Philosophical Currents That Shaped Renaissance Thought

Philosophical Currents That Shaped Renaissance Thought

June 28, 2021 Off By Felso

One of the prominent philosophical movements in the Renaissance is Stoicism. For example, Petrarch, influenced by the Stoics, expressed the views of this movement in his discourses. This trend, which is generally an ethical worldview, had an impact on the high-level families and educated classes of the period with its proposal of a lifestyle. Seneca accepted the classical Stoic principle.

According to him, living in accordance with nature was the basis of morality and nature and reason were identical. Compliance with nature meant conformity with reason. To live rationally, away from emotions and passions, was to live wisely. The purpose of the moral life, then, was to lead a wise life. Seneca defined the wise person as a person who is equally insensitive to pleasure and pain, self-sufficient in all matters, chooses virtue with his free will, and sees himself as the master of the universe. Epicureanism, which is also an ethical teaching, found many supporters in the Renaissance with its advices such as catching the pleasures of life and living a happy life.

Epicureanism, which saw pleasure as the only source of happiness, was a very misinterpreted movement in the Middle Ages. At that time, Epicurean meant pagan, pagan, astray, and was also an adjective describing people who turned their backs on high spiritual values ​​and pursued simple worldly pleasures. However, in true Epicureanism, spiritual pleasures come to the fore, not bodily pleasures. The fact that the body is in painlessness is sufficient as bodily pleasure. Spiritual pleasures, on the other hand, are more satisfying and continuous. It is spiritual pleasures that lead people to true happiness, and this again means pointing to a wise life. Within this emphasis, the true value and meaning of Epicureanism began to be understood again in the Renaissance period. Epicureanism, which is a philosophy of the Hellenistic period, also found a place among the philosophical studies during the Renaissance period.

In this period, skepticism also had some effect. The discovery of antiquity skeptics in the Renaissance period and the act of forming a certain worldview by being influenced by their philosophies also appear. Montaigne is an example of this. Finally, Atomist views can be mentioned. Atomism in the Renaissance was handled through Epicurus rather than Democritus. We discussed Epicureanism above as an ethical teaching. Because the Epicurean philosophy, like the Stoic philosophy, included a certain approach to the structure of nature, and was especially influential with its suggestions on spirituality and morality. However, Democritus’ views on humanity were not yet mature enough to attract attention. For this reason, Epicureanism had an impact on a certain number of people, especially in terms of leading a lifestyle during the Renaissance. In this period, Epicurus’ moral views were discussed under the name of “Epicureanism” and his metaphysical views under the name of “atomism”. Epicurus too, following the path of Democritus, sees the building blocks of the universe as atoms; Everything is formed as a result of the collision of atoms with each other while they are in motion in the vacuum. Atoms are only entities in quantitative nature, that is, they have properties such as size, weight, volume and speed of motion, but they do not have qualities such as color, sound, taste, smell. As can be seen, such an approach seems to open the way to the mathematical explanation of nature. At the same time, he was the pioneer of the mechanical understanding of nature. Pierre Gassendi (1592-1655), a French thinker who lived in the first half of the New Age, adopted this view and ensured that Epicurean atomism regained its original form in accordance with the general understanding of the Renaissance.

Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook