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Title: Humanism

The Age of Humanism Petrarchs Role
  • Jess Sautter

Beginnings of Humanism
  • Early Humanism formed in a culture spiritually
    determined by mendicant friars (Dominicans and
  • Voluntary poverty was the center of true
    Christian conduct

  • In the fourteenth century, scholarship shifted
    from the hands of the Church to the hands of
    laymen such as lawyers and doctors.
  • These men revived the classical studies of Greece
    and Rome
  • Instead of focusing exclusively on God and
    religion, they were more interested in human
    aspects such as culture, society, and values.

Principles of Humanism
  • Salutati
  • Man is responsible for his good or bad deeds
  • God does not control a mans will or morality
  • It is better to benefit others by living an
    active public life than to live as a monk, which
    does not benefit anyone other than the monk

Principles of Humanism
  • Bruni
  • Medieval values of piety, humility, and poverty
    not important
  • Attitudes about wealth, credit finances, and
    usury modified
  • Pagan elements introduced into Christian culture

  • Emphasized the dignity and worth of the
  • People are rational beings who possess within
    themselves the capacity for truth and goodness
  • Emphasized the value of the Greek and Latin
    classics for their own sake, rather than for
    their relevance to Christianity
  • Collection and translation of classical
  • Inspired by Plato (Aristotle inspired medieval
  • Centered around education
  • Attempted to develop the character and
    intelligence of pupils by a general literary
    study of the ancient classics

  • Interested in grammar, rhetoric, poetry, history,
    and ethics as an alternative to the Scholastic
    curriculum which laid emphasis on logic, natural
    philosophy (science), medicine, law, and theology
  • Humanism was mostly a new educational discipline,
    not a philosophy of life
  • To write well and speak effectively, it is
    necessary to closely study and to imitate the
    ancient classics
  • Created a new mental outlook by establishing that
    the study of ancient literature and the writing
    of new works based on this inspiration
    contributes directly to the dignity, usefulness,
    and happiness of human beings

  • Stimulated critical attitudes and freed minds
    from the old systems
  • Lessened the ecclesiastical monopoly of learning
    and challenged philosophy to deal with practical
    subjects such as ethics
  • Revived ancient literary forms such as the
    dialogue, essay, familiar letter, comedy,
    tragedy, ode, and the literary treatment of
    history, biography, moral philosophy, and
    political theory
  • Ideal life is dedicated to scholarship
  • Values of the Civis Romanus influenced and
    nurtured the idea of ceaseless activity of the

  • New solutions to all political, social, artistic,
    and ethical problems could be found in the
  • Humanism sought for polish and elegance of
    diction, ease and wit in expression, and, at the
    same time, they wished to avoid involved
    argument, subtle distinctions, and all obscure
  • Restored the whole surviving heritage of Greek
    and Latin literature, edited all of it, and,
    later, brought out printed editions of the whole
  • Introduced the idea of a lay morality which laid
    stress on ethical conduct as an end in itself.
  • Increased the sense of the dignity of man and
    emphasized what man can do for himself

Factions of Humanism
  • StoicRely on the power of reason alone to
    achieve contentment
  • Neither material goods nor misfortune should have
    any meaning
  • Stoicism in a Christian framework was popular in
    intellectual circles as a remedy for the affluent
    and commercialized age
  • Life of poverty is necessary for a wise mans
    independence of mind
  • Every step from poverty to wealth was bound to
    increase human desire, greed, passion, unrest,
    and misery
  • Christian-Neoplatonist
  • Aristotelian-Epicurean

Francesco Petrarch
  • Born in Arezzo in 1304 after his father was
    banished from Florence
  • Began to study law in 1316 because his father
    wanted him to
  • His father died in 1326 and Petrarch abandoned
    his legal studies discovered Cicero, Vergil, and
    the Latin classics began his exclusive devotion
    to literature

  • In 1327 he accepted minor ecclesiastical vows but
    did not accept powerful or prestigious positions
  • Traveled through Europe 1327-1336
  • Given the title of Poet Laureate in 1340
  • Returned permanently to Italy in 1353

Two Periods of Petrarchs Life
  • Great boldness Influenced solely by ancient
  • Ignored his true self because of too many
    distractions (fame, success of Laura sonnets,
    title of Poet Laureate)
  • Awareness of the insufficiency of his earlier way
    of life
  • Need to identify more closely with contemporary
    ways of thinking introduced during the Christian

The First Modern Intellectual
  • Petrarch had a deep understanding of what ancient
    Latin and Greek literature had been in antiquity
  • He was very interested in making literature the
    greatest of intellectual activities
  • Founded philology, the systematic and scientific
    study of all literary and linguistic phenomena
  • Made poetry his sole profession

Petrarch and Politics
  • He was not involved in politics
  • He had a sentimental and intellectual attachment
    to Italy
  • He was interested in individual affairs, not in
    political affairs
  • He viewed Italy as a centralized unity under Rome
    and, influenced by the history of classical
    times, had ideas of a republic or a universal
  • Petrarch believed that the Vita solitaria was the
    supreme standard for living
  • A truly wise man is focused on intellectual and
    spiritual matters, not distracting political

Petrarch and Solitude
  • He felt that being alone, in the absence of
    avarice, was the secret to happiness
  • He was happiest when he lived by himself in his
    country home
  • He never truly integrated into any group or
    society that he joined
  • Autonomy and freedom were needed to apply himself
    to his humanistic studies

Petrarch and wealth
  • Petrarch hated wealth, power, and external honors
  • It was not the wealth itself that he hated, but
    the anxiety, toil, and trouble connected with it
  • He said he would rather live in bitter, abject
    poverty than be wealthy
  • At another time, however, he said that he would
    rather be wealthy because living in poverty is
    only bearable for those who do it in the name of
  • One should not escape wealth, but one should not
    possess it with an avaricious mind

Petrarch as a Humanist
  • Belonged to the Stoic faction
  • However, he often had warm emotional reactions,
    which are more characteristic of a Christian, not
    Stoic, attitude
  • Felt that all of Medieval culture was uniformly
    barbarousclassical-minded scholars and poets
    were needed to lead humanity away from the arid
    Scholastic rationalizing and the cultural
    degradation into which it had been sunk ever
    since the Barbarian Migrations
  • Influenced by Horace, Lucan, Statius, Persius,
    Juvenal, Martial, Cicero, Livy, Seneca, and Caesar

  • Petrarch wanted to pull himself out of the
    physical and mental world around him to live
    imaginatively in Roman antiquity
  • He loved the classical ways of feeling, thinking,
    and writing
  • He admired the polish, elegance, and perfection
    of form of the Classics as opposed to the
    un-Roman Latin of the Middle Ages
  • He took words, methods of sentence structure,
    figures of speech, and stories from the Latin
    classics and gave them a new European life
  • Petrarch had intellectual autonomy and an
    aesthetic, political, and moral outlook on life

  • He combined Classical-pagan and
    Christian-Medieval elements into universal
    humanism, which states that sentiments,
    conscience, and self-analysis are a part of every
    human being, not just pagan or Christian

Petrarchs Works
  • All of his works contain self-analysis,
    meditation, internal dilemmas, and crisis
    concerning moral and cultural values

Secret Conflict of My Desires
  • Petrarch states he had difficulties while
    attempting to resolve the inner conflicts between
    reason and emotion
  • He puts forth the passions which had pushed him
    from one false, petty goal to another
  • Struggles to conquer the passions which stem from
    his lower nature

  • Manifests the beginning of modern consciousness
  • An awareness of the end of the great dogma of
    divine providence which had held much power
  • As a result, man realizes his tragic destiny, his
    isolation, and analyzes his continuous sense of
    dissatisfaction and oscillation between opposing

  • Petrarch seeks the absolute, divine, and eternal.
    He experiences anxiety because he cannot cast
    off his worldly concerns, such as fame and glory,
    and therefore cannot achieve spiritual peace
  • The surface meaning of the work indicates a story
    of unfulfilled love and the different emotions
    that the lover goes through however, there are
    no concrete facts to point to this interpretation
  • Petrarchs love for Laura impedes his search for
    control over and distancing from his human
    aspirations and desires

  • Conflict between divinity (religion and reason)
    and humanity (desire, passion, enthusiasm, and
    poetic activity)
  • Petrarch searches for truth while at the same
    time experiencing conflict between what he is and
    what he should be
  • The style of the work is based on classical Latin

Letter to Posterity
  • Autobiography with moral considerations
  • Classical style
  • Statements about love really concern literature
  • I have always possessed an extreme contempt for
    wealth not that riches are not desirable in
    themselves, but because I hate the anxiety and
    care which are invariably associated with them.
    I certainly do not long to be able to give
    gorgeous banquets. I have, on the contrary, led
    a happier existence with plain living and
    ordinary fare than all the followers of Apicius,
    with their elaborate dainties.

  • I fled, however, from many of those to whom I
    was greatly attached and such was my innate
    longing for liberty, that I studiously avoided
    those whose very name seemed incompatible with
    the freedom that I loved.
  • I possessed a well-balanced rather than a keen
    intellect, one prone to all kinds of good and
    wholesome study, but especially inclined to moral
    philosophy and the art of poetry.

  • Among the many subjects which interested me, I
    dwelt especially on antiquity, for our own age
    has always repelled me, so that, had it not been
    for the love of those dear to me, I should have
    preferred to have been born in any other period
    than our own. In order to forget my own time, I
    have constantly striven to place myself in spirit
    in other ages, and consequently I am delighted in
  • I gave up the subject law altogether, however,
    so soon as it was no longer necessary to consult
    the wishes of my parents. My reason was that,
    although the dignity of the law, which is
    doubtless very great, and especially the numerous
    references it contains to Roman antiquity, did
    not fail to delight me, I felt it to be
    habitually degraded by those who practise it.

  • He offered to bestow that honour upon me at
    Naples, and urged me to consent to receive it
    there, but my veneration for Rome prevailed over
    the insistence of even so great a monarch as
  • Who, nowadays, could hope to equal one who, in
    my judgment, was the greatest in an age fertile
    in great minds? (Augustine)
  • Had I been of riper age I should not have
    desired it. The aged love what is practical,
    while impetuous youth longs only for what is
    dazzling. The laurel brought me no increase of
    learning or literary power, as you may well
    imagine, while it destroyed my peace by the
    infinite jealousy it aroused.

  • I believe that I speak but the strict truth when
    I claim that as there is none among earthly
    delights more noble than literature, so there is
    none so lasting, none gentler, or more fruitful
    there is none which accompanies its possessor
    through the vicissitudes of life at so small a
    cost of effort or anxiety.

Petrarchs Contributions to Humanism
  • Recognition of the true features of classical
    Latin prose and poetry
  • Admiration for Cicero
  • Passion for collecting ancient manuscripts
  • Perception that the future of classical
    scholarship depended upon the recovery of Greek
  • Support for Humanism among the rich and powerful
  • Reconciliation between pagan and Christian ways
    of thinking

Petrarchs Influence on Humanism
  • Petrarch was concerned with individual matters,
    not general problems
  • As a consequence, few humanists of the next
    generations were directly influenced by him
  • Petrarch did not influence many of his fellow
    humanists, either, because his life was so
    different than theirs (isolationism)
  • However, Petrarch is still considered to be the
    father of Humanism because he broke with
    tradition and completely changed the way people
    thought, learned, and lived.
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