaccio, soon became the main referent of humanism in Florence, proved (as opposed to Petrarch) deeply interested in the Greek language and culture, which he learned from the rudiments of the friar from Calabria Leonzio Pilato and threw the seeds in his students Florentines. Faithful to the humanist message, Boccaccio entrusted this cultural heritage to the group of young scholars who used to meet in the Augustinian basilica of Santo Spirito, among which the notary and future chancellor Coluccio Salutati stood out in importance.

Characteristics of Italian humanism
Humanism of first and second Quattrocento
The fifteenth century humanism, forged by the presence of humanists with personal traits and the most varied interests, saw in the Petrarchian proposal and then Boccaccian the common base on which to give life to the cultural project of the two great masters of the fourteenth century. Beyond, however, to the widespread diffusion of humanism in various forms and uses, the fifteenth-century humanism saw an evolution that led it to develop interests and directions sometimes antithetical with respect to the first decades of the century, also due to exogenous factors such as the the establishment of the Lords and the strengthening of Platonism at the philosophical level.

The intellectual of the time was forced to confront a historical reality characterized by the crisis of the medieval Commune and, as just mentioned, the birth of the Lordships, while in Europe the national monarchies were establishing themselves. The intellectuals of the time, in order to devote themselves to free intellectual research, chose to bind themselves to a court. This choice had some consequences: the aristocratic elements of their culture were accentuated (it was written to a limited public of initiates); the links with the urban community were loosened (life in the countryside was felt more congenial to literary “idleness”); the links between research and teaching broke down.

The “first” humanism
Essential traits
The humanism of the first half of the century is characterized, in general, by an energetic vitality in spreading the new culture, energy that is expressed through various directions: from the recovery of the manuscripts in the capitular libraries to the diffusion of the new discoveries thanks to intense translation works from Greek to Latin; from the promotion of the humanistic message to the centers of local power to the creation of private circles and academies where the sympathizers of humanism met and exchanged news and information. The discoveries and progress of the various humanists did not remain circumscribed within a precise geographic area, but were spread through dense exchanges of letters based on the Latin of Cicero, on a national scale, promoting in this sense the genre of epistolography as the main means of information.

For a categorization of interests in particular, it ranges, therefore, from a humanism focused on the discovery, analysis and codification of texts (philological humanism) to a propagandistic humanism focused on the production of texts aimed at celebrating human freedom and to exalt its nature through the influence of Neoplatonism (secular and philosophical humanism); from a humanism aimed at expressing the political lines of the regime of belonging (Venetian, Florentine and Lombard political humanism), to one instead more concerned with reconciling the values of antiquity with those of Christianity (Christian humanism). The categorization must not however be made fixed and static, but serves to understand the various interests on which the humanists of the early fifteenth were focused: in fact, more “souls” of humanism can be found in the work of a determined humanist, as demonstrates the eclecticism and variety of interests shown by a Lorenzo Valla or a Leon Battista Alberti.

The “second” humanism
However, starting from the definitive affirmation of the Lordships on municipal and republican regimes (such as the rise of the Medici in Florence, that of the Sforza in Milan, southern humanism born after decades of political anarchy), coinciding with the 1950s and 60, the humanistic movement lost this propulsive and heterogeneous energy in favor, instead, of a courtly and philological immobility. So Guido Cappelli describes the change between the two seasons:

“On the whole, therefore, the physiognomy of Italian humanism is well differentiated between a first phase – the” long “first half of the century, until the sixties – and a subsequent one, which extends until the end of the century… It is then, in the last third of the century [from the seventies onwards], that we are witnessing a process of specialization and at the same time “normalization” of the humanistic culture, which sets out… towards the erudite quarrel and the methodological exquisiteness, but progressively abandoning the innovative and all-encompassing impulse of previous generations. »

(Hats, pp. 20-21)
The end of monolingualism and vulgar humanism

The recovery of antiquity and the cardinal principle of the imitation of the classics (the Ciceronian imitatio) favored, in the fifteenth century culture, the domination of Latin as the exclusive communicative vehicle of humanism. Of this period, we have in vulgar only the Lives of Dante and Petrarch of Bruni of 1436, and the unhappy outcome of the coronary Certamen organized, under the patronage of Piero di Cosimo de ‘Medici, by Leon Battista Alberti in 1441. Exiled from Florence for the hostility that he encountered both in the old Bruni and in Cosimo de ‘Medici, Alberti composed, in all probability,Grammatichetta vaticana (also called Rules of the vernacular) 1442) the first grammar book of the Italian vernacular, emphasizing that in this language they wrote great writers and therefore has the same literary dignity of the Latin language.

Before, however, we see a systematic return of the vernacular as a language of culture and poetry, we must wait at least the 70s, when in the stronghold of Italian humanism, Florence, the vulgar poetry regained vigor thanks to the cultural policy of Lorenzo the Magnificent, which with the patronage of the Stanze del Poliziano and the Morgante del Pulci intended to export the Tuscan lyrical production in the rest of Italy, thus sanctioning its superiority. The most explicit sign of this renaissance of the vernacular is the gift to Frederick of Aragon, Aragonese Collection, a literary anthology prepared by Poliziano commissioned by Lorenzo in which the great Tuscan poets from the fourteenth century up to Lorenzo himself are compared, with the classics. At the same time, this political and cultural operation, which marks the birth of vulgar humanism, is proudly recalled by Poliziano himself in a missive that served as a basis for gathering:

“Neither is anyone more than that Tuscan language as little ornate and copious scorn. Because, if rightly its riches and ornaments will be estimated, not poor this language, but abundant and very politick will be considered. »

(Agnolo Poliziano in Guglielmino-Grosser, p.280)

Humanist pedagogy
The scholastic program adopted by the early pedagogical theorists of humanism, namely Guarino Veronese (a pupil of Giovanni Conversini in turn) and Vittorino da Feltre, reflected a methodological revolution with respect to medieval teaching. The humanist pedagogy, adopting, on the Platonic model, dialogue as a means of knowledge, intended to involve the student in the learning process through a cordial and sweet climate, totally abolishing physical violence.

The humanist pedagogical program provided for the direct study of the classics (Latin was learned directly on the text, and not relying on excessive grammatical medieval theory, while the Greek was studied on the Erotemata of Chrysolora), and then penetrated into the literary and then in the sciences of studia humanitatis: history, moral philosophy (which was based on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics), philology, historiography and rhetoric. Furthermore, physical exercises were reintroduced into school curriculums, because in addition to the soul, the body had to be rightly trained in the name of human completeness. This course of study, based theoretically on the De liberis educandis of Plutarch, was to form a virtuous man and a Christian convinced of his faith, so that he could better manage the State according to honesty and moral rectitude.

Source from Wikipedia