The Renaissance, which began in Italy in 1300s, was one of the largest periods of growth and development in Western Europe. The increase in trade caused an abundance in wealth that resulted in the focusing of the arts. Such things as literature, paintings, sculptures and many more works are known to have blossomed from the period known as the Renaissance. The Renaissance was started by many rich Italian cities, such as Florence, Ferrara, Milan, and Venice (Bram 274). Because these cities were very wealthy, many merchants started to spend money on different things, such as painting, learning, new banking techniques, and new systems of government. These things gave rise to a new type of scholar, the humanist, and a new philosophy, humanism.
To understand the term humanism, one must first know what some assume humanism to be. Many definitions are widely proclaimed by different groups and organizations. The American Humanist Association(AHA) defines humanism as
arational philosophy informedbyscience, inspired by art, and motivated by compassion. Affirming the dignity of each human being, it supports the maximization of individual liberty and opportunity consonant with social and planetary responsibility. It advocates the extension of participatory democracy and the expansion of the open society, standing for human rights and social justice. Free of supernaturalism, it recognizes human beings as a part of nature and holds that values–be they religious, ethical, social, or political–have their source in human experience and culture. Humanism thus derives the goals of life from human need and interest rather than from theological or ideological abstractions, and asserts that humanity must take responsibilityfor itsown destiny. (Schafersman)
Humanism is also defined as “a democratic and ethical” point of view on life that reiterates the fact that human beings have the right to and responsibility of giving meaning to and shaping one’s own life, according to the International Humanist and Ethical Union (Schafersman). The Union also believes their philosophical view on humanism “stands for the building of a
more humane society through ethics” based upon the reason and the inquisitive capabilities of the human nature. The Bristol Humanist Group’s view on their ideology is much simpler. It states, “Humanism is an approach to life based on reason and our common humanity, recognizing that moral values are properly founded on human nature and experience alone” (Schafersman).
This new word, humanist, and the principal practice became more prevalent during the late 15th-century in Italy and was used to describe a tutor or teacher of the “humanities”. The word humanities refers to “those subjects which formed the curriculum
in the educational program formulated by Florentines like Leonardo Bruni” (Hays 9). These formulations were put into regular practice by Guarino da Verona and Vittorino da Feltre (Hays 9). The new form of education was set up for the purpose of educating the young adolescent males of the Renaissance for a productive and active life of service within the community. This goal was achieved by providing the young scholars with a “solid stock of knowledge,” along with a sturdy foundation of morality, along with the eloquent tongue and graceful hand of a well fluent
statesman (Hays 9). Some of the other works the young students were made to learn about were those of not just Plato, but also ofDionysius,Alexander,Plutarch,and Trajan. This new
educational outlook put more emphasis on the attitude that was less God-centered, and more self or human-centered.
The Latin language was one of the many antiquities that was acquired by these scholarly humanists.The works of the great thinkers of Greek and Roman decent were now upheld in high regard. The humanists of the day did, and still do, believe them to contain both the “lessons one needed to lead a moral and effective life and the best models for a powerful Latin style” (Billington). The humanist movement started in Italy, where the late medieval Italian writers Dante, Giovanni Boccaccio, and Francesco Petrarch greatly contributed to the finding and conservation of classical works (Danto). The study of this ancient grammatical rhetoric led in turn to the interest into the Roman literatures. “Humanists were not necessarilysusceptibletoartisticexperience.”Their admiration for antique art was often motivated by aesthetic interests