Comparison of the Renaissance and Enlightenment (реферат)
Renaissance means ‘rebirth’ or ‘recovery’, has its origins in
Italy and is associated with the rebirth of antiquity or Greco-Roman
civilization. The age of the Renaissance is believed to elapse over a period of
about two centuries, approximately from 1350 to 1550. Above all, the
Renaissance was a recovery from the Middle Ages and all the disasters
associated with it: the Black Death, economic, political and social crises.
For the intellectuals, it was a period of recovery from the "Dark Ages”; a
period, which was called so due to its lack of classical culture.
First Italian and then intellectuals of the rest of Europe
became increasingly interested in the Greco-Roman culture of the ancient
Mediterranean world. This interest was fostered especially by the migration of
the Greek intellectuals during the Middle Ages and the fact that the ancient
Greek works could then be translated more precisely into Latin.
Increasing popularity of archeology and discovery of ancient Roman and
Greek constructions also participated in this intense interest for the
But the Renaissance was not exclusively associated with the
revival of classical antiquity. It is believed that precisely from the
fifteenth century great changes took place affecting public and social spheres
Europe and then the rest of the world; the basis of the modern European
civilization and capitalist system were then founded. Technological innovations
increased the rates of economic development. Great geographical discoveries
opened up the boarders of the Western world, thus accelerating the formation of
national, European and world markets. Major changes in art, music, literature
and religion wrecked the system of medieval values.
Another period marked by significant changes, is the eighteenth
century or an age of Enlightenment. Although present throughout Europe, the
origins of the Enlightenment are closely associated with France and its
philosophers such as Voltaire, Rousseau and others. The Enlightenment has been
fostered by the remarkable discoveries of the Scientific Revolution of the
seventeenth century. It was during this period that the ideas of the
Scientific Revolution were spread and popularized by the philosophers
(intellectuals of the 18th century).
Reason – was the word used the most frequently during the Enlightenment; it
meant a scientific method, which appealed to facts and experiences. It was the
age of the reexamination of all aspects of life, a movement of the
intellectuals "who dared to know” and who were arguing for the application of
the scientific methods to the understanding of all life. For these
intellectuals it was also a recovery from the ‘darkness’ since all that could
not be tested and proved by the rational and scientific methods of thinking was
darkness. Blind trust and acceptance was darkness, while reason, knowledge and
examination – was the ‘light’ that would lead to a progress and better society.
There are similarities that can with certainty be traced between
Renaissance and the Enlightenment. Many of the eighteenth-century philosophers
saw themselves as the followers of the philosophers of antiquity and the
humanists of the Renaissance. To them, the Middle Ages were also a period of
intellectual darkness whereby the society was dominated by the dogmatic
Catholic Church, allowed faith to obscure and diminished human reason.
Secularization that first arose in the Renaissance erupted with new strength
and particular intensity during the
Enlightenment. Development of secular art, music, literature and way of
thinking of the Renaissance was followed and further spread by the philosophers
of the Enlightenment. Both, the Renaissance and the
Enlightenment were primarily the preserve of the wealthy upper classes who
constituted a small percentage of the population. Achievements of both, the
Renaissance and the Enlightenment were the product of the elite, rather than a
mass movement. Gradually though, they did have an irreversible impact on
ordinary people. Another apparent similarity between the two periods, of
course, was the fact that both of them were marked by great political and
social changes. However, since evolution and progress cause changes, and
achievements of one century are built on those of the previous one, there are
probably more differences than similarities between the two periods. Taking a
look at different social and public spheres, we shall examine the differences
and the similarities between the Renaissance and the Enlightenment.
Consider the intellectual areas of the two periods. The
Renaissance saw the emergence and growth of humanism. Humanism was a form of
education and culture based on the study of classics. Being primarily an
educational form, it included the study of such liberal arts subjects as
grammar, rhetoric, poetry, ethics and history that were based on the
examinations of classical authors. Humanists occupied mainly secular positions
such as teachers of humanities in secondary schools or professors of rhetoric
in universities; they were mostly laymen rather than members of clergy.
Education was central to the humanist movement since humanists believed that
education could change immensely the human beings. Humanists wrote books on
education and developed secondary schools based on their ideas.
Their schools though, were principally reserved for the wealthy elite; children
from the lower social classes as well as females were largely absent from them.
During the Enlightenment, as during the Renaissance, private secondary schools
were most of the times dominated by religious orders, especially by the
Jesuits. However, a great difference with the
Renaissance was the development of new schools designed to provide a broader
education, which offered modern languages, geography and bookkeeping, preparing
students for careers in business.
In Renaissance philosophy a change was expressed through an
assimilation of Platonic philosophy into Christianity by means of translation
and interpretation. This led to the emergence of a new form of philosophy known
as Neoplatonism. Renaissance humanists saw a human occupying central position
in the great chain of being between the lowest form of physical matter (plants)
and the purest spirit (God). A human being was the link between the material
world (through the body) and the spiritual world (through the soul). M. Ficino
(1433-1499) was one of the most important humanists that contributed to the
emergence of the
Neoplatonism. Concerning religion, Renaissance philosophers were not rejecting
Christianity, they mostly believed in God and were only against the policies
and practices of the Catholic Church at that period.
The Enlightenment philosophers such as Voltaire (1694-1778) or
Diderot (1713-1784) went beyond Renaissance philosophers. They severely
criticized traditional religion and actively called for religious toleration.
Moreover, the Enlightenment philosophers, Voltaire in particular, championed,
among other things, deism. Deism was based upon
Newtonian world-machine, which implied the existence of a mechanic (God) who
had created the universe, but did not have direct involvement in it and allowed
it to run according to its own natural laws. These philosophers believed that
God did not extend grace or respond prayers. Diderot, who advocated similar
ideas, made a great contribution to the Enlightenment with creation of the
famous Encyclopedia (Classified Dictionary of Science,
Arts and Trades), which included works and ideas of many philosophers.
Thanks to the Renaissance printing and the reductions in the Encyclopedia
price, Enlightenment ideas became available to general literate public of the
One of the innovations in history during the Renaissance was in
the way history was recorded. In writing of history, humanists divided the past
into ancient world, dark ages and their own age, thus providing a new sense of
chronology. Humanists were also responsible for secularization of history. By
taking new approaches to historic sources, humanist historians sensibly reduced
the role of miracles in history. Concerning history, the
Enlightenment philosophers had a similarity with the Renaissance humanist-
historians in that they also placed their histories in purely secular settings.
However, the difference between the two was that if Renaissance historians had
de-emphasized the role of God and miracles, the
Enlightenment philosophers-historians, such as Voltaire, eliminated it
altogether. Also, philosophers-historians extended the scope of history over
the humanists’ preoccupation with politics by paying increasing attention to
economic, social, intellectual and cultural developments.
Among the most important technological innovations of the
renaissance was printing. J. Gutenberg played an important role in bringing the
process of printing to completion between 1445-1450. This process was vital for
the diffusion of knowledge and humanist ideas. Printing spread very rapidly
around Europe and its effects were soon felt in many areas of European life.
Continued after the invention of printing process, the expansion of both,
publishing and the reading public, became particularly visible during the
Enlightenment. Even though, as during the Renaissance, most of the published
works were aimed at small groups of educated elite, there appeared more
publications for the new reading public. This new reading public consisted
mainly of the middle classes and included women and urban artisans. An
important role in the increase of these publications played the development of
magazines for the general public and emergence of daily newspapers – an
innovation unknown to the Renaissance.
In art, Renaissance humanism and naturalism revealed themselves
through the exposition of the world of beauty and human body. Flat, static
paintings of the medieval art left their place to the three-dimensional,
salient and convexo-concave style of the Renaissance. Leonardo da Vinci
(1452-1519), Michelangelo (1478-1564) and other great artists of the
Renaissance demonstrated in their works an ideal individual in whom the
physical beauty and that of the soul converged together according to the
standards of antique aesthetics. Renaissance artists considered the imitation
of nature of their primary goal, human beings became the focus of attention. To
the great discontent of the Church, themes of human nudity also became present
in works of the Renaissance artists. Likewise, a human being with his basic
desires and passions appeared in literature.
In the Enlightenment art, the similarity with the Renaissance
was that the Baroque style largely used in Renaissance continued into the
eighteenth century. Also, Neoclassicism persisted to have a wide support.
Neoclassicism was the revival of the classical style of ancient Greece and
Rome. Nonetheless, by 1730s, a new style known as Rococo (a French innovation)
began to gain great popularity. Unlike the Baroque, which accentuated majesty
and power through the use of grand diagonals and games of light, Rococo
emphasized grace and gentleness. This style could be seen in the works of important
artists of the eighteenth century such as A.
Watteau (1684-1721) and G. B. Tiepolo (1696-1770). In architecture, a
combination of the Baroque and Rococo gave rise to some of the most beautiful
architectural constructions such as Vierzehnheiligen church decorated by the
great architect B. Newmann (1687-1753).
A major change in music during the Renaissance was the change in
the composition for the mass. To replace Gregorian chants, the Renaissance
madrigal saw its emergence as a chief form of secular music in Italy and
France. Major changes also took place in the music of the Enlightenment period.
Eighteenth century saw the rise and increasing popularity of classical music
with its operas, orchestras, sonatas, concerts and symphonies. This period gave
the world such remarkable composers as J. S.
Bach (1685-1750), G. F. Handel (1685-1759) and, of course, W. A. Mozart
(1756-1798). However, music did not become completely secularized; Bach, for
example, was still composing religious music. Another similarity with the
Renaissance age was that most of the musicians still depended on a patron such
as an aristocrat or prince.
As for medicine, certainly there were differences concerning it
between the two periods, since the two centuries that separated them did bring
some improvement into medical practices. The surgeons experienced significant
changes during the eighteenth century. In the 1740s they started organizing
their own guilds, separate from the barbers.
Furthermore, surgeons started to be licensed what required clinical
experiences. This had brought in some selection into the ranks of those
Technological innovations such as the rudder facilitated the
great geographical discoveries of the Renaissance. Here are some of the most
important discoveries: in 1456 Portuguese ships reached the Green cape and in
1486 Africa has been sailed around from the south. While familiarizing
African coasts, Portuguese were sending their ships to the west and southwest
Open Ocean leading to the discovery of Assorian Islands and
Madeira Islands. In 1492 Columbus on his way to India crossed Atlantic
Ocean and embarked on Bahamas Islands thus discovering a new continent of
America. In 1498 a
Spanish traveler V. De Gama sailing around Africa brought his ships to the
Indian coasts. From XVI c. Europeans reach China and Japan of the existence of
which they have only had a vague image before.
The perception about the Earth’s shape has changed as well; F.
Magellan’s (1519-1522) trip around the world confirmed that the Earth was
round. As if the world boarders became wider; trade routes now passed through
the oceans, linking different continents between each other. Thus commenced the
first phase of the emergence of the world civilization and globalization.
During the Enlightenment this process accelerated even more with the creation
of new public and private banks, acceptance of paper money and development of
triangular trade. With colonization of Americas,
India and Africa, the term global economy was more than appropriate.
Triangular trade linked Europe, Africa, the East and the Americas, making
eighteenth century merchants and traders more and more wealthy and powerful.
Among the multiple discoveries of the Renaissance, one was
especially complicated and frightening. This was the Copernicus’ (1473-1543)
heliocentric theory, which gave a new vision of the Universe, the Earth and
thus the human being. Before, the Earth was believed to be the center of the
world with other heavenly spheres rotating around it. Now, the Earth became a
tiny point in the emptiness of Space revolving about its axis and the Sun in
the center. The Enlightenment, on the other hand, did not know much of the
scientific discoveries, but it was the age when the scientific ideas of the
Scientific Revolution were popularized. Scientific ideas were not spread so
much by the scientists themselves, but by such individuals as
B. de Fontenelle (1657-1757). He was secretary of the French Royal Academy of
Science (1691-1741) and contributed a lot to the communication of the
scientific discoveries especially in astronomy.
Concerning politics, the Renaissance saw the beginning of modern
politics, whereby interests of the state are of the principal consideration.
Fundamental to politics were the works of an Italian politician N. Machiavelli
(1469-1527). In his famous work "The Prince” he introduced political ideas that
would have a great impact not only on the rulers of that period, but on the
political leaders centuries later. He believed that morality was not among the
top priorities in the political activities of that time. Therefore, he
maintained that if a ruler is to stay in power, he should be prepared to do
wrong when necessary. He continued that the state’s main preoccupation was to
provide stability and in order for a ruler to rule efficiently, he should use
diplomacy and be neither too loved, nor too feared. Hence, the concept of the
balance of power emerged as popular political thought of the Renaissance.
According to this concept, a country should not get involved in a war with a
neighboring country the leader of which is strong. It is better to have a
strong neighboring ruler with whom you can negotiate and agree, rather than to
create a chaos and thus uncertainty and danger.
Just like Machiavelli was a giant of political thought in the
Renaissance, Montesquieu (1689-1755) was for the Enlightenment, though his
propositions were much different from those of Machiavelli. In his works he
called for the separation of powers into legislative, executive and judiciary,
advocated religious toleration and denounced slavery. Another great philosopher
of the Enlightenment was J. J. Rousseau (1712-1778). In his work "Discourse on
the Origins of the Inequality of Mankind” he explained why the government was
"an evil, but a necessary one”. In his another very famous work "The Social
Contract” he tried to accord individual liberty with governmental authority.
All these political ideas were new and thus very different from the political
thoughts of the
The Renaissance political thoughts contributed to the
centralization of power of monarchial governments. Of course, the degree to
which monarchs were successful in consolidation and extension of their
political authority varied from country to country. While France, Spain and
England emerged as centralized and more or less consolidated monarchies during
the age of the
Renaissance, the Holy Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire saw a decline.
Central and Eastern Europe also experienced a decentralization of political
authority, rather than its centralization. During the Enlightenment the process
o centralization and growth of states continued. Most European states enlarged
their bureaucracies and consolidated their governments.
However, as a result of all the geographic discoveries and following overseas
trips and colonization, European economy started to shift from the
Mediterranean to the Atlantic seaboard. By the eighteenth century, England and
France appeared as great commercial empires. Also, Eastern and Central
Europe emerged as major international players in the European political arena.
Russia, Austria and Prussia – three of five major European states were located
in Eastern or Central Europe. These states became so powerful that they managed
to completely destroy Poland by dividing its lands between themselves. Although
the ideas of the Enlightenment did leave an impact on the eighteenth century
rulers, few of them actually attempted to implement the enlightened reforms
into practice. The majority of rulers still believed that for a state to run
effectively and prosper, it needed a strong absolute ruler.
In religion, clerical corruption, the popes’ preoccupation with
secular matters such as finances and territorial power led to the growing
discontent with the Church during the Renaissance period. J. Hus (1374-
1415) and J. Wyclif (1328-1384) are viewed by many as the forerunners of the
Reformation. Both of them attacked the excessive power of the papacy within
Catholic Church and called for reforms. Although remaining a very important
institution, Catholic Church and its religious practices became increasingly
questioned and criticized by the Renaissance humanists. As during the
Renaissance age, Catholic Church of the Enlightenment still had a lot of power
and remained hierarchically structured. Religious devotion also remained strong
during the eighteenth century. Nonetheless, critics and skepticism against the
Church became more and more intense.
Philosophers of the Enlightenment were more than ever calling for religious
toleration and acceptance of religious minorities. Among the intellectuals of
that period more and more turned to deism and believed in natural laws.
The great majority of women of the Renaissance was not educated
and was not considered intellectually equal to men. There were some exceptions
of course, but, as such, women did not play any important role in the
intellectual life of the Renaissance. This has changed during the
Enlightenment. Some of the eighteenth century intellectuals, such as
Diderot, expressed more positive views of women. Moreover, women themselves
begun to emerge as important intellectual thinkers, questioning their rights
and proposing ways to improve their situation. M. Wollstonecraft
(1759-1797) was regarded by many as the founder of modern European feminism.
Another important difference from the Renaissance concerning women, was their
role in the spread of new ideas of the Enlightenment. Of course, here we are
talking again about the women of the elite or wealthy upper class. By
organizing salons, women such as Madame Geoffrin (1699-
1777) or Marquise du Duffand (1697-1780) brought together writers and artists
with aristocrats, government officials and other members of literate elite.
These women could affect political decisions and influence literary and
Completely different to the Renaissance was the emergence in the
eighteenth century of a "science of man” or social sciences. Social sciences
were based on the philosophers’ believes that certain human actions were
governed by natural laws. One of the pioneers of a social science such as
psychology was Scottish philosopher D. Hume (1711-1776).
Other famous philosophers such as A. Smith (1723-1790) and F. Quesnay (1694-
1774) were viewed as founders of the modern economics. They rejected
mercantilist concepts by arguing the economic primacy of agriculture. They also
advocated the doctrine of laissez-faire, which rejected the state’s
intervention in the economic activity and called for letting the natural forces
of demand and supply to work freely. In his famous "Wealth o
Nations” Smith presents his major ideas on the origins of wealth and functions
of government in the economy, thus laying down the foundations of the
nineteenth century economic liberalism.
As we could observe from the analysis above, the Renaissance and
Enlightenment indeed had a lot of differences, but they also had a lot of
similarities. And this could not be otherwise, because all of the achievements
and discoveries of the Renaissance became the building blocks of the
Enlightenment progress. Just as human beings are prone to progress, they are
also prone to traditions. That is why many of the Renaissance values continued
into the Enlightenment. Each period in history marks human society in some way
and even in our days we still hear the echo of previous centuries and still
find some similarities between our time and those far- away centuries.
Реферат на тему: Comparison of the Renaissance and Enlightenment (реферат)