Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Humanism and some important questions and their answers


1)Write a brief note on the basic concept of Humanism.

Ans. Humanism is an active ethical and philosophical approach to life focusing on human solutions to human issues through rational arguments without recourse to a god, gods, sacred texts or religious creeds. Most generally, it refers to any philosophy that emphasises human welfare and dignity and is optimistic about the power of human reason. Humanism has become a kind of implied ethical doctrine ("-ism") whose sphere is expanded to include the whole human ethnicity, as opposed to traditional ethical systems which apply only to particular ethnic groups.

2) What do you mean by Renaissance Humanism?

Ans. Humanism as a philosophical, cultural and social movement in Europe has its root in Renaissance. This sweeping movement across Europe is known as Renaissance Humanism. Renaissance humanism was a cultural movement in Europe from the mid-14th century Italy (particularly Florence) to the mid-17th century England. The humanist movement developed from the rediscovery by European scholars of Latin literary and Greek literary texts. Initially, a humanist was simply a scholar or teacher of “studia humanities” that involves grammar, rhetoric, history, poetry and moral philosophy as studied via Latin and Greek literary authors. The return to favour of the pagan classics stimulated the philosophy of secularism, the appreciation of worldly pleasures, and above all intensified the assertion of personal independence and individual expression.

3) Trace the growth and development of Renaissance Humanism as cultural movement.

Ans. According to the Renaissance humanist, classical world of the antiquity was the pinnacle of human achievement, especially intellectual achievement, and should be taken as a model by contemporary Europeans. The intellectual heritage of the ancient world had been lost  due to the fall of Rome to Germanic invaders in the fifth century. The only way in which Europeans could expect to pull themselves out of this intellectual catastrophe was to attempt to recover, edit, and make available these lost texts, which included, among others, almost all the works of Plato. The return to favor of the pagan classics stimulated the philosophy of secularism, the appreciation of worldly pleasures, and above all intensified the assertion of personal independence and individual expression. Thus Renaissance Humanism emerged as a cultural force and held sway over European literature, art and culture of succeeding centuries.

4) Mention the remarkable figures of Renaissance Humanism in Europe.

Ans. Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536), one of the greatest humanists, occupied a position midway between extreme piety and frank secularism. Francesco Petrarch (1304-1374) represented conservative Italian humanism. Robust secularism and intellectual independence reached its height in Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) and Francesco Guicciardini (1483-1540). Rudolphus Agricola (1443-1485) may be regarded as the German Petrarch. In England, John Colet (c.1467-1519) and Sir Thomas More (1478-1535) were early or conservative humanists, Francis Bacon (1561-1626) represented later or agnostic and sceptical humanism. Besides, there were humanists like Sir Philip Sidney, Edmund Spenser and John Milton representing spirit of Christian humanism. In France, pious classicists like Lefèvre d'Étaples (1453-1536) were succeeded by frank, urbane, and devout skeptics like Michel Montaigne (1533-1592) and bold anti-clerical satirists like François Rabelais (c.1495-1533).

5) Mention the major texts that contain the beliefs and values of Humanism.

Ans. Giovanni Pico della Mirandola’s An Oration on the Dignity of Man is taken as seminal text in the development of humanism. In it, he talked about how God created man and that man's greatness comes from God. He said that man was like a chameleon. It meant that he could become whatever he wanted to be. He speaks of the infinitely possibility hidden within man. In England, Thomas More’s Utopia, which shows the way of creating an ideal heaven on earth, represents Renaissance spirit of worldliness. Bacon’s essay like Of Truth, Of Study etc. take a worldly and pragmatic attitude to life. Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus represents a Renaissance man’s craving for knowledge, wealth and physical beauty.

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