Renaissance Concepts Of Man And Other Essays

Renaissance Concepts Of Man And Other Essays-77
Gregory's treatise was translated into Latin in the late fifth century by Dionysius Exiguus and again by Scotus Erigena in the ninth, and thus was available in the Latin West as a model for successive schools of Christian Platonism. He busies himself with the knowing of God and is God's house and temple Stressing man's this-worldly role and powers, as well as his eschatological ends, drawing on a wider range of classical sources than Gregory, and certainly dependent on the Stoic tradition associated with Posidonius, and on Galen and the Peripatetics, Nemesius was a rich source of both classical and Chris- tian ideas about the nature of man.

Gregory's treatise was translated into Latin in the late fifth century by Dionysius Exiguus and again by Scotus Erigena in the ninth, and thus was available in the Latin West as a model for successive schools of Christian Platonism. He busies himself with the knowing of God and is God's house and temple Stressing man's this-worldly role and powers, as well as his eschatological ends, drawing on a wider range of classical sources than Gregory, and certainly dependent on the Stoic tradition associated with Posidonius, and on Galen and the Peripatetics, Nemesius was a rich source of both classical and Chris- tian ideas about the nature of man.

Man, in his own person, joins mortals with immortals, rational beings with irrational; as a microcosm (mikros kosmos) he reflects the whole crea- tion; by divine providence all creatures have their being for him; for man's sake God became man so that man might reign on high being made in the image and likeness of God: “how can we exaggerate the dignity of his place in the creation? In its emphasis on both the sacred and secular goals of man, it clearly anticipates the Renais- sance conception of the dignity of man.

” Echoing Sophocles' Antigone, Nemesius proclaims: Man crosses the mighty deep, contemplates the range of the heavens, notes the motion, position, and size of the stars, and reaps a harvest from both land and sea, learns all kinds of knowledge, gains skill in arts, pursues scientific inquiry. It enjoyed sufficient prestige to be included in the library pre- pared for Federigo, Duke of Urbino (Bibliotheca Vati- cana, Codex Urbinatus latinus 485), and among the Greek manuscripts assembled by Giannozzo Manetti (Palatinus graecus 385), himself a principal author of the genre among the Italian humanists.

It was, however, the teachings of the Latin Fathers which, through the depth of their influence within the Western theological tradition and through the constant availability of texts, contributed in the most formative way to the development of the Renaissance idea of the dignity of man.

The great and dominating figure was, of course, Augustine of Hippo.

Man excels in the intricacy and functional aptness of his organs and physiology, in his erect posture from which he contemplates the heavens, in the acuteness of his senses, in his mind and intellect, in his gift of speech, in the pliancy and ingenuity of his hands with which he creates the works of civili- zation, has dominion over the earth, and sets about “the fashioning of another world, as it were, within the bounds and precincts of the one we have.” And all of this is the outcome of a general providence with which divinity looks after the human race and of a special concern for individuals who are even assigned particular gods as their guardians.

This analysis of the excellence of man, as presented by Cicero, may be regarded as the most fully developed classical laudation of the dignity of man that has survived, and as representative of Greek rationalism and optimism at its peak.From this we may learn that sensual pleasure is wholly unworthy of the dignity of the human race Passages such as this were well known to the Italian humanists, and following Cicero's precedent, they were able to identify the dignity of man with humanitas itself, the quality of being most truly human which was to be acquired through the study of the liberal arts—the studia humanitatis, from which they derived their name.The notion of the dignity of man is thus in its origins linked with the Petrarchan ideal of the viri illustres stressing high civic or military achieve- ment to be attained through emulation of Roman heroes, i.e., with the pursuit of glory or fame.Whether it is a direct trans- position of the ideas of Posidonius or a Ciceronian synthesis of other sources, it was to have a direct and powerful influence on Renaissance humanist treatises on the dignity of man.But long before this happened, in antiquity, this cluster of ideas was blended with biblical conceptions of the nature and role of man in the universe within the history of the Judeo-Christian tradition.From the combination of these two traditions the Renaissance idea of the dignity of man specifically developed.supplemented by , “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”The critical exegesis was that of Philo Judaeus.30): But in every investigation into the nature of duty, it is vitally necessary for us to remember always how vastly superior is man's nature to that of cattle and other animals: their only thought is for bodily satisfactions....Man's mind on the contrary, is developed by study and reflection....It is derived from the same root as decus and decorum (Sanskrit dac-as, “fame”).Cicero discusses dignity as the quality of masculine beauty as a subtopic to the fourth, but most emphasized, virtue to be sought by man, decorum, or propriety, which he derives from Panaetius' concept, to prepon (De officiis, I. In the course of this discussion Cicero applies the term “dignity” to the human race, as that quality which distinguishes it from animals (ibid., I.

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