The History of Humanism
HUMANISM (from human, OF., Fr. humain, from Lat. humanus, relating to man, from homo, OLat. hemo, man; connected with AS. guma, man, Skt. ksam, earth). A name applied to the literary movement at the close of the Middle Ages whose object was the revival of the pagan learning of classical antiquity. The humanists from the beginning divided into two divergent schools, one of which sought to ingraft the classical learning on the tree of Christianity, while the other endeavored to revive not merely the literature of classical antiquity, but, through this, the pagan spirit of the ancient heathen cults. The first humanistic movement began in the fourteenth century in Italy, where the political and social developments were preparing the way for a departure from medieval traditions. The numerous small Italian states, despotic and republican alike, favored the development of individuality at a time when feudalism (q.v.), still in existence in other parts of Europe, gave less opportunity for the exercise of individual activities. The ferment of Italian politics gave the individual freer play, and the sense of personal independence was rapidly tending to looser social and political ideals. Paganism in Italy, though overpowered, had never been completely exterminated. It had lived on in popular legend and retrospective pride of race, and in countless associations connected with the Roman Forum, the Coliseum, and other historic monuments. But these survivals from ancient Rome were an insignificant moment in medieval Italian culture; the pagan past did not seriously influence men's minds till new social and political conditions had prepared the way for the revival of classical ideals. (See RENAISSANCE.) The exile of the papal see from Rome for nearly three-quarters of a century (see AVIGNON) must also have acted as a removal of the great check against the recrudescence of paganism. In the fourteenth century all Italy was astir with the new life. Dante, as is shown in his homage to Vergil, felt the new impulse. Petrarch, who may be regarded as the first Christian humanist, threw himself into the van of the new movement. His passion for antiquity and his intolerance of certain forms of medievalism were boundless. He devoted great energy to the discovery and rescue of Latin manuscripts, to the collection of old Roman coins and other antiquities, and to scathing denunciation of scholastic philosophy, jurisprudence, and medicine. But while the medievalist had looked forward to an immortality beyond the grave, the pagan humanist would be satisfied with nothing less than an earthly immortality, achieved by poetry like Vergil's and prose like Cicero's. And as the literary style of the Augustan age (q.v.) became the sole model for the writer, so the spirit of antiquity, with its sensuous attitude towards life and nature, its unqualified secularity, its abandonment to the charm of things seen and temporal, controlled the humanists' thought and conduct.
Consult: Jakob Burckhardt, Die Cultur der Renaissance in Italien, (Basel, 1860; 3d ed., 1877-78; Eng. trans. by Middlemore, London, 1878 and 1891); Georg Voigt, Die Wiederbelebung des klassischen Alterturms oder das erste Jahrhundert des Humamismus (Berlin, 1859; 2d ed., 1880-81); L. Pastor, History of the Popes (2 vols., London, 1891) ; Symonds's (q.v.) works on the Renaissance, epitomized by Alfred Pearson in A Short History of the Renaissance in Italy (New York, 1893); John Owen, Skeptics of the Italian Renaissance (ib., 1893); F. A. Gasquet, Eve of the Reformation (London, 1898); R. C. Jebb, Humanism in Education, Romanes Lecture (New York, 1899); Lewis Einstein, The Italian Renaissance in England (ib., 1902); Ernst Borkowsky, Aus der Zeit des Humanismus (Jena, 1905).
A second humanistic movement-more properly called humanitarianism-came to its culmination in Comte's (q.v.) worship of humanity. It finds in man the highest and worthiest object of esteem and reverence and is hostile to any theory which places the divine outside of the human. It is differentiated from the pagan Renaissance attitude most markedly by its placing the golden age of man's development not in the past but in the future.
Still another humanistic movement. is afoot in philosophical circles at the present day. This humanism is connected with pragmatism (q.v.) and is the theory that the working hypothesis of metaphysics should be the view that all nature is akin to man. Mechanism and the current presuppositions of natural science are discarded, and in their place a universal animism is assumed. F. C. S. Schiller (q.v.) goes so far as to attribute moral qualities to inanimate objects and accounts for the regularity of natural law by the analogy of statistical averages in human society and also by assimilating laws of nature to human habits. Consult: F. C. S. Schiller, Humanism (New York, 1903); id., Studies in Humanism (ib., 1907); William James, Pragmatism ( ib., 1907): J. S. Mackenzie, Lectures on Humanism (ib., 1907).
The New International Encyclopaedia, Vol. XI (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1920) 581.