Module 7: Discussion: The Characteristics of Humanism
11 unread reply.11 reply.
To identify and evaluate the characteristics of humanism.
The theme of this module’s discussion is class and culture.
Please read the following before answering the questions below:
Petrarch to Posterity download
Machiavelli Excerpts download
Erasmus, In Praise of Folly download
After completing this module’s readings, please complete the following:
Identify at least three characteristics of humanism, either Classical or Christian humanism, as described in the textbook, in at least one of the three primary sources that you are required to read for this module.
When you have completed your response, please respond to at least one other classmate’s post. You can engage in friendly debate or add additional analysis and points to your classmate’s post.
Note: You will not be able to view your classmates’ posts until you make your first post.
Your initial post should be at least 250 words in length, but not exceed 500 words. Your response to your classmate’s post should be at least 2-3 substantive sentences.
This discussion board assignment is worth 100 points.
Students are only required to complete FOUR of the Discussion Boards for their grade. Students may choose to complete ANY four of the seven Discussion Boards to complete this requirement. Additionally, students may choose to complete a fifth Discussion Board for extra credit. See the Rubric below for a detailed explanation of how this discussion will be graded.
Discussions are worth 25% of the overall grade.
Demonstrates outstanding critical thinking and analytical skills in written responses.Demonstrates critical thinking and analytical skills in written responses.Demonstrates decent critical thinking and analytical skills in written responses, but lacks a thorough interpretation.Does not demonstrate critical thinking and analytical skills in written responses. The effort is lacking. There appears to be little understanding of the purpose of the assignment.
Displays outstanding knowledge and understanding of historical subject matter.Displays knowledge and understanding of historical subject matter.Displays fair knowledge and understanding of historical subject matter, but lacks a deep understanding.
Does not display consistent knowledge and understanding of historical subject matter.
The effort is lacking. There appears to be insufficient understanding of the meaning of the assigned reading(s).
Writes thoughtful and analytical comments on other classmates’ posts. Is polite and encouraging in comments, even when questioning the classmate’s opinions and/or findings.Writes comments on other classmates’ posts that shows very good analysis and thoughtfulness. Is mostly polite and encouraging in comments, even when questioning the classmate’s opinions and/or findings.Writes comments on other classmates’ posts that shows fair good analysis and thoughtfulness, but does not always display a deep understanding of the original post. Is not always polite and encouraging in comments. The questions and comments are sometimes rude, though likely not on purpose.
Writes comments on other classmates’ posts that fail to display any meaningful analysis or thoughtfulness. It is not clear if the student understands the meaning or purpose of the original post.
The student is rude and not helpful at all in their comments.
Francis Petrarch, Letter to Posterity
Introduction: Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374 CE) was an Italian poet and scholar who is credited with being one of the first Humanist writers of the Late Medieval/Renaissance. Petrarch (English spelling) travelled through Medieval libraries looking for ancient manuscripts especially of ancient Roman writers. Petrarch not only collected ancient Roman authors but imitated their writing style as well. In this letter, never finished, Petrarch writes an autobiographical obituary, hoping to emphasize the memory of his writing in future readers.
As you read the letter, consider how Petrarch relates his love of the ancient past to his current present? How does he demonstrate characteristic of Humanism—the imitation of Roman literature, the inherent evil nature of mankind and the potential of mankind?
[Page 59] Greeting.—It is possible that some word of me may have come to you, though even this is doubtful, since an insignificant and obscure name will scarcely penetrate far in either time or space. If, however, you should have heard of me, you may desire to know what manner of man I was, or what was the outcome of my labours, especially those of which some description or, at any rate, the bare titles may have reached you.
To begin with myself, then, the utterances of men concerning me will differ widely, since in passing judgment almost every one is influenced not so much by truth as by preference, and good and evil report alike know no bounds. I was, in truth, a poor mortal like yourself, neither very exalted in my origin, nor, on the other hand, of the most humble birth, but belonging, as Augustus Caesar says of himself, to an ancient family. As to my disposition, I was not naturally perverse or wanting in modesty, however the contagion of evil associations may have corrupted me. My youth was gone before I realised it; I was carried away by the strength of manhood; but a riper age brought me to my senses and taught me by experience the truth I had long before read in books, that youth and pleasure are [Page 60] vanity—nay, that the Author of all ages and times permits us miserable mortals, puffed up with emptiness, thus to wander about, until finally, coming to a tardy consciousness of our sins, we shall learn to know ourselves. In my prime I was blessed with a quick and active body, although not exceptionally strong; and while I do not lay claim to remarkable personal beauty, I was comely enough in my best days.[footnoteRef:1] I was possessed of a clear complexion, between light and dark, lively eyes, and for long years a keen vision, which however deserted me, contrary to my hopes, after I reached my sixtieth birthday, and forced me, to my great annoyance, to resort to glasses.[footnoteRef:2] Although I had previously enjoyed perfect health, old age brought with it the usual array of discomforts. [1: None of the potraits of Petrarch, not even the well-known one in a codex of the laurentian library, are a
Niccolo Machiavelli, Excerpts
Introduction: Machiavelli (1469-1527) is mostly known for his treatise The Prince (1513) on the Renaissance city-state rulers of the Italian Peninsula. As an Italian diplomat and philosopher, he wrote many types of additional works, including comedies and poetry. Below are some excerpts from The Prince and another work on Republican ideals, Discourses on Livy.
As you read the excerpts, consider what elements of the past he emphasizes. Is he advocating to simply imitate the past? How does he also comment on the current political situation in his recommendations for founding a republic?
Discourses Chapter 1: To found a new republic, or to reform entirely the old institutions of an existing one, must be the work of one man only
It may perhaps appear to some that I have gone too far into the details of Roman history before having made any mention of the founders of that republic, or of her institutions, her religion and her military establishment. Not wishing, therefore, to keep any longer in suspense the desires of those who wish to understand these matters, I say that many will perhaps consider it an evil example that the founder of a civil society, as Romulus was, should first have killed his brother, and then have consented to the death of Titus Tatius, who had been elected to share the royal authority with him; from which it might be concluded that the citizens, according to the example of their prince, might, from ambition and the desire to rule, destroy those who attempt to oppose their authority. This opinion would be correct, if we do not take into consideration the object which Romulus had in view in committing that homicide. But we must assume, as a general rule, that it never or rarely happens that a republic or monarchy is well constituted, or its old institutions entirely reformed, unless it is done by only one individual; it is even necessary that he whose mind has conceived such a constitution should be alone in carrying it into effect. A sagacious legislator of a republic, therefore, whose object is to promote the public good, and not his private interests, and who prefers his country to his own successors, should concentrate all authority in himself; and a wise mind will never censure any one for having employed any extraordinary means for the purpose of establishing a kingdom or constituting a republic. It is well that, when the act accuses him, the result should excuse him; and when the result is good, as in the case of Romulus, it will always absolve him from blame. For he is to be reprehended who commits violence for the purpose of destroying, and not he who employs it for beneficent purposes. The lawgiver should, however, be sufficiently wise and virtuous not to leave this authority which he has assumed either to his heirs or to any one else; for mankind being more prone to evil than to good, his successor might employ for evil purposes the power which he had used only for good ends. Besid
Desiderius Erasmus, In Praise of Folly
Introduction: Erasmus of Rotterdam (1469-1536) was a Christian scholar and philosopher. Many scholars distinguish Erasmus’s humanist writings as part of the “Northern Renaissance” or Christian Humanism movement to distinguish his works from the likes of Machiavelli in Italy. As with all humanists however, he wrote in a classical ancient Latin style, imitating and discussing the past alongside commentaries on the present. In his work In Praise of Folly, Erasmus uses satire—using humor or exaggeration to ridicule or criticize a person’s vice—to in fact criticize the corruptions he saw evident in the Church as an organization and the priesthood more generally. Erasmus is sometimes credited as being a pre-cursor to the Reformation.
As you read this excerpt, consider how Erasmus uses the past and satire to criticize the evils of humans, and specifically of the Church. How might this compare to Machiavelli or Petrarch? Are the three authors more similar or different? Why do you think so?
Erasmus of Rotterdam to his Friend Thomas More, Health:
AS I WAS COMING awhile since out of Italy for England, that I might not waste all that time I was to sit on horseback in foolish and illiterate fables, I chose rather one while to revolve with myself something of our common studies, and other while to enjoy the remembrance of my friends, of whom I left here some no less learned than pleasant. Among these you, my More, came first in my mind, whose memory, though absent yourself, gives me such delight in my absence, as when present with you I ever found in your company; than which, let me perish if in all my life I ever met with anything more delectable. And therefore, being satisfied that something was to be done, and that that time was no wise proper for any serious matter, I resolved to make some sport with the praise of folly. But who the devil put that in your head? you’ll say. The first thing was your surname of More, which comes so near the word Moriae (folly) as you are far from the thing. And that you are so, all the world will clear you. In the next place, I conceived this exercise of wit would not be least approved by you; inasmuch as you are wont to be delighted with such kind of mirth, that is to say, neither unlearned, if I am not mistaken, nor altogether insipid, and in the whole course of your life have played the part of a Democritus. And though such is the excellence of your judgment that it was ever contrary to that of the people’s, yet such is your incredible affability and sweetness of temper that you both can and delight to carry yourself to all men a man of all hours. Wherefore you will not only with good will accept this small declamation, but take upon you the defense of it, for as much as being dedicated to you, it is now no longer mine but yours. But perhaps there will not be wanting some wranglers that may cavil and charge me, partly that these toys are lighter than may become a divin
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