Humanism

DEFINITION

Any attitude that gives priority to human endeavors, their values, capacities, worth, interests, needs, and welfare, rather than to those of the gods, the spirits, the animals, or any other non-human thing. Also, the study of the humanities. The term is frequently qualified, as in "Renaissance humanism," which is characterized by a love of the achievements of the Greco-Roman world, an optimism that humans are inherently endowed with the skills necessary to reshape the world according to their own needs, and a belief in inherent human dignity. While the Renaissance humanists did not see their enlightened self-interest as a contradiction of their Christianity, a few recent demagogues identify "secular humanism" as a tacitly atheistic preoccupation with human affairs.Artworks resulting from the humanism which arose during the Renaissance: Leonardo da Vinci (Italian, 1452-1519), Study of proportions, from Vitruvius's De Architectura, pen and ink, 13 1/2 x 9 5/8 inches (34.3 x 24.5 cm), Accademia, Venice. Leonardo, inspired by the mathematician Vitruvius (Roman, 1st century BCE), drew this famous picture of Vitruvian Man ? a sort of ideal figure ? whose arm span is equal to his height ? a ratio of one, or 1:1. See a page with a math lesson plan for grades 6-8, as well as articles on drawing, proportion, and Renaissance.Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Netherlandish, active by 1551, died 1569), The Harvesters, 1565, oil on wood panel; overall, including added strips at top, bottom, and right, 46 7/8 x 63 3/4 inches (119 x 162 cm); original painted surface 45 7/8 x 62 7/8 inches (116.5 x 159.5 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. (On the Met's page, you can enlarge any detail.)

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