What is Renaissance Philosophy?
As in other disciplines, the Renaissance period in philosophy falls between the Medieval and Modern periods and cover the thinkers of the 15th and 16th centuries. It is sometimes argued that the Renaissance period forms the foundation for Modern philosophy, because it gradually sways away from thinking in traditional terms and focuses on Reason – which, arguably, is at the centre of Modernity.
Etymologically, Renaissance is derived from French and means ‘rebirth’. The aim of Renaissance thinkers was to revive the lost treasures of the ancient civilisations – primarily Ancient Greek and Roman philosophers and thinkers. While Renaissance starts in Italian city-states in the mid-14th century, it rapidly spread across Europe and paved the way for Modernity. The movement was in the first instance concerned with the arts, but gradually grew to incorporate philosophy, literary and poetry. The general trends of Renaissance philosophers were to leave the continued concerns with Theology aside and focus on analysis that was not related to religion. It also incorporates the early stages of leaving Scholasticism and focusing on Humanism. In other words, Renaissance philosophers were less concerned with Christianity and the afterlife, and instead focused on temporality of the here and now. Looking back at Ancient Greece and Rome, Renaissance philosophers became more critical and reemphasised the importance of Reason in philosophical enquiry.
Major philosophers of the Renaissance period include:
- Desiderius Erasmus – a Dutch theologian and philosopher.
- Niccolò Machiavelli – an Italian diplomat and philosopher and historian, primarily remembered for his book The Prince.
- Sir Thomas More – an English social philosopher, primarily remember for this book Utopia.
- Sir Francis Bacon – an English jurist and philosopher, primarily remembered for his book The New Atlantis.
Copenhaver B. P. & Schmitt, C. B. (2002). Renaissance Philosophy, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hankins, J. (2007). The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Philosophy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kraye, J. (1998). The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Humanism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Nauert, C. G. (2006). Humanism and the Culture of Renaissance Europe, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.