Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Renaissance Humanism and Darwin

Renaissance Humanism seeks to explore the limits of human potential, and celebrate exceeding such. This form of humanism emphasizes an interest in humanity over divinity throughout the Italian Renaissance Era. To look at the human condition and find a pride for being human is imperative in this intellectual/cultural movement that continues to this day. Within this introspection, it is clear that human culture has evolved. To continue with the model of the Renaissance, Georgia Vasari's "Lives of the Artists" pays special attention to the progress of artistic development from the start of the Renaissance through to his day in the 1550s. One of his passages bears striking resemblance to Darwinism in that "anyone who compares their works to those which came before them will observe that they were better in every respect and will see some things that do not cause any kind of displeasure in our own day, such as some of the little temples of brick covered with stucco at San Giovanni in Laterano in Rome" (Vasari 51). Here, he outlines the evolution of Renaissance artwork from a very primitive groundwork through to what he calls perfection.

However, contrary to Darwin, this evolution did not occur randomly and without any intentional selection. In each period of the Renaissance, Artists built on one another's work and deliberately sought to improve upon them. Renaissance Humanism refutes Darwin's theory of evolution by means of natural selection. Likewise, our culture today refutes this as there is no random variation deciding upon which how to better construct a skyscraper, or how to build a faster racecar or how to more beautifully play an instrument. These actions take deliberate study and followthrough. So my thought in reading through Renaissance Humanism is that it was the first time a real introspection into the human condition occurred since the time of the Ancients. And it is during this time that human progress was emphasized - which is very reminiscent of Darwinism. However, the way in which this progress was attained, and the society that our culture has now become from it, refutes the very means through Which Darwin preached it had happened.

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