How would modern society be different if the Renaissance had never happened?

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Perhaps the best way to answer this question is to look at the aspects of the Renaissance that most resonate in modern society. I would argue that the most important of these is the philosophy of humanism. Humanists emphasized study of the classics as well as the disciplines of history, political science, and literature, emerged from the Renaissance. The works of, for example, Petrarch, Bruni, and Machiavelli featured a critical way of thinking about the past and the present that still influences how we think today. Even the concept of the "humanities" as a field worthy of study is a legacy of the Renaissance humanists. Humanistic thinkers helped to create an atmosphere of critical inquiry that promoted scientific discovery, "historical thinking," systemic thinking about politics and law, and, in some ways, a new secularism. Even the Protestant Reformation, the effects of which are certainly evident today, was partially rooted in the critical spirit of humanism. Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli were all trained in humanism. In short, while we are fascinated by the art of the Renaissance, it is perhaps the spirit of humanism that, had the Renaissance never happened, would be our biggest loss. 


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