Society and Government Teachings in the RenaissanceJune 28, 2021
In the Middle Ages, there was a state understanding focused on the state of God. What mattered was not life in “this world” but life in the “other world”. With the Renaissance, “this world” again became what really matters, as it was in the Ancient Ages.
“With the Renaissance, this religious understanding of the Middle Ages is replaced by an understanding that wants to be connected to “this world”, not to the “other world” (Dinçer 2010, p. 191). Therefore, the Renaissance is, in a sense, the rebirth of Antiquity. As a result of the naturalistic attitude of the Renaissance, concepts such as natural law, the rights that people have by nature, natural justice became the main interests of Law and Political Philosophies.
Foresans means ‘rebirth’.
The universal state of the Middle Ages was the Church, the representative of the state of God on earth, and it was above all national political formations and nation states, as it held all political power in its own hands.
In the Renaissance, art, literature, science, and the state, including religion, are reborn as institutions independent and autonomous from the Church. It is this rebirth, but rebirth independent of the Church, that gives the Renaissance its identity and spirit.
Various ideas emerged in the Renaissance. Undoubtedly, the most important of these was the Humanism movement that emerged in Italy. Humanism was also the basis of the Renaissance political teachings and secular state understandings emerged in this period.
“When the national consciousness started to awaken in the Renaissance, the universalist structure of the medieval state collapsed and was replaced by the multiplicity of national states” (Dinçer 2010, p. 191). In a sense, this was the liberation and secularization of the nation-states from the domination of the Church. The intellectual foundations of this political autonomy were also laid in the Renaissance.
Renaissance means rebirth, and what reappears in the Renaissance is the anthropocentric attitude of Antiquity. This naturalistic attitude of the Renaissance was also reflected in the political views put forward in this period. The views that emerged in this period emerged as a reaction to the God-centered perspective of the Middle Ages. One of the most important political theorists of the Renaissance period is Machiavelli. He opposed the attitude of the Middle Ages that brought religious power to the fore, and placed the state as a political power above religious power, and found the basis of the state in human nature and thought of the state as a natural entity.
This is a view that reflects the naturalistic attitude of the Renaissance. Again, thinkers such as Jean Bodin and Hugo Grotius put forward the naturalistic attitude of the Renaissance in their political views with their natural law or natural law designs, and considered the state as a natural entity. This idea, which sees the state as a natural entity, which the Renaissance thinkers put forward in their political theories, is also present in Plato and Aristotle, who are among the ancient philosophers. In contrast, the Middle Ages put forward a theory of the state from a religious point of view and put forward the concept of the state of God. The most important point that distinguishes the Renaissance and the Middle Ages from each other in terms of society and state teachings is that the Renaissance took the natural as the starting point, just like the ancient thoughts, while the Middle Ages took the revelation, which is the word of God, as the starting point.
Compiled by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Atatürk University Department of Sociology Lecture Notes for Grade 1 “Introduction to Philosophy” and Grade 3 “History of Contemporary Philosophy” (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook
– Niccolo Machiavelli: The first secular state theory
– Jean Bodin’s understanding of natural justice
– The state design based on the law of nature by Hugo Grotius
– Utopias as designs of society (state)