The Renaissance and Individual Value
Rooted in Italy and spreading to the far corners of Europe in the Middle Ages, Renaissance referred to an acculturation of progressive values in arts, science and religion. Since the movement is typically associated with the resurgence of Classicism, it also has a socio-cultural bearing on the intellectual world of modern men. It was the Renaissance of enlightened thinking that gradually dissolved class distinction and treated human beings as individuals. The elements of the movement did not emphasize on noble birth as a precondition for intellectual and humanist superiority. Similarly, the political developments in Renaissance Italy resulted in the abolition of hereditary statesmanship. Italian ambassadors to other countries were elected from common professions such as bankers, merchants, artisans, etc. During this period, Machiavelli’s The Prince documented the evils of political propaganda and the true nature of power game. This essay attempts to figure out the most significant impact of the Renaissance on modern world.
The main problem in tracing the impact of the Renaissance is to delineate the borderline between the Middle Ages and the Modern era, which is far from being well-defined. As Arnold Hauser (1999, p. 1) argues, it is up to the discretion of the historians to classify some of the noted personalities such as Boccaccio and Petrarch, Pisanello and Gentile da Fabriano, Jan van Eyck and Jean Fouquet as belonging to either of these two ages. On the other hand, if we consider the progressive aspects of industrialization and artistic reforms in the eighteenth century Europe, we may also be tempted to do away with the chronicling of these great minds. A visionary approach may adequately place them in any age which is characterized by individualistic values and ideologies. What made the Renaissance so special was its persuasion of finding a strong undercurrent of individualism, “the search for natural law, the sense of fidelity to nature in art and literature” (Hauser, p. 1). Now neither of these concepts is bounded just by the period of Renaissance; these naturalistic approaches can be seen as a continuum of trends set by the explorers, wealthy merchants and other common people as early as the twelfth century. Times during the Renaissance in Italy and other European countries ensured a surging revival of the humanitarian virtues through art, sculpture and painting in general. The Modern era was benefited from the fruits of thought cultivated during the Renaissance.
More than just acquiring political insights, it was the revitalization of personal thinking that can be considered as a direct offshoot of the Renaissance. The quintessential values of the Renaissance involved development of humanism and a steady focus on human attainments, either individually or collectively, and mastering every progressive discipline of study. In fact, an enormous amount of interest was generated for the study of Classical antiquity. The Classical concept of ‘The Great Chain of Being’ was revisited by the curious and well-informed minds (Brooklyn College, 2009). Preponderance of reason and interrogation led to the discovery of many topics that lay subdued for many centuries. The intellectual precipitations of such explorations still remain active in modern times. Investigation into the themes of disorder was another literary initiative that has borne rich dividend in the twenty first century literature and other art forms. This theme explicitly concerned subjective notions of individuals in matters of logic and emotion – something which frequents modern ways of thinking.
There is no denying the argument that the most substantial impact of the Renaissance on modern world is demonstrated at personal levels. The idea of individual being is what the Renaissance thinkers stressed on and the same is celebrated in today’s world, for better or for worse.
Hauser, A. (1999). The Social History of Art: Renaissance, mannerism, baroque. Madison Avenue: Routledge.
Brooklyn College. (2009, March 30). General Characteristics of the Renaissance. Retrieved April, 7, 2009, from http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/english/melani/cs6/ren.html