To Live a Full Life
A short explication on how to live appropriately linking the Renaissance to life today
The Renaissance considerably revolutionized the way people live their lives and how to live appropriately. Prior to this period, Scholasticism reigned with its view of “a life not examined is a life not worth living.” When the Renaissance was conceived in continental Europe, the self became central to the picture of morality and ethics. The triumph of reason became the clarion call for the whole world. This was manifested in the unprecedented rise in Humanism where people began to put a high regard to the human capacity for rationality in relation to ethics and moral judgments. As such, the role of God was slowly put into the sidelines. Nonetheless, medieval history suggests that such movement dovetailed with the increasing disillusionment of the modern man with the Church institution. Renaissance was the advent of modernity.
Given these conditions, there is an imperative to look upon the influence of Renaissance thinkers to how people will live appropriately, that is, how to live a moral life. This paper will try to link such the views conceived in a Renaissance life with how people will live their lives today.
Contrary to the humanist view, the Wilcox contends that the life of a Renaissance man is characterized in a way where the spiritual life and everyday life are incommensurable in contrast to the dualistic philosophies that pervade even to this day. This means the lack of the capability of something to be divided into two or in equal terms. Spiritual life and everyday life as disproportionate – thus we lose a sense of connectedness to God and to our very selves. Everything becomes disentangled and the natural order of things is disturbed. There is a sense of inappropriateness in every angle of modern life (Wilcox, 1975). Thus Wilcox exhorts us to live appropriately.
God in our everyday lives has become questionable as the ruling few turned the citizen’s primary duties from the public sphere to the private sphere. Dominant society also fostered the view of a disembodied spirituality and a disentangled self. The advent of modernity saw how the “Renaissance man” and his moral obligations were elbowed and put to the sidelines. The private sphere was seen as the place where the individuals could actualize themselves. Hence, a life devoted in the private sphere can have varying implications. With this, morality has become largely subjective in nature. Individualism reigned as it coincided with economic competitiveness. In the cultural realm, the pursuit of science took a wrong turn emphasizing on the how of things which was answered by science but not the why of things which is supposed to be answered by religion. There dawns an inevitable irony where religion cannot have impact on the daily affairs of practical life since it is only concerned with heaven while practical life is only concerned with physical and bodily needs as it left out values, morality, and spirituality to the priests. There came to exist a dissonance between body and spirit, self and community, morality and science, fact and value, heaven and earth, self and God. This points to a dead end where there dawns a loss of connectedness to God, to culture, to society, and eventually to self. In the end the so called “triumph of reason” has become a disaster for it fell prey to a grand power struggle for the status quo. We find society so “unreasonable” where massive social inequalities exist that those who produce the food have nothing to eat while a handful wallow in untold riches. We find a society where morality does not cover social responsibility and where too much preoccupation with self has forgotten the fact that we are all intricately connected as a collective humanity. We find a society now where earth itself suffers to the point of threatening a human induced mass extinction.
Thus our times calls on all of humanity to once again collectively reexamine our lives on a collective scale to make our humanity still worth living and to bring true reason to the forefront in the spirit of democratic discourse which is free from coercion. We need to revive the enlightenment project once again and begin to live appropriately.
Wilcox, D. J. (1975). In Search of God and Self: Renaissance and Reformation Thought. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.