Topics for Further Study

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In many ways, the economic and social setting of fourteenth-century Florence, Italy, made it the perfect place for the birth of Humanism. Florence was a center of trade, and powerful families trained their sons to become ethical, successful merchants. What is the relationship between the society in Florence and the development of a new way of thinking about humanity and its role in the world?

The early humanists were devout Christians, yet the humanist movement has evolved to one that is frankly opposed to religious ideology, and many of today’s humanists are active atheists. Research the ideas of the Renaissance humanists as compared to those of modern Humanism. How do you account for this substantial change in philosophy?

All religions play a role in reinforcing moral behavior and attempt to explain the purpose of human life. The major religions—Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam— share these goals. Study one or more of the major religions and compare the methods of approaching these goals with the methods proposed by humanists. What underlying principles are shared by all of these belief systems?

The rise of Humanism accompanied exciting changes in art, such as the invention of perspective and the development of portraiture. In addition, artists studied human physiognomy in order to portray human figures more realistically. Did these artists subscribe to humanist thinking? How did humanist ideas find expression in art? What role did patronage play in the development of the new artistic style of the Renaissance or the new humanist way of thinking?

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