What were some specific advances in philosophy during the Renaissance?
The Renaissance, starting in the 14th century, covered an enormous period of cultural and scientific growth, as advances in health, longevity, and education allowed more people more time to study and theorize. One of the major fields of growth was Philosophy, particularly the rise of Humanism.
In the Middle Ages, because education and scientific knowledge was limited, most philosophy focused in two major fields: Religion and Scholasticism (pragmatic education). Religious studies, propagated by the Church, taught the fallibility of man and the labor of life as the moral means to an end (heavenly acceptance). Scholasticism focused on educating a person as to the tasks of survival from day-to-day; there was no structure for unskilled people, and the common man survived only if he worked hard.
Humanism, in contrast to both, taught the value of study and education; a major focus of Renaissance Humanism was to educate common people in the basics of knowledge which included math, reading/writing, and history. This, philosophers argued, allowed all people to have a basic understanding of the world around them, and the ability to perform work in several fields instead of specializing in just one. They also believed that widespread education would improve the conditions of all. To accompany this style of teaching, the printing press provided cheap and fast printing so that old and rare works could be spread all over, thus allowing a wider education rather than the general Appeal to Authority that dominated education in earlier days. Some studies of Humanism also rejected religion as a useful field, instead focusing on developing science as a body of knowledge.
Major individuals in the field of Renaissance Humanism include Giovanni Boccaccio, Peter 1st Duke of Coimbra, William Grocyn, and Giordano Bruno.