Individualism And Humanism In The Medieval And Renaissance

2016 Words 9 Pages
As the Middle Ages came to a conclusion and the movements towards individualism and humanism began to emerge with the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, philosophy and secular thought gradually took the place of theology as central to European life. While Christianity remained influential throughout the Renaissance, it is clear in thoughts concerning the role of education, political theory, human potential, and temporal matters that there was a tangible shift from theocentrism to a reliance on reason and political thought between the medieval and Renaissance periods.
The role of education in Renaissance Europe was far more secular and comprehensive than that of the medieval age. In a theocentric, theocratic, and authoritarian society, it was
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Churchman John of Salisbury described medieval society as analogous to a human body; every class had its place and function, and all were required to work together to create a harmonious community (Baumer 75). He proposed that individuals were born into “stations,” or parts of society, and would retain their status throughout their lives. In this view of human potential, class structure was rigid, and social mobility was unachievable, despite individual effort. In general, however, medieval thought concerning the afterlife was far less cynical; due to the theocentricity of medieval society, the hope of a heavenly existence after death was nearly universal. St. Augustine, for one, emerged a source of authority on matters of religion. He emphasized that humans were innately sinful and wicked, but had the potential to be reconciled to Christ through penitence. “This is the third state of a man of good hope,” he states, “he who by steadfast piety advances in this course shall attain at last to peace, that peace which, after this life is over, shall be perfected in the repose of the spirit, and finally in the resurrection of the body” (Baumer 41). As ideas concerning human potential and individualism rose with Renaissance humanism, there seemed to be a common theme: the ability of humans to transcend their natural inclinations in order to become more spiritual, or more like God. Erasmus suggested that three conditions determine individual progress: nature, training, and practice (Baumer 128). Children are described as individuals with innate characteristics, such as anger, envy, and ambition. While humans are unable to do anything on their own to resolve these sinful compulsions, they can be educated and

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