Renaissance Man Essays

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Essay/Term paper: Middle ages vs. the renaissance

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Humanities

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There are many contrasts in the beliefs and values of the Renaissance and the Middle Ages. The Middle Ages was a time of great suffering, including famine and widespread disease. The Renaissance, however, was a revival of art, learning, and literature. Their views of the purpose of life in the present world and man's place in the world was, perhaps, the greatest contrast. However, their views on politics, religion, and education were very different as well.

The purpose of life and man's place in the world was viewed differently during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. During the Middle Ages, also known as "The Age of Faith," man's purpose was to serve God. Life was looked upon as a journey. The focus of life was on the afterlife because there were no guarantees in the present life. The life of highest value was the contemplative life, one devoted to God. The passive virtues such as compassion, suffering, and humility were highly regarded. God was the center of man's world during the Middle Ages. On the Great Chain of Being, man was below God and the angels and above the animals, plants, and inanimate objects.

In sharp contrast, man's purpose during the Renaissance was to exercise one's virtu, or one's excellence as a man. People believed that life should be lived for itself, and the beauty of this world should be appreciated in the here and now. The focus of life was on the secular world of the here and now. Active virtues such as courage, intelligence, and a skill in many fields were highly valued during this time. The greatest virtu of the Renaissance was action. There was a zest for living, and man began to love the rich, ornate, and lavish lifestyle. The concept of hard work to obtain secular goals was conceived during the Renaissance. Man strongly agreed with the Greek view, "Man is the measure of all things," and was viewed as the center of the world.

Another contrasting view was that of politics. During the Middle Ages, the political structure consisted of a monarchy, where one person ruled over the people. Feudalism was the law of the land. Therefore, the common man was a serf and would die poor just as he was born poor. On the other hand, Republicanism was considered to be the best form of government during the Renaissance because the individual could realize his fullest potential by serving the state. According to Leonardo Bruni, the rule of one person was harmful to the common good. Thus, the republican government was considered to be stronger than the monarchy.

Religion was also viewed differently. The Catholic Church was the one universal church during the Middle Ages. People believed that only church officials could interpret the scriptures. People also believed in the absolute authority of the church. During the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation led to the development of many churches. People believed that each individual could interpret the Bible for himself. The church no longer had absolute authority as it did during the Middle Ages.

Education was approached differently as well. During the Middle Ages, the focus of education was on studying the Bible and debating spiritual questions. Since the common people were not allowed to read the Bible, they were told what to think. The purpose of education in the Middle Ages was to pass the Moral Test and be rewarded with eternal joy in the afterlife. However, during the Renaissance, the focus of education was on learning from past history and experience and observations of the present world. There was a scientific and rationalistic attitude toward viewing the world. Humanism, an intellectual and cultural movement based on the study of classical works, was highly regarded during the Renaissance. Characteristics of humanism include: (1) scientific attitude, (2) a love of beauty, (3) the practice of human virtu, (4) love of proportion, (5) celebration of man, and (6) action. Humanists were strong believers in ethics, and they believed that eloquence was a representation of ethics. Thus, humanists valued learning to speak well.

As evidenced by the various contrasts, the Middle Ages was extremely different from the Renaissance. However, it is important to understand the differences between the two in order to understand how present-day values and political views were established. In order to completely understand the present, it is important to first understand the past.



 

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Why Is Leonardo Da Vinci Considered A Renaissance Man?

A man who has broad intellectual interests and is accomplished in areas of both the arts and the sciences. That is the definition of a Renaissance man. Leonardo's ability to observe and study, then demonstrate those things in his art, makes him a perfect example of a renaissance man. Leonardo Da Vinci was one of the greatest inventors. He was also one of the most famous scientists of recorded history. His genius was limited by time and technology, and was driven by his curiosity, and his instinctive sense of the laws of nature.

Da Vinci was dedicated to discovery of truth and the mysteries of nature, and his contributions to science and technology were legendary. As the classic Renaissance man, Leonardo helped set a curious and superstitious world on the means of reason, science, learning, and tolerance. In his time, he was an internationally famous inventor, scientist, engineer, architect, painter, sculptor, musician, mathematician, anatomist, astronomer, geologist, biologist, and philosopher.

In an era when left-handedness was considered the devil's work and lefties were often forced to use their right hand, Leonardo actually used his left hand. People say that this difference was an element of his genius, since his mind allowed him to see beyond the ordinary. He even wrote backwards, and his writings are easily deciphered only with a mirror. Between 1490 and 1495 he developed his habit of recording his studies in illustrated notebooks. His work covered four main themes: painting, architecture, the elements of mechanics, and human anatomy. All one hundred twenty of his notebooks were written backwards. Today, Bill Gates is known to have bought one of his notebooks for thirty million dollars.

Born in 1452, as an illegitimate son of Ser Piero Da Vinci, Leonardo was sent to Florence in his teens to apprentice as a painter under Andrea del Verrocchio. He quickly developed his own artistic style which was unique and contrary to tradition. He even went so far as to make his own special formula of paint. Leonardo went beyond his teachings by making a scientific study of light and shadow in nature. The thought that objects were not comprised of outlines, but were actually three-dimensional bodies defined by light and shadow. Known as chiaroscuro, this technique gave his paintings the soft, lifelike quality that made older paintings look cartoony and flat. He also saw that an object's detail and color changed as it went father and closer in the...

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