Реферат: Comparison of the Renaissance and Enlightenment (Сравнение Ренессанса и Просвещения)

Renaissance means ‘rebirth’ or‘recovery’, has its origins in Italy and is associated with the rebirth ofantiquity or Greco-Roman civilization. The age of the Renaissance is believedto elapse over a period of about two centuries, approximately from 1350 to1550. Above all, the Renaissance was a recovery from the Middle Ages and allthe disasters associated with it: the Black Death, economic, political andsocial 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 classicalculture.

First Italian and thenintellectuals of the rest of Europe became increasingly interested in theGreco-Roman culture of the ancient Mediterranean world. This interest wasfostered especially by the migration of the Greek intellectuals during theMiddle Ages and the fact that the ancient Greek works could then be translatedmore precisely into Latin. Increasing popularity of archeology and discovery ofancient Roman and Greek constructions also participated in this intenseinterest for the classical culture.

But the Renaissance was notexclusively associated with the revival of classical antiquity. It is believedthat precisely from the fifteenth century great changes took place affectingpublic and social spheres of Europe and then the rest of the world; the basisof the modern European civilization and capitalist system were then founded.Technological innovations increased the rates of economic development. Greatgeographical discoveries opened up the boarders of the Western world, thusaccelerating the formation of national, European and world markets. Majorchanges in art, music, literature and religion wrecked the system of medievalvalues.

Another period marked bysignificant changes, is the eighteenth century or an age of Enlightenment.Although present throughout Europe, the origins of the Enlightenment areclosely associated with France and its philosophers such as Voltaire, Rousseauand others. The Enlightenment has been fostered by the remarkable discoveriesof the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century. It was during thisperiod that the ideas of the Scientific Revolution were spread and popularizedby the philosophers (intellectuals of the 18th century).

Reason –was the word used the most frequently during the Enlightenment; it meant ascientific method, which appealed to facts and experiences. It was the age ofthe reexamination of all aspects of life, a movement of the intellectuals “whodared to know” and who were arguing for the application of the scientificmethods to the understanding of all life. For these intellectuals it was also arecovery from the ‘darkness’ since all that could not be tested and proved bythe rational and scientific methods of thinking was darkness. Blind trust andacceptance was darkness, while reason, knowledge and examination – was the‘light’ that would lead to a progress and better society.

There are similarities that canwith certainty be traced between the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. Many ofthe eighteenth-century philosophers saw themselves as the followers of thephilosophers of antiquity and the humanists of the Renaissance. To them, theMiddle Ages were also a period of intellectual darkness whereby the society wasdominated by the dogmatic Catholic Church, allowed faith to obscure anddiminished human reason. Secularization that first arose in the Renaissanceerupted with new strength and particular intensity during the Enlightenment.Development of secular art, music, literature and way of thinking of theRenaissance was followed and further spread by the philosophers of theEnlightenment. Both, the Renaissance and the Enlightenment were primarily thepreserve of the wealthy upper classes who constituted a small percentage of thepopulation. Achievements of both, the Renaissance and the Enlightenment werethe product of the elite, rather than a mass movement. Gradually though, theydid have an irreversible impact on ordinary people. Another apparent similaritybetween the two periods, of course, was the fact that both of them were markedby great political and social changes. However, since evolution and progresscause changes, and achievements of one century are built on those of theprevious one, there are probably more differences than similarities between thetwo periods. Taking a look at different social and public spheres, we shallexamine the differences and the similarities between the Renaissance and theEnlightenment.

Consider the intellectual areas ofthe 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 artssubjects as grammar, rhetoric, poetry, ethics and history that were based onthe examinations of classical authors. Humanists occupied mainly secularpositions such as teachers of humanities in secondary schools or professors ofrhetoric in universities; they were mostly laymen rather than members ofclergy. Education was central to the humanist movement since humanists believedthat education could change immensely the human beings. Humanists wrote bookson education and developed secondary schools based on their ideas. Theirschools though, were principally reserved for the wealthy elite; children fromthe lower social classes as well as females were largely absent from them.During the Enlightenment, as during the Renaissance, private secondary schoolswere most of the times dominated by religious orders, especially by theJesuits. However, a great difference with the Renaissance was the developmentof new schools designed to provide a broader education, which offered modernlanguages, geography and bookkeeping, preparing students for careers inbusiness.

In Renaissance philosophy a changewas expressed through an assimilation of Platonic philosophy into Christianityby means of translation and interpretation. This led to the emergence of a newform of philosophy known as Neoplatonism. Renaissance humanists saw a humanoccupying central position in the great chain of being between the lowest formof physical matter (plants) and the purest spirit (God). A human being was thelink 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 theemergence of the Neoplatonism. Concerning religion, Renaissance philosopherswere not rejecting Christianity, they mostly believed in God and were onlyagainst the policies and practices of the Catholic Church at that period.

 The Enlightenment philosophers such asVoltaire (1694-1778) or Diderot (1713-1784) went beyond Renaissancephilosophers. They severely criticized traditional religion and actively calledfor religious toleration. Moreover, the Enlightenment philosophers, Voltaire inparticular, championed, among other things, deism. Deism was based uponNewtonian world-machine, which implied the existence of a mechanic (God) whohad created the universe, but did not have direct involvement in it and allowedit to run according to its own natural laws. These philosophers believed thatGod did not extend grace or respond prayers. Diderot, who advocated similarideas, made a great contribution to the Enlightenment with creation of thefamous Encyclopedia (Classified Dictionary of Science, Arts and Trades), whichincluded works and ideas of many philosophers. Thanks to the Renaissanceprinting and the reductions in the Encyclopedia price, Enlightenment ideasbecame available to general literate public of the century.

One of the innovations in historyduring the Renaissance was in the way history was recorded. In writing ofhistory, humanists divided the past into ancient world, dark ages and their ownage, thus providing a new sense of chronology. Humanists were also responsiblefor 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 theRenaissance humanist-historians in that they also placed their histories inpurely secular settings. However, the difference between the two was that ifRenaissance historians had de-emphasized the role of God and miracles, theEnlightenment philosophers-historians, such as Voltaire, eliminated italtogether. Also, philosophers-historians extended the scope of history overthe humanists’ preoccupation with politics by paying increasing attention toeconomic, social, intellectual and cultural developments.

Among the most importanttechnological innovations of the renaissance was printing. J. Gutenberg playedan important role in bringing the process of printing to completion between1445-1450. This process was vital for the diffusion of knowledge and humanistideas. Printing spread very rapidly around Europe and its effects were soonfelt in many areas of European life. Continued after the invention of printingprocess, the expansion of both, publishing and the reading public, becameparticularly visible during the Enlightenment. Even though, as during theRenaissance, most of the published works were aimed at small groups of educatedelite, there appeared more publications for the new reading public. This newreading public consisted mainly of the middle classes and included women andurban artisans. An important role in the increase of these publications playedthe development of magazines for the general public and emergence of dailynewspapers – an innovation unknown to the Renaissance.

In art, Renaissance humanism andnaturalism revealed themselves through the exposition of the world of beautyand human body. Flat, static paintings of the medieval art left their place tothe three-dimensional, salient and convexo-concave style of the Renaissance.Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), Michelangelo (1478-1564) and other great artistsof the Renaissance demonstrated in their works an ideal individual in whom thephysical beauty and that of the soul converged together according to the standardsof antique aesthetics. Renaissance artists considered the imitation of natureof their primary goal, human beings became the focus of attention. To the greatdiscontent of the Church, themes of human nudity also became present in worksof the Renaissance artists. Likewise, a human being with his basic desires andpassions appeared in literature.

In theEnlightenment art, the similarity with the Renaissance was that the Baroquestyle largely used in Renaissance continued into the eighteenth century. Also,Neoclassicism persisted to have a wide support. Neoclassicism was the revivalof the classical style of ancient Greece and Rome. Nonetheless, by 1730s, a newstyle known as Rococo (a French innovation) began to gain great popularity.Unlike the Baroque, which accentuated majesty and power through the use ofgrand diagonals and games of light, Rococo emphasized grace and gentleness.This style could be seen in the works of important artists of the eighteenthcentury such as A. Watteau (1684-1721) and G. B. Tiepolo (1696-1770). Inarchitecture, a combination of the Baroque and Rococo gave rise to some of themost beautiful architectural constructions such as Vierzehnheiligen churchdecorated by the great architect B. Newmann (1687-1753).

A major change in music during theRenaissance was the change in the composition for the mass. To replaceGregorian chants, the Renaissance madrigal saw its emergence as a chief form ofsecular music in Italy and France. Major changes also took place in the musicof the Enlightenment period. Eighteenth century saw the rise and increasingpopularity of classical music with its operas, orchestras, sonatas, concertsand 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, forexample, was still composing religious music. Another similarity with theRenaissance age was that most of the musicians still depended on a patron suchas an aristocrat or prince.

As for medicine, certainly therewere differences concerning it between the two periods, since the two centuriesthat separated them did bring some improvement into medical practices. Thesurgeons experienced significant changes during the eighteenth century. In the1740s they started organizing their own guilds, separate from the barbers.Furthermore, surgeons started to be licensed what required clinicalexperiences. This had brought in some selection into the ranks of thosepracticing surgery.   

 Technological innovations such as the rudderfacilitated the great geographical discoveries of the Renaissance. Here aresome of the most important discoveries: in 1456 Portuguese ships reached theGreen cape and in 1486 Africa has been sailed around from the south. Whilefamiliarizing African coasts, Portuguese were sending their ships to the westand southwest Open Ocean leading to the discovery of Assorian Islands andMadeira Islands. In 1492 Columbus on his way to India crossed Atlantic Oceanand embarked on Bahamas Islands thus discovering a new continent of America. In1498 a Spanish traveler V. De Gama sailing around Africa brought his ships tothe Indian coasts. From XVI c. Europeans reach China and Japan of the existenceof which they have only had a vague image before.

The perception about the Earth’sshape has changed as well; F. Magellan’s (1519-1522) trip around the worldconfirmed that the Earth was round. As if the world boarders became wider;trade routes now passed through the oceans, linking different continentsbetween each other. Thus commenced the first phase of the emergence of theworld civilization and globalization. During the Enlightenment this processaccelerated even more with the creation of new public and private banks,acceptance of paper money and development of triangular trade. Withcolonization of Americas, India and Africa, the term global economy was more than appropriate. Triangular trade linkedEurope, Africa, the East and the Americas, making eighteenth century merchantsand traders more and more wealthy and powerful.

Among the multiple discoveries ofthe Renaissance, one was especially complicated and frightening. This was theCopernicus’ (1473-1543) heliocentric theory, which gave a new vision of theUniverse, the Earth and thus the human being. Before, the Earth was believed tobe 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 itsaxis and the Sun in the center. The Enlightenment, on the other hand, did notknow much of the scientific discoveries, but it was the age when the scientificideas of the Scientific Revolution were popularized. Scientific ideas were notspread so much by the scientists themselves, but by such individuals as B. deFontenelle (1657-1757). He was secretary of the French Royal Academy of Science(1691-1741) and contributed a lot to the communication of the scientificdiscoveries especially in astronomy.

Concerning politics, theRenaissance saw the beginning of modern politics, whereby interests of thestate are of the principal consideration. Fundamental to politics were theworks of an Italian politician N. Machiavelli (1469-1527). In his famous work “The Prince” he introduced politicalideas that would have a great impact not only on the rulers of that period, buton the political leaders centuries later. He believed that morality was notamong the top priorities in the political activities of that time. Therefore, hemaintained that if a ruler is to stay in power, he should be prepared to dowrong when necessary. He continued that the state’s main preoccupation was toprovide stability and in order for a ruler to rule efficiently, he should usediplomacy and be neither too loved, nor too feared. Hence, the concept of thebalance of power emerged as popular political thought of the Renaissance.According to this concept, a country should not get involved in a war with aneighboring country the leader of which is strong. It is better to have astrong neighboring ruler with whom you can negotiate and agree, rather than tocreate a chaos and thus uncertainty and danger.

Just like Machiavelli was a giantof political thought in the Renaissance, Montesquieu (1689-1755) was for theEnlightenment, though his propositions were much different from those ofMachiavelli. In his works he called for the separation of powers intolegislative, executive and judiciary, advocated religious toleration anddenounced slavery.  Another greatphilosopher of the Enlightenment was J. J. Rousseau (1712-1778). In his work“Discourse on the Origins of the Inequality of Mankind” he explained why thegovernment was “an evil, but a necessary one”. In his another very famous work“The Social Contract” he tried to accord individual liberty with governmentalauthority. All these political ideas were new and thus very different from thepolitical thoughts of the Renaissance.

The Renaissance political thoughtscontributed to the centralization of power of monarchial governments. Ofcourse, the degree to which monarchs were successful in consolidation andextension of their political authority varied from country to country. WhileFrance, Spain and England emerged as centralized and more or less consolidatedmonarchies during the age of the Renaissance, the Holy Roman Empire and theOttoman Empire saw a decline. Central and Eastern Europe also experienced adecentralization of political authority, rather than its centralization. Duringthe Enlightenment the process o centralization and growth of states continued.Most European states enlarged their bureaucracies and consolidated theirgovernments. However, as a result of all the geographic discoveries andfollowing overseas trips and colonization, European economy started to shiftfrom the Mediterranean to the Atlantic seaboard. By the eighteenth century,England and France appeared as great commercial empires. Also, Eastern andCentral Europe emerged as major international players in the European politicalarena. Russia, Austria and Prussia – three of five major European states werelocated in Eastern or Central Europe. These states became so powerful that theymanaged to completely destroy Poland by dividing its lands between themselves.Although the ideas of the Enlightenment did leave an impact on the eighteenthcentury rulers, few of them actually attempted to implement the enlightenedreforms into practice. The majority of rulers still believed that for a stateto run effectively and prosper, it needed a strong absolute ruler.

In religion, clerical corruption,the popes’ preoccupation with secular matters such as finances and territorialpower led to the growing discontent with the Church during the Renaissanceperiod.  J.  Hus (1374-1415) and J. Wyclif (1328-1384) areviewed by many as the forerunners of the Reformation. Both of them attacked theexcessive power of the papacy within Catholic Church and called for reforms.Although remaining a very important institution, Catholic Church and itsreligious practices became increasingly questioned and criticized by theRenaissance humanists. As during the Renaissance age, Catholic Church of theEnlightenment 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 moreintense. Philosophers of the Enlightenment were more than ever calling forreligious toleration and acceptance of religious minorities. Among the intellectualsof that period more and more turned to deism and believed in natural laws.

The great majority of women of theRenaissance was not educated and was not considered intellectually equal tomen.  There were some exceptions ofcourse, but, as such, women did not play any important role in the intellectuallife of the Renaissance. This has changed during the Enlightenment. Some of theeighteenth century intellectuals, such as Diderot, expressed more positiveviews of women. Moreover, women themselves begun to emerge as importantintellectual thinkers, questioning their rights and proposing ways to improvetheir situation. M. Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) was regarded by many as thefounder of modern European feminism. Another important difference from the Renaissanceconcerning women, was their role in the spread of new ideas of theEnlightenment. Of course, here we are talking again about the women of theelite or wealthy upper class. By organizing salons, women such as MadameGeoffrin (1699-1777) or Marquise du Duffand (1697-1780) brought togetherwriters and artists with aristocrats, government officials and other members ofliterate elite. These women could affect political decisions and influenceliterary and artistic tastes.

Completely different to the Renaissancewas the emergence in the eighteenth century of a “science of man” or socialsciences. Social sciences were based on the philosophers’ believes that certainhuman actions were governed by natural laws. One of the pioneers of a socialscience such as psychology was Scottish philosopher D. Hume (1711-1776). Otherfamous philosophers such as A. Smith (1723-1790) and F. Quesnay (1694-1774)were viewed as founders of the modern economics. They rejected mercantilistconcepts by arguing the economic primacy of agriculture. They also advocatedthe doctrine of laissez-faire, which rejected the state’s intervention in theeconomic activity and called for letting the natural forces of demand andsupply to work freely. In his famous “Wealth o Nations” Smith presents hismajor ideas on the origins of wealth and functions of government in theeconomy, thus laying down the foundations of the nineteenth century economicliberalism.

As we could observe from theanalysis above, the Renaissance and Enlightenment indeed had a lot ofdifferences, but they also had a lot of similarities. And this could not beotherwise, because all of the achievements and discoveries of the Renaissancebecame the building blocks of the Enlightenment progress. Just as human beingsare prone to progress, they are also prone to traditions. That is why many ofthe Renaissance values continued into the Enlightenment. Each period in historymarks human society in some way and even in our days we still hear the echo ofprevious centuries and still find some similarities between our time and thosefar-away centuries.

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