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How has the Renaissance influenced modern society?

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The most direct way in which the Renaissance influences our lives is through works of art and literature produced during that period. Attempts to assess how the historical influence of the Renaissance has had an impact on modern society are highly speculative. However, one can trace the individualism that is central to American culture back through Romanticism and the Enlightenment to this point in history.

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When contrasting the Renaissance with the Medieval Era that preceded it, one of the most powerful transformations lay in the impact of Humanism and its vision of the human condition. Medieval culture was grounded and defined within the context of religion and the Church. Thus, religious concerns were believed to vastly outweigh temporal ones.

While religion remained a powerful force in the Renaissance (this was not a secular society in the modern sense), Renaissance humanism represented a departure from this Medieval mindset (which was oriented almost entirely towards God and the eternal), with its celebration of the human condition. Thus, human beings within human societies (civic virtue is another key theme of the Renaissance) became increasingly put under focus. This theme is given powerful expression in the realism of Renaissance artwork. Furthermore, I would suggest that this vision has proved powerfully influential in shaping much of western culture, especially given the rise of secular society.

In addition, I think the other key impact of the Renaissance can be found in the Reformation. The Protestant Reformation was a turning point in the history of the Christianity, where the Western Church (previously unified for all intents and purposes) fragmented. This fragmentation remains in place today. It is a critical component of modern Christianity and a direct impact of the Renaissance.

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The Renaissance brought about a rebirth and an expansion of cultural experience. It included those outside the elite classes, and it directed society toward more humanist and realistic perspectives. Without the Renaissance, we might not preserve and appreciate the fine arts as we do today. Science, too, might not have developed in the same way without such Renaissance men as Leonardo da Vinci.

This cultural expansion and the new directions of ideas in the Renaissance did much to introduce and awaken many who heretofore either had no interest or were not included in the expression of and the appreciation of the arts. 

One of the Renaissance authors who set the stage for literary realism was Giovanni Boccaccio, who wrote The Decameron. This work contains settings and characters that were recognizable to many readers. In addition, there is a short heading that serves as an explanation of each tale. Readers could connect with these personages and enjoy the literary work. Even today, this style of writing is popular.

The new humanist viewpoint of the Renaissance also turned societies toward an interest in scientific research and inventions. Of course, one of the greatest contributors to the development of the arts and sciences was Leonardo da Vinci. He introduced realism into the portrayal of the human form because he combined science with his art as he drew anatomically correct human forms. This is not to say that he did not take artistic license as, for instance, he did with his sculpture of David, which has the right arm constructed on a larger scale.

During the Renaissance the printing press was created, followed by other inventions and scientific discoveries. As there were more developments in science and thought, more mobility was witnessed in Europe. And with more interest in humanism, the Roman Catholic religion waned in its power. Along with this lessening of the power of the Church, Rome's prominence as the cultural and intellectual center of Europe was reduced. Therefore, Renaissance scholars began traveling throughout Europe, and they brought with them the preservation of the classics and their artistic and humanist ideals, which then became prevalent in other countries. Indeed, the Renaissance was extremely influential in developing the cultures of Europe because it ignited the lost human spirit.

Because of the revival of and great interest in the fine arts and the sciences during the Renaissance, modern society is enriched with classical and humanistic works and ideas. Without doubt, these advancements of the Renaissance have enriched modern societies socially, culturally, intellectually, and scientifically. 

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Many of the innovations of the Renaissance have shaped contemporary society. Perhaps the most important innovations were the beginnings of modern science. The Renaissance marks the development of the heliocentric theory of the universe, the discovery of gravitation, and the invention of the telescope, all improving navigation and laying the groundwork for space travel. Experiments on cadavers increased understanding of human anatomy. Harvey's discovery of the mechanism of circulation of blood is one of the foundational advances in medicine.

In religion, the Reformation marked the origin of Protestantism, and a growth in religious liberty and diversity in Europe, although not complete freedom of religion. 

The Renaissance was a great age of colonization and exploration, with Europeans visiting North and South America, many parts of Africa, and Asia. Trade and colonies swiftly followed these discoveries.

The Renaissance marked the rise of the vernacular in the arts, government, law and religion, along with the growth of the middle class. Both these have shaped contemporary society, in which Latin is almost unknown, and many art forms cater to a broadly educated middle class rather than  a small aristocracy.

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The first major influence of the Renaissance on today's society was religious. The Renaissance was the period of the Reformation, the origin of Protestantism, which has grown to be an important element of Christianity. The Reformation marked the beginnings of religious freedom in Europe, and the gradual separation of church and state. 

The invention of the printing press coincided with the rise of vernacular literacy and the gradual supplanting of Latin as the language of the educated with various vernaculars for business, religion, and education.

The Renaissance was the beginning of a great age of exploration and colonization which had sweeping geopolitical effects, including the conquest of many parts of the world by Europeans.

The groundwork for much of modern science and medicine was laid in the Renaissance, including the discovery of the circulation of the blood, the heliocentric account of the solar system, and Newton's laws.

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How does the Renaissance influence our lives?

The clearest way in which the Renaissance influences our lives is in the works of Renaissance art and literature that are important to each individual. If, for example, you have learned about wisdom and beauty from reading the plays of Shakespeare, the the Renaissance has influenced your life.

The wider question about what society would have been like if the Renaissance had not happened is far more difficult and contentious. This is because something else would almost certainly have occurred to prevent medieval society from continuing undisturbed for another six or seven centuries. Even if you happen to be a devout Catholic, your ideas about the world are almost certain to be radically different from those of St. Thomas Aquinas and Dante. However, it is a huge and unjustifiable leap of logic to assume that if the Renaissance had not occurred, you would have a medieval mindset. Presumably, without the Renaissance, movements such as the Enlightenment and Romanticism would have occurred in a different way, but this is not to say that they would not have occurred at all.

It is possible, however, to speculate thoughtfully on the ways in which the major trends of the Renaissance influenced society and to see that certain elements of the American and European mindset would probably have developed differently without it. Most prominent among these is the focus on the individual, as opposed to the community, which defined medieval thought. Since this is a theme that runs through the Enlightenment and the Romantic movement, it seems reasonable to say that the individualism of modern society owes much to the Renaissance and would be less pronounced if it had not occurred. This has implications for every aspect of life, including how you act in relationships, family life, and the wider community.

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