If there is such a thing as a "manifesto" of the Italian Renaissance, Pico della Mirandola's "Oration on the Dignity of Man" is it; no other work more forcefully, eloquently, or thoroughly remaps the human landscape to centre all attention on human capacity and the human perspective. Pico was a "humanist," following a way of thinking that originated as far back as the fourteenth century. Late Medieval and Renaissance humanism was a response to the dry concerns for logic and linguistics that animated the other great late Medieval Christian philosophy, Scholasticism. The Humanists, rather than focussing on what they considered futile questions of logic and semantics, focussed on the relation of the human to the divine, seeing in human beings the summit and purpose of God's creation. Their concern was to define the human place in God's plan and the relation of the human to the divine; therefore, they centred all their thought on the "human" relation to the divine, and hence called themselves "humanists." At no point do they ignore their religion; humanism is first and foremost a religious movement, not a secular one (what we call "secular humanism" in modern political discourse is a world view that arises in part from "humanism" but is, nevertheless, essentially conceived in opposition to "humanism"). You can read the whole of the Oratio (only 68 pages) by clicking the image or following the link HERE.
The early sixteenth century marked a watershed period for political writings on the art of governing. In 1516, Erasmus placed into the hands of a printer the manuscript of The Education of a Christian Prince. Also printed in 1516 was Thomas More’s Utopia, which he also wrote while was a houseguest on one of his frequent visits to England. And far to the south in a suburb of Florence a man unknown to either Erasmus or More, Niccolo Machiavelli, out of work and out of favor with the newly powerful Medicis, was at work on The Discourses. He had completed his more famous work, The Prince, three years previously in hopes that it would win him prestige and power with the Florentine elite. The book was not printed
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The Italian fourteenth century was a time of flourishing artistic activity Indeed, there has been a long-standing debate over whether Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) is best understood as a medieval writer or a Renaissance one, and this kind of debate can easily be extended to include other fourteenth-century Italians, Giotto di Bondone among them. The world was being seen from new perspectives literally and figuratively–men like Masaccio and Filippo Brunelleschi would soon be wrestling with problems about representing space in two dimensions–and figures like Boccaccio and his fellow writers were inaugurating new ways to speak to daily human experience.
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