Www.WorldHistory.Biz
Login *:
Password *:
     Register

 

9-08-2015, 15:18

Humanism

Along with infl uencing political theory, war shaped thinking and scholarship in other signifi cant ways. Humanists in Florence at the end of the fourteenth century had become interested in Greek philosophy and literature along with Roman when Coluccio Salutati, the chancellor of the Florentine republic, convinced the city to hire Manuel Chrysoloras, the most eminent Byzantine scholar of classical Greek. The conquest of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453 brought other Greek-speaking scholars, such as Johannes Argyropoulos (1410–87), westward. Florentine intellectuals, most prominently Marsilio Ficino (1433–99), became increasingly interested in the ideas of Plato. Under the patronage of Cosimo de’ Medici (1389–1464), the most powerful man in Florence, Ficino began to lecture to an informal group of Florence’s cultural elite – this became known as the Platonic Academy, but it was not really a school – and translated Plato’s dialogues into Latin. Angelo Poliziano (1454–94), a tutor in the household of Lorenzo de’ Medici (1449–92), Cosimo’s grandson, translated Homer into Latin, and developed methods of textual criticism relying on comparisons of manuscripts and a search for the oldest among them that are still used today. Through these translations, Greek learning became available to a much wider western European audience. Ficino, who would eventually become an ordained priest, regarded Plato as a divinely inspired precursor to Christ, and attempted to synthesize Christian and Platonic teachings. Plato’s emphasis on the spiritual and eternal over the material and transient fi tted well with Christian teachings about the immortality of the soul. Platonic ideas about love – that the highest form of love was spiritual desire for pure, perfect beauty uncorrupted by bodily desires – could easily be interpreted as Christian desire for the perfection of God. Ficino and his most brilliant student, Pico della Mirandola (1463–94), found such ideas not only in Christian and Platonic writers, but also in works they regarded as even more ancient, such as Hebrew mystical texts called the Cabala, metaphysical and astrological works attributed to the shadowy ancient writer Hermes Trismegistus (called Hermetic texts), and number mysticism from the pre- Platonic Greek philosopher Pythagoras. Ficino and Pico understood all these texts to be teaching the same truth: that the universe was a hierarchy of beings from God down through spiritual beings to material beings. For Ficino humanity was the crucial link right in the middle, for humanity was both material and spiritual, body and soul; humans themselves were also arranged in a hierarchy, from the rational and spiritual elite who can understand complex philosophy to the unlearned masses. For Pico, humanity was even more important; as he explains in the brief treatise, Oration on the Dignity of Man (1496), man is the one part of the created world that has no fi xed place, but can freely choose whether to rise to the realm of the angels or descend to the realm of the animals. It is unclear in Pico’s treatise exactly how this fi ts with Christian teachings about the importance of Christ in human salvation (and unclear exactly how women fi t into his understanding of “man”), but for Ficino and the rest of the Florentine Platonists, this glorifi cation of human nature had a clear scriptural base, for the Bible taught that fashioning humans was God’s fi nal act in creation, and implied that God regarded them as worth redeeming. Ficino’s Platonized Christianity emphasized spiritual contemplation and study more than active involvement in the world, which many historians see as a turning away from the ideals of civic humanism. This happened at roughly the same time as the French and Spanish campaigns in Italy, which began in 1494, a period in which courts revolving around powerful noblemen were also becoming the most important cultural centers. These military and political developments did not cause the new interest in Platonic thought, but Ficino’s emphasis on the superiority of an elite fi tted well with the new rulers’ concepts of themselves, particularly in combination with Machiavelli’s notion of virtù , though these were based on diametrically opposite views of human nature. Setting a pattern later emulated by rulers of nation-states, Italian noble rulers hired humanist scholars, along with poets, artists, and musicians, to glorify themselves and their families, making patronage of the arts and scholarship an expected part of governing a territory. Italy had been a destination for religious pilgrims, merchants, and university students for centuries; the Florentine Academy, other humanist schools, and sophisticated noble courts drew young men to Italy from all over Europe, with the French and Spanish military campaigns bringing in still more foreigners. At the same time, Italians trained as humanists traveled beyond the Alps as teachers, diplomats, canon lawyers, merchants, and writers; Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, for example, traveled widely in central and eastern Europe as a papal ambassador before he became Pope Pius II (pontifi cate 1458–64). The historian Polydore Vergil, the scholar and theologian Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499–1562), and the artist and engineer Leonardo da Vinci lived for several years in northern Europe. These kinds of links, combined with the printing of humanist texts, carried humanist ideas and institutions of learning beyond Italy. Humanist scholars gained infl uence as the headmasters of Latin grammar schools and professors of Latin grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic in many universities, but even more through a growing interest in their ideas and writings within the social elites in larger cities and at royal or noble courts. Johann Reuchlin (1455–1519), for example, who had studied in France, the Holy Roman Empire, Switzerland, and Italy, became a legal counselor and judge for several different German states. Conrad Celtis (1459–1508) was crowned the poet laureate by the German emperor and gained imperial patronage to open a humanist academy in Vienna; Celtis also organized humanist discussion groups – called “sodalities” – among young middle-class men in German cities such as Heidelberg and Ingolstadt, which became a network through which ideas and cultural patterns were spread. In France, Jacques Lefèvre d’Etaples (1460–1536) was the tutor to King Francis I’s children, and at the end of his life lived with a group of his followers at the court of Marguerite d’Angoulême, Francis’s sister. In England, Thomas Linacre (1460–1524) became the physician to King Henry VIII and the tutor to his children, and in 1518 he founded the Royal College of Physicians. In Spain, Antonio de Nebrija (1444–1522) became a historian to the royal crown and the head of a team at the new University of Alcalá producing a multi-language edition of the Bible (the Complutensian Polyglot) under the patronage of Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros (1436–1517), the head of the church in Spain. All of these men had studied and traveled in Italy, sometimes as students at Italian universities and sometimes simply as guests of Italian scholars. Scholars and thinkers from outside of Italy often shared the ideas of Ficino and Pico about the wisdom of ancient texts. Reuchlin mastered Hebrew through study with several Jewish scholars because of his interest in the Jewish Cabala, and late in his life he defended the reading and ownership of Hebrew books in a controversy that grew to involve both the emperor and the pope. Lefèvre turned his attention fi rst to a better translation of Aristotle, and then to publication of the works of various medieval mystics, such as Ramon Lull and Hildegard of Bingen, and other writers whom he thought had lived in the fi rst centuries of Christianity. Cisneros bought and borrowed the oldest texts he could fi nd for the Complutensian Polyglot, which ultimately included a Hebrew grammar and dictionary along with the biblical texts. By the early sixteenth century, humanism outside of Italy had developed to the point that a long period of Italian study and travel was no longer essential. The Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus (1467?–1536), the most famous scholar of his time in all of Europe, did not go to Italy until he was nearly forty. He then spent his time primarily at the print-shop of the Venetian printer/publisher Aldus Manutius (1449–1515), working alongside other scholars as he collected Greek and Latin sayings for his Adages . This work presented and explained over 3,000 classical sayings, serving as a guide to classical learning and a source of appropriate quotations for centuries. Sir (and later St.) Thomas More (1478–1535), the most famous English humanist, learned his Greek and Latin in England, and never even traveled to Italy. More was a lawyer who held a number of positions in the City of London and at court before his surprise elevation to the most senior legal position in the land – that of lord chancellor – in 1529. He was in touch with Europe’s leading humanists and many of his Latin compositions and translations were read across the continent. He is most famous for his controversial dialogue Utopia (1516). Utopia , a word More invented from the Greek words for “no – where,” describes a state somewhere beyond Europe in which problems that plagued More’s fellow citizens, such as poverty and hunger, have been solved by a benefi cent government, but in which dissent and disagreement are not tolerated. Whether this followed in the humanist tradition of satire or represented More’s own views was unclear to his contemporaries, and has been a matter of scholarly debate ever since. More and Erasmus typify another aspect of humanism in the early sixteenth century – its increasing concern with reforming the Christian church. Though Italian humanists such as Ficino had been interested in Christian texts and ideas, they were not interested in the church as an institution or in the beliefs of ordinary Christians. More, Erasmus, the French scholar Lefèvre d’Etaples, the Spanish theologian Juan de Valdés (1500–41), the Spanish educator Juan Luis Vives (1492–1540), the German knight and satirist Ulrich von Hutten (1488–1523), and eventually many others were, for they

SOURCE 11 Erasmus, The Praise of Folly (1511)

Erasmus dedicated his satire to his close friend Thomas More, and its Latin title Moriae encomium can also mean “In Praise of More.” The main text is “an oration of feigned matter spoken by Folly in her own person.” Folly is a demi-goddess – like Justice – who argues that everything in life comes from her; her speech includes both silly comments and biting criticism. What is more sweet or more precious than life? And yet from whom can it more properly be said to have come than from me? … What man is it that would submit his neck to the noose of wedlock, if, as wise men should, he should fi rst truly weigh the inconvenience of the thing? Or what woman is there would ever go to it did she seriously consider either the peril of child-bearing or the trouble of bringing them up? … Is not war the very root and matter of all famed enterprises? And yet what more foolish than to undertake it for I know not what trifl e, especially when both parties are sure to lose more than they get in the bargain? … But to speak of the arts, what set men’s wits on work to invent and transmit to posterity so many famous, as they conceive, pieces of learning but the thirst of glory? With so much loss of sleep, such pains and travail, have the most foolish of men thought to purchase themselves a kind of I know not what fame, than which nothing can be more vain … Next come those that commonly call themselves the religious and monks, most false in both titles, when a great part of them are farthest from religion … [And] as if the church had any deadlier enemies than wicked prelates [high offi cials such as bishops], who not only suffer Christ to run out of request for want of preaching him, but hinder his spreading by their multitudes of laws merely contrived for their own profi t, corrupt him by their forced expositions, and murder him by the evil example of their pestilent life. (Erasmus, The Praise of Folly, trans. John Wilson [1668] [Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1958], pp. 15, 16, 35, 41, 101–2, 119.) regarded humanist learning as a way to bring about reform in the church and a deepening of people’s spiritual lives, both of which they regarded as essential. They connected humanism with the movement for reform of the church that was already going on, using textual analysis of Scripture and the writings of the church fathers such as St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, and St. Augustine to criticize many practices of the contemporary church. Erasmus dedicated his satire to his close friend Thomas More, and its Latin title Moriae encomium can also mean “In Praise of More.” The main text is “an oration of feigned matter spoken by Folly in her own person.” Folly is a demi-goddess – like Justice – who argues that everything in life comes from her; her speech includes both silly comments and biting criticism. What is more sweet or more precious than life? And yet from whom can it more properly be said to have come than from me? … What man is it that would submit his neck to the noose of wedlock, if, as wise men should, he should fi rst truly weigh the inconvenience of the thing? Or what woman is there would ever go to it did she seriously consider either the peril of child-bearing or the trouble of bringing them up? … Is not war the very root and matter of all famed enterprises? And yet what more foolish than to undertake it for I know not what trifl e, especially when both parties are sure to lose more than they get in the bargain? … But to speak of the arts, what set men’s wits on work to invent and transmit to posterity so many famous, as they conceive, pieces of learning but the thirst of glory? With so much loss of sleep, such pains and travail, have the most foolish of men thought to purchase themselves a kind of I know not what fame, than which nothing can be more vain … Next come those that commonly call themselves the religious and monks, most false in both titles, when a great part of them are farthest from religion … [And] as if the church had any deadlier enemies than wicked prelates [high offi cials such as bishops], who not only suffer Christ to run out of request for want of preaching him, but hinder his spreading by their multitudes of laws merely contrived for their own profi t, corrupt him by their forced expositions, and murder him by the evil example of their pestilent life. (Erasmus, The Praise of Folly, trans. John Wilson [1668] [Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1958], pp. 15, 16, 35, 41, 101–2, 119.) SOURCE 11 Erasmus, The Praise of Folly (1511) This movement of “Christian humanism,” as it has since been termed, is most associated with Erasmus, who published a new Latin translation of the New Testament alongside the fi rst printed Greek text in 1516, a six-volume edition of the works of St. Jerome, and many other scholarly works on biblical texts. Erasmus also wrote a number of works which became popular with the growing number of middle-class readers – the Enchiridion (1501), a guide to Christian living that focuses on inner, spiritual experience; The Praise of Folly (1511), a witty satire poking fun at political, social, and especially religious institutions; and the Colloquies (1518), a series of dialogues that became the most popular textbook of Latin conversation in grammar schools. In his scholarly and popular writings, and in the hundreds of letters he sent to scholars, friends, rulers, and admirers around Europe, Erasmus accused the church of greed, corruption, and desire for power, and called for a renaissance of the ideals of the early church to accompany the renaissance of classical learning already going on. This renewal would be based on what Erasmus termed his “philosophy of Christ,” which emphasized inner spirituality and personal morality rather than scholastic theology or outward observances of piety such as pilgrimages or venerating religious relics: objects associated with saints and other holy individuals, such as bones or clothing, thought to have special powers. On the latter issue, Erasmus is reported to have commented that it was unfortunate there were only twelve apostles, because fourteen of them were buried in Germany. The movement of Christian humanism is one important root of the Protestant Reformation. A popular saying of the time was “Erasmus laid the egg that Luther hatched” though Erasmus himself denied this, despaired at the religious divisions the Reformation created, and fi rst privately and then openly broke with Martin Luther. Many other Christian humanists also refused to become Protestants. The Reformation (which will be discussed in chapter 5 ) has traditionally been viewed as the end of humanism, as it initially made moderate reform programs coming from within the church hierarchy more diffi cult and restricted lines of communication among scholars. Some of the reform measures advocated by humanists were later taken up as part of the Catholic Reformation, however, so that Christian humanism can actually be seen as a root of both the Protestant and Catholic Reformations. Other aspects of humanism also continued in the later sixteenth century. Whether Protestant or Catholic, schools from grammar schools to universities continued to emphasize classical languages, with Greek and Hebrew added to Latin as standard parts of advanced training. Government offi cials, courtiers, and noble gentlemen were expected to have at least a basic knowledge of Latin, and middle-class parents increasingly recognized that humanist training might open doors to advancement for their sons. Even those who did not have a classical education had increasing access to the most important Latin and Greek works through vernacular translations; by the end of the sixteenth century translations of Aristotle, Thucydides, Cicero, Livy, Ovid, and many others authors were available in Italian, French, Spanish, English, and German. Original works of vernacular literature drew on the stories and themes of the classical past as well, adapting and retelling them orally as songs and plays as well as in print. Humanists since Petrarch had, in fact, written all kinds of popular vernacular literature alongside their classical scholarship, which were often – sometimes to the dismay of their authors – much more popular than their scholarly works.

 

 

html-Link
BB-Link