The Philosophy Of Humanistic Approach

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Humanism is a cultural movement that steers away from medieval scholasticism and displays an interest in ancient Greek and Roman thought. Scholasticism is a method of learning first used around A.D 1100 and was often taught in medieval universities, by monks or other religious figures. This method focuses on training that expects the use of reason and experience, along with the arguments used that refer to Christian teachings and philosophies. Humanism, on the other hand, was a philosophy that typically focused on an individual’s dignity and values, while staying secular, avoiding supernaturalism. Renaissance had the goal of training the people to be able to write, speak, and persuade through the study of art, classical works. Due to this idea, citizens would be able to speak persuasively and push others around them to live a moral life, many times being instructed by important works of poetry, history, and rhetoric. With that being said, humanism presents a new, contrasting idea that is shown in many admired pieces of artwork and literature known throughout history.

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The first piece of art that exemplifies this philosophy in many aspects was made by Leonardo da Vinci, who lived through humanism. Da Vinci was a painter, inventor, and architect, who took on the title of the “Renaissance man,” due to his value of human dignity and education, as well as seeking humanity’s natural place. Because of his deep study and love for the world, his work symbolizes the humanism philosophy. One of da Vinci’s most famous pieces of art, “The Last Supper,” happens to display a great amount of humanism. The mural was created with tempera and oil on plaster and depicts Jesus Christ having his last supper with his Twelve Disciples. Jesus addresses the Apostles, saying “One of you shall betray me.” This confrontation puts his company in shock, giving the faces in the artwork much emotion. This is one of the first humanism characteristics displayed in this piece because there is not one disciple with a lack of emotion, exhibiting the focus of individuals and realism throughout this philosophy. Another example shown in this painting is the scenery visible through the windows behind the dinner. The hills and houses appear three-dimensional and use a vanishing point, which was introduced during the Renaissance period. Not only does this give the scene dimension, but it identifies the direct relation to humanism. When relating to humanism, it was important for everything in life to be balanced, just as da Vinci represented in his painting using symmetry. The symmetry, being the final characteristic of humanism shown in this piece, is illustrated in three main areas; the equal separation of the disciples and Christ, the table setting, and the framework. The table is split into two sections, with six disciples on each side of Jesus and within those groups, two groups of three. This layout draws focus to Jesus in the center and shows grouping and communication among the disciples. In addition to the people showing symmetry, it is also made visible, by looking at the table setting, which is near identical for each seat. Finally, the framework of the doors and windows displays symmetry, by following a vanishing point to the horizon line, causing them to be lined with one another.

Another popular example of humanism is the Greek tragedy, The Odyssey, written by Homer, who also composed the Iliad. Homer, although the majority of his life remains a mystery, was well known for his epic poems. Epic poetry tells a whole story or is a compilation of multiple stories at once and is often transcribed. Homer’s poem depicts the 10-year struggle Odysseus faces while trying to return home after the Trojan War. Giving imagery of Odysseous’ battles with mystical creatures and his confrontation with the wrath of the gods. The Odyssey ends with Odysseus retaking the throne of Ithaca after winning a contest to prove his identity and slaughtering the suitors. It is these very struggles and harsh circumstances that Odysseus overcomes, that lead to the first way humanism is represented in this epic poem. Despite being stranded on islands, held for captivity, and blown across seas, he never gave up. He continued to press on, regardless of the external or internal conflict, proving he knows his worth and is willing to fight for his life. Although there are gods present throughout the story, they never save him or prevent him from any success of returning home. This connects to humanism because it mends with the ideas of focusing on individuals, without any reliance on the gods. In addition, it proves Odysseous’s strong will and his confidence, which is often what is a humanist involves. Humanism, being a philosophy of change and man coming to know himself and his world is not only displayed in Odysseus but the overall atmosphere of The Odyssey. Homer used light in association with kings and rulers who had ordered kingdoms, success, and manners. While associating darkness with chaos and disorder. But when Odysseus, who was a model of a humanist returns to Ithaca and defeats the suitors, there is victory over the chaos, returning the order that was once there. 

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