Humanism in Renaissance Scotland

Humanism in Renaissance Scotland

Humanism in Renaissance Scotland

Humanism in Renaissance Scotland

Excerpt

R. J. SCHOECK

Renaissance humanism was international, and it was known and (in differing ways and degrees) it flowered in every European country during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It is the purpose of the book that follows to study the ways in which European humanism took root in Scotland and to make clear the ways that Scotland contributed to the parent-growth. It is the purpose of this introduction to provide a sense of the background of European humanism.

The Renaissance -- to take the more comprehensive term -- was a complex period that extended from about 1350 (earlier in Italy) and lasted until about 1600 (somewhat later in some northern European countries). It is a period celebrated for its splendid achievements in art and music, thought, and letters, and it produced some of the most remarkable people of human history. But there were, one must emphasise at the outset, regional differences in chronology as well as social differences everywhere: the way of life and the modes of expression at Ferrara or Burgundy courts were nothing like those of the farms and villages of northern Italy or Flanders at precisely the same time. This period is marked by extraordinary heterogeneity of thought and expression, for Aristotelianism existed side by side with Platonism, neo-Stoicism and neo-Epicureanism, and throughout the period the system known as scholasticism continued in the universities. Not to be forgotten are the strong religious institutions, some old (like the Benedictines and the mendicant orders), some new (like the Brethren of the Common Life); but it is difficult to grasp a sense of that former intensity of devotion, often accompanied by a fervour for reading at least some of the classics, when one gazes upon the 'bare ruined choirs' of the Border country or seeks in vain for the ruins of the monastery in which Erasmus spent half a dozen years near Gouda.

So too the political thought presents a wide spectrum, from strong claims for absolute papal power in writers like Augustinus Triumphatus to equally strong claims for the superior authority of emperors or councils of the Church in writers like Marsiglio of Padua. This introduction does not pretend to cover that full scope of Renaissance . . .

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