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Featured One of the Whopping Big Contributions of Christianity to Renaissance Humanism!

Discussion in 'General Religious Debates' started by Sunstone, Feb 21, 2018.

  1. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    CAUTION: The following views are my own and are offered here not as Gospel Truths, but rather to stimulate conversation. Having said that, I am of course undoubtedly right about everything I say.

    I am of the alarming and insufferable opinion that the Renaissance begins on April 26, 1336 with Petrarch's attaining the summit of Mont Ventoux.

    Safer, more conservative souls -- including many scholars -- have dated the Renaissance from when Petrarch began his ascent of the mountain, or from when he descended from it, but I myself snort loudly and decisively at all such overly-cautious interpretations: 'Twas when he summitted the mountain that the Renaissance began.

    It was then that Petrarch (after reading a chance passage in Augustine's Confessions) was stunned into silence by the thought (which he attributed not to Augustine, but rather to "Pagan philosophers") that "...nothing is wonderful but the soul, which, when great itself, finds nothing great outside itself."

    Thus began the Renaissance -- with a thought.

    Here are two takeaways from that thought. First, Petrarch effectively makes humanity (i.e. "the human soul") the source of all value in this world. Second, he ascribes the view that humanity is the source of all value, not to Christian theologians, but to "Pagan philosophers". Thus, the Renaissance has sometimes been seen by low and scurrilous sorts of people as merely a rebirth of ancient Grecco-Roman humanism.

    However, I myself feel deeply compelled to submit to you my unbearable opinion that Renaissance humanism, although heavily inspired and informed by humanistic Grecco-Roman philosophies, etc, also owed a lot to Christianity. Bushels and bushels, in fact!

    I believe we see this not only in the incidental fact that most of the early Renaissance thinkers, including Petrarch himself, were churchmen, but also in the more significant fact that Renaissance humanism was not the province of a relatively small elite -- as had been classical humanism -- but was intended from its start to be a broad based, almost democratic movement of the whole citizenry.

    By why would it be significant that the early proponents of Renaissance humanism sought to make it as broad based as possible? It is significant, I believe, because I say so because they did so influenced by the Christian notion of the "equality of all souls".

    Or at least something similar to that.

    The notion that everyone is equal on the level of the soul (and somewhat later on the notions that everyone ought to be equal before the law, have equal opportunities in life, etc, etc.) would have been inconceivable to classical thinkers such as Plato and Aristotle. Those thinkers accepted as fact that some lives -- usually the lives of the poor and powerless -- were of less worth and value than other lives -- usually the lives of the rich and powerful.

    Christians, on the other hand, saw everyone as equal before God. They were apparently inspired by Judaism's social consciousness to see folks that way, although it seems they added their own twist to it by expanding on and universalizing that social consciousness. Thus, when the noble moment in history arrived to invent Renaissance humanism, the guiding lights of the movement (who, as I have noted, were for the most part Christian clergymen) simply found it natural to make the movement as broad based and inclusive as possible because they believed in the equality of souls baseball, and apple pie. Had those folks been ancient Grecco-Roman Pagans, they would more likely have focused any such movement more or less on the nobles alone.

    It should go almost without saying that today's humanism is a direct descendant of Renaissance humanism. Although it has changed and evolved over the centuries, humanism even today is an essentially democratic movement and ideology. Thank you, Christianity!

    And that is, more or less, your Uncle Sunstone's take on just one of the whopping big contributions of Christianity to humanism and ultimately to the modern world. I believe there are several other contributions that I might or might not post about in the near future.

    Comments? Observations? Mouth-frothing Rants? Deranged off-topic meanderings?


    Special thanks to @Vouthon for having inspired this thread's topic by a post of his in another thread.
     
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  2. Polymath257

    Polymath257 Think & Care
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    Yes, indeed. And don't forget the Christian contributions to the rise of early science. The idea that the universe is rationally designed lead to the conclusion that humans have a chance to understand it. Many of the precursors to the scientific revolution were churchmen.
     
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  3. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    Excellent observation! I'm working on a series of threads, including one to that effect. :)
     
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  4. shunyadragon

    shunyadragon Well-Known Member
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    I consider Islam to be a significant contribution to the Renaissance. Greek philosophy also had a significant influence on the Renaissance and the rise of Humanism. Christianity has an influence, but it is a more complicated reality, and I do not consider the contribution of Christianity to be Whooping Big. Roman philosopher Lucretius also influenced a natural view of our existence that Humanism later brought. These and other possible influences have a greater influence than Christianity.
     
    #4 shunyadragon, Feb 21, 2018
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2018
  5. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    To the extent that I agree with the OP, I see it as an accident of circunstance.

    Reason and rationality would be pursued eventually, if for no other reason because they are so clearly superior to the alternatives.

    Christianity happened to be a politically influential force at the time when that realization settled in. But before we assign it merit we have to ask which alternative scenarios we are comparing it to. Would it happen any later or with any more difficulty without Christianity?

    Personally, I just don't think it would. We are reduced therefore to praising Christianity for not always being too stubborn to learn from the real world.

    As for Islaam, if it ever had any affinity towards the promotion rational inquiry, it sure fails to keep any evidence of that in the present day. I flat out doubt that it helped in any way. On the contrary, I see strong indications that it was never anything but a hinder to rationality.
     
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  6. Altfish

    Altfish Well-Known Member

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    The Arab world was the leading light in science until about the 10th Century.
    Neil de Grasse Tyson has a great talk on this...
     
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  7. Augustus

    Augustus the Unreasonable

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    Not a particularly factually accurate one though.

    He included the same "Al Ghazali destroyed the Golden Age" myth in Cosmos, but it is just a myth. He doesn't seem to have had any great effect on scholarly output as far as we can tell. Philosophy and sciences carried on pretty much as before.

    If Islamic science seemed less dynamic, it is also worth considering the things that led to the Golden Age and how their impact reduced over time, and that Intra-Islamic warfare, the Mongol invasions, changing patterns of world trade were major impacts on the stability and wealth of the empires.

    A bit of background to the rise of the GA (which coincided with a wonderful new technology - paper):

    It was in Muslim lands that natural philosophy received the most careful and creative attention from the seventh to the twelfth century.12 The reasons for this had much to do with the rapid spread of Islamic civilization over vast territories in which other cultures had long before laid down deep roots. By virtue of its geography alone, Islam became “the meeting point for Greek, Egyptian, In- dian and Persian traditions of thought, as well as the technology of China.”13

    This was an asset of incalculable value. For one thing, practical know-how (like how to produce paper) spread from culture to culture. For another, the multiplicity of intellectual and cultural traditions absorbed by Islam were synthesized in startling and creative ways, lending Islamic culture a richness and authority far beyond what one might expect to find in a relatively young civilization. Indeed, by the start of the ninth century, great numbers of Greek, Indian, and Persian books of philoso- phy and natural philosophy had been translated into Arabic, and by the year 1000 the library of ancient writings available in Ara- bic was vastly superior to the works available in Latin or any other language.

    It included a great deal of Indian astronomy and mathematics (translated from Sanskrit and Pahlavi), most of the Hellenistic corpus, and much Greek philosophy. These transla- tions were of immense worth for philosophers of nature of later generations, but the real importance of Arabic-language scholar- ship went far beyond translation alone. Muslim scholars added sophisticated commentaries and glosses to Greek texts and wrote original essays that advanced every major field of inquiry, mathematics, astronomy, optics, and above all medicine. They developed intricate instruments of observation, built (with the support of caliphs) massive observatories, and collected volumes of observations that retained their value for astronomers for long centuries.

    Many of these Muslim achievements were, in time, eagerly adopted by Christian philosophers of nature. As Christians slowly reconquered much of Spain and Sicily from Muslim rulers in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, they came into more intimate contact with the large corpus of Arabic texts, translations, and original treatises and discovered as well Greek texts that had previously been lost to them. Christian scholars, aided on occasion by Jews, translated many of these texts into Latin, and this grand body of new materials forever changed the course of Christian philosophy of nature. (Galileo goes to jail)
     
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  8. Revoltingest

    Revoltingest Ignorant Atheist Libertarian Capitalist
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    Is this contribution due to Xianity, or
    due to people who happened to be Xian?
     
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  9. Altfish

    Altfish Well-Known Member

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    There may be one or two minor errors in the video but the general gist of it is true. Muslims have little input in science for almost 1000-years.

    I'm not saying Christian leaders were exactly pro-science especially when it destroyed religious myths
     
  10. Augustus

    Augustus the Unreasonable

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    I think many partizans of the "conflict thesis" fail to appreciate how much the diffusion of advanced learning, philosophy and sciences outside if this elite was aided by the church via monasteries and more importantly universities, the spread of which were actively supported by the Papacy. This brought education to hundreds of thousands of people across Europe.

    One likely reason that churchmen are widely represented in the intellectual elite was that theology was an advanced degree and to study it you had to first have passed the 'lower level' work which included logic, philosophy and natural philosophy (the handmaiden of theology).

    While many think the church was always afraid of science, instead it literally forced people to study it if they wanted to be Christian theologians.
     
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  11. Polymath257

    Polymath257 Think & Care
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    Toby Huff seems to agree with Tyson on this one. Yes, certainly the Mongol invasions had an effect (although one of the premier astronomy sites of the 14th century was Mongol), but the perspective that Greek learning was 'foreign' and thereby 'against Islam' did spread and had its own effect. The criticisms of Kalam also had an effect.
     
  12. Augustus

    Augustus the Unreasonable

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    It's not a 'minor error' to put the end of the GA on the head of someone who had little to no effect on it.

    He basically says GA, al Ghazli, Islamic science stops dead, fast forward and we get Islamic terror.

    Firstly, from what I can gather from Western scholars who are experts (not from firsthand experience), it is a misrepresentation of his philosophy (not that being Western makes you a better expert, just that it's not simply apologetics). The aspects of philosophy he had an issue with were reasonably limited rather than an outright attack on philosophy and science in general, and didn't extend to important areas such as logic. Also, because he discussed philosophical ideas in order to refute them, he actually had the unintended effect of making them more widely known. He also had to use philosophical reasoning in order to refute them

    And even if he did aim to 'kill' philosophy, he completely failed, as it kept on going (some have argued it actually increased). 100 years after Ghazali you had Averroes for example, and he's one of the most famous of all. Scientific discoveries were also being made in the Islamic world for many centuries after his death in fields like mathematics, astronomy and medicine, even though it fell behind Europe due to sociocultural, economic and educational developments there.

    Secondly, his theology is not a driver of Islamic fundamentalism because he was a Sufi and a mystic, things which don't really chime with fundamentalists.

    Highly complex sociocultural, economic and historical issues can't be reduced to "it was al-Ghazli what done it".
     
  13. Augustus

    Augustus the Unreasonable

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    Many of these ideas come from the classic "conflict thesis" period of western scholarship of science and religion in the 19th 20th C simply transposed onto the Islamic world.

    Just as they are being corrected in regard to Western society, they are also being corrected in terms of Islamic society. This process obviously is less advanced because the sources are not accessible to most Western scholars. In addition, they are also not too keyed up on Islamic theology to the extent necessary to make a judgement of its effects on society.

    The problem with Tyson's idea is that science didn't decline when it should have done, it kept on advancing in numerous fields for centuries.

    [​IMG]

    from G Saliba - Islamic science and the making of the European Renaissance.
     
  14. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    I seem to recall that I already asked you what alternative scenarios would be likely to happen without Christianity, haven't I?
     
  15. Altfish

    Altfish Well-Known Member

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    I really think you watched a different video to me, it was a short, light-hearted critique of the adverse effect of religion on progress, I think you are really nit-picking with your criticism. Choosing one or two issues but missing out the key point such as the ratio of Nobel Prize winners.

    Averroes died before the 13century had begun and yes Al-Ghazali had died about 80-years earlier but we are still taking more than 800-years ago. Is Averroes the most recent example you have??.

    You seem to have a chip on your shoulder and be saying that western people are not allowed to make comment on Arab science or Islam?
     
  16. metis

    metis aged ecumenical anthropologist

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    The birthplace for the Renaissance was in Florence, Italy, and it started within the Church but soon challenged the Church itself because it led to many changes in thought, much of which had secular origins with many of them being based on Aristotle's teachings. Even Aquinas adhered to much of what Aristotle taught.

    BTW, if the reader gets a chance, please treat yourself and visit Florence-- it's a great place even today, imo. And visit the only remaining synagogue there, whereas the NAZI's arrested people worshiping on Yom Kippur, with most of them being sent by train off to Auschwitz. There's also a cute little Kosher restaurant nearby that serves quite good lunches, btw. Tell them Metis sent ya-- I'm sure they'll give you a good discount. :rolleyes:
     
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  17. Augustus

    Augustus the Unreasonable

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    Can't remember :D

    No idea really, would involve too many changing variables. We only have one history and in that one Christianity helped the spread of education and contributed significantly to the development of sciences.

    Although many societies have longer scientific traditions, modern science developed in Western Europe which had all of the necessary components (popular education, progressive teleology, belief in an ordered universe, the idea that experimentation was necessary to demonstrate knowledge, a belief that studying non-productive abstract science was a worthwhile endeavour, etc). Christianity, to some extent, played a role in all of these (and of course there were many other influences).

    Of course in an alternate universe these things could have arisen via other means, the fact remains they didn't arise in (almost?) all other historical societies up to that point. China, for example, never had a 'scientific revolution' despite being far more advanced for centuries (perhaps because science was only seen as a tool for production and Confucian learning was an elitist pursuit among other things).

    So while we can never know, I don't see any reason to assume that such things would have arisen more quickly without Christianity, and if they did eventually arise it would likely have been later (based on the fact they seem to be a rare combination). Anything is possible though.
     
  18. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    I respectfully disagree. It is of course speculative, but it seems to me all but certain that without Christianity some other forms of ideology and organization would have arisen, and I see no indication that those would be less interested or less capable in the nurture of reason, rationality and science than Christianity was.

    Of course, it is awfully speculative. Who truly knows what would have arisen in such an alternative world?
     
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  19. Augustus

    Augustus the Unreasonable

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    It's obvious that, at some point, the Islamic world fell behind scientifically and technologically compared to the West. What the causes of that were are far less obvious.

    If he had just skipped the al-Ghazli bit and gone on to the present I wouldn't really care about it.

    I understand your perspective, we just put a premium on different pieces of information in that film.


    Wrong chip :D

    What annoys me is when people who put a high premium on reason and rational scepticism and castigate others for their failings in this regard resort to reductionist, ideological driven narratives that explain complex things just that little bit too conveniently. My issue with Tyson is that he uses highly public and influential vehicles like Cosmos to do this so myths get further retrenched in popular consciousness.

    We all get annoyed when we perceive someone as spreading falsehoods on an issue we care about (even though we are all guilty of causing this in other people at times), and none of us likes double standards (even though we are all guilty of these too).
     
  20. shunyadragon

    shunyadragon Well-Known Member
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    The first universities were Islamic universities.

    Disagree, this does not reflect the history of the relationship between Christianity and science.
     
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