Renaissance philosophy

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-C035-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 21, 2021, from

2. Humanism and the recovery of ancient texts

Humanism was primarily a cultural and educational programme (see Humanism, Renaissance; Petrarca, F.; Agricola, R.; Erasmus, D.; Vives, J.L.; Rabelais, F.; More, T.). Humanists were very much concerned with classical scholarship, especially the study of Greek, and with the imitation of classical models. Despite their frequent criticisms of scholastic jargon and techniques, they were not direct rivals of scholastic philosophers, except in so far as changes to the university curriculum brought about by the influence of humanist ideals diluted or squeezed out scholastic subjects. It was humanism that led to the rediscovery of classical texts, and their dissemination in printed form, in Greek and in Latin translation. Plato is the most notable example, but he was rediscovered with the Neoplatonists, and was often read through Neoplatonic eyes (see Ficino, M.; Platonism, Renaissance §1). The so-called ancient wisdom of Hermeticism (also known as Hermetism) was also recaptured within a Neoplatonic framework (see Ficino, M. §2; Patrizi da Cherso, F.), and, along with the Kabbalah (see Kabbalah), led to a revived interest in magic and the occult (see Alchemy §5; Agrippa von Nettesheim, H.C.; Bruno, G.; Paracelsus). These streams also fed into the new vitalistic philosophy of nature (in such thinkers as Paracelsus, Bruno, Campanella, Cardano and Telesio). Other ancient schools of thought that were revived include Epicureanism (see Valla, L. §2), scepticism (see Agrippa von Nettesheim, H.C.; Erasmus, D. §4; Sanches, F.; Montaigne, M. de; Charron, P.) and Stoicism (see Lipsius, J.).

Some humanists wrote important works on education, including the education of women (see Erasmus, D. §2; Vives, J.L. §§1, 4). The Lutheran Aristotelian Melanchthon was also an educational reformer; and the Jesuits drew up the Ratio Studiorum (Plan of Studies) which prescribed texts for all Jesuit institutions (see Collegium Conimbricense; Fonseca, P. da §1). Humanism also affected Bible studies (see Erasmus, D. §1; Luther, M. §3; Humanism, Renaissance §6) and Aristotelianism itself (see Aristotelianism, Renaissance §1).

Citing this article:
Ashworth, E.J.. Humanism and the recovery of ancient texts. Renaissance philosophy, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-C035-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2021 Routledge.

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