The Renaissance was a great revolution in Europe from the ways of the Middle Ages. This essay is about the different aspects of humanism evident during the Renaissance (the changes in political philosophy, art and religion). Essay Question: What cultural changes during the Renaissance portrayed humanism?
Humanism in the Renaissance
The Renaissance was a time in which the modern age began, because of humanism. Humanism is a way of life centered on human interest. It was a huge change to switch from a religion based society in the Middle Ages to a people based society in the Renaissance. During the Renaissance, humanism effected political philosophy, art and religious change.
First, political philosophy was severely changed during the Renaissance due to humanism. Niccolo Machiavelli of Florence, Italy was the main source of change. At this time there was much conflict between the cities of Italy. Because of this, Machiavelli wrote a book on his political philosophies to keep the current ruler in power. His book was entitled, The Prince. Machiavelli had a very negative, yet realistic, outlook on human nature. He wrote in his book that it is best for a ruler to be feared as opposed to being loved. His reasoning for this belief was that people are not very faithful; they are likely to stay loyal when things are going well, but when things get tough, they will desert you. If the ruler is feared, people should be afraid to go against him or her. He also wrote in his book that political life should not be governed by one set of beliefs. This belief is humanistic, because a single person’s view holds much more importance. He did not believe the government should be entirely run off of one set of religious views. Machiavelli’s humanistic opinions changed the political philosophy during the Renaissance greatly.
Another area influenced by humanism during the Renaissance, was art. If you compare art from the Middle Ages to art in the Renaissance you can see many differences. In Middle Age art, all of the people in paintings look very similar, whereas in Renaissance art, people were given unique characteristics. This difference shows humanism, because it proves that individuals were becoming more and more important. Individualism was common in artwork now, because artists began to paint portraits and self-portraits. The most famous painting of all time, De Mona Lisa, was a portrait painted by Michelangelo during the Renaissance. Another element used in art was perspective. Perspective gave a picture dimension and it made things appear much more realistically. Perspective reflects on the more humanistic and realistic views people were developing at this time. Middle Age art often portrayed people laboring. In Renaissance art, people seem to be enjoying themselves more, because a people centered society would be much more enjoyable than a religiously based society. The differences between Middle Age art and Renaissance art, really shows how humanism had an effect.
The final change that humanism influenced during the Renaissance was religion. Renaissance can be deciphered from different languages to mean “rebirth”. This certainly was a religious time of rebirth. Probably the largest change was the separation of Christianity from politics. This change is what made European society switch from theocentric to homocentric. This separation portrays humanism, because it follows Machiavelli’s idea that the two should not intertwine. Martin Luther also carried some humanistic ideas. One of his philosophies was that deciphering the bible through a priest was morally incorrect. This philosophy represents humanism, because everyone carries their own head on their shoulders. If you learn the bible through a priest it is likely to be very biased. If you were to read it on your own, you can make your own personal beliefs. Luther’s philosophy shows humanism, because by allowing people to form their own beliefs, you are allowing people to become unique.
Humanism was so powerful during the Renaissance, that it influenced Machiavelli to write a book that changed political philosophy. Humanism also made art work appear more realistic. Finally, humanism changed religion, because society was no longer theocentric. From the religious based Middle Ages to the people based Renaissance, there was much change, because of humanism.