Comparison of the Renaissance and Enlightenment ( )


      Renaissance means rebirth or recovery, has its  origins  in  Italy
and  is  associated  with  the   rebirth   of   antiquity   or   Greco-Roman
civilization. The age of the  Renaissance  is  believed  to  elapse  over  a
period of about two centuries, approximately from 1350 to 1550.  Above  all,
the Renaissance was a recovery from the Middle Ages and  all  the  disasters
associated with it: the Black Death, economic, political and social  crises.
For the intellectuals, it was a period of recovery from the Dark  Ages;  a
period, which was called so due to its lack of classical culture.
      First Italian and then intellectuals of  the  rest  of  Europe  became
increasingly  interested  in  the  Greco-Roman  culture   of   the   ancient
Mediterranean world. This interest was fostered especially by the  migration
of the Greek intellectuals during the Middle Ages  and  the  fact  that  the
ancient Greek works could then be  translated  more  precisely  into  Latin.
Increasing popularity of archeology  and  discovery  of  ancient  Roman  and
Greek constructions also participated  in  this  intense  interest  for  the
classical culture.
      But the Renaissance was not exclusively associated with the revival of
classical antiquity. It  is  believed  that  precisely  from  the  fifteenth
century great changes took place affecting  public  and  social  spheres  of
Europe and then the rest of the world; the  basis  of  the  modern  European
civilization  and  capitalist  system  were  then   founded.   Technological
innovations increased the rates of economic development. Great  geographical
discoveries opened up the boarders of the Western world,  thus  accelerating
the formation of national, European and  world  markets.  Major  changes  in
art, music, literature and religion wrecked the system of medieval values.
      Another period  marked  by  significant  changes,  is  the  eighteenth
century or an age of Enlightenment. Although present throughout Europe,  the
origins of the Enlightenment are closely  associated  with  France  and  its
philosophers such as Voltaire, Rousseau and others.  The  Enlightenment  has
been fostered by the remarkable discoveries of the Scientific Revolution  of
the seventeenth century. It was during this period that  the  ideas  of  the
Scientific Revolution  were  spread  and  popularized  by  the  philosophers
(intellectuals of the 18th century).
Reason  was the word used the most frequently during the Enlightenment;  it
meant a scientific method, which appealed to facts and experiences.  It  was
the age of the reexamination of all aspects  of  life,  a  movement  of  the
intellectuals who dared to know and who were arguing for  the  application
of the scientific methods to  the  understanding  of  all  life.  For  these
intellectuals it was also a recovery from  the  darkness  since  all  that
could not be tested and proved by the rational  and  scientific  methods  of
thinking was darkness.  Blind  trust  and  acceptance  was  darkness,  while
reason, knowledge and examination  was the light that  would  lead  to  a
progress and better society.
      There are similarities that can with certainty be traced  between  the
Renaissance  and  the  Enlightenment.   Many   of   the   eighteenth-century
philosophers  saw  themselves  as  the  followers  of  the  philosophers  of
antiquity and the humanists of the Renaissance. To  them,  the  Middle  Ages
were also  a  period  of  intellectual  darkness  whereby  the  society  was
dominated by the dogmatic Catholic Church,  allowed  faith  to  obscure  and
diminished human reason. Secularization that first arose in the  Renaissance
erupted  with   new   strength   and   particular   intensity   during   the
Enlightenment. Development of secular art,  music,  literature  and  way  of
thinking  of  the  Renaissance  was  followed  and  further  spread  by  the
philosophers  of  the  Enlightenment.  Both,   the   Renaissance   and   the
Enlightenment were primarily the preserve of the wealthy upper  classes  who
constituted a small percentage of the population. Achievements of both,  the
Renaissance and the Enlightenment were the  product  of  the  elite,  rather
than a mass movement.  Gradually  though,  they  did  have  an  irreversible
impact on ordinary people.  Another  apparent  similarity  between  the  two
periods, of course, was the fact that both of  them  were  marked  by  great
political and social changes. However, since evolution  and  progress  cause
changes, and achievements of one century are built on those of the  previous
one, there are probably more differences than similarities between  the  two
periods. Taking a look at different social  and  public  spheres,  we  shall
examine the differences and the similarities  between  the  Renaissance  and
the Enlightenment.
      Consider the intellectual areas of the two  periods.  The  Renaissance
saw the emergence and growth of humanism. Humanism was a form  of  education
and culture based on the study of classics. Being primarily  an  educational
form, it included the study  of  such  liberal  arts  subjects  as  grammar,
rhetoric, poetry, ethics and history that were based on the examinations  of
classical authors. Humanists  occupied  mainly  secular  positions  such  as
teachers of humanities in secondary schools or  professors  of  rhetoric  in
universities; they  were  mostly  laymen  rather  than  members  of  clergy.
Education was central to the  humanist  movement  since  humanists  believed
that education could change immensely  the  human  beings.  Humanists  wrote
books on education and developed secondary schools  based  on  their  ideas.
Their schools though, were  principally  reserved  for  the  wealthy  elite;
children from the lower social classes  as  well  as  females  were  largely
absent from them. During  the  Enlightenment,  as  during  the  Renaissance,
private secondary schools were most of  the  times  dominated  by  religious
orders, especially by the Jesuits. However,  a  great  difference  with  the
Renaissance was the  development  of  new  schools  designed  to  provide  a
broader  education,  which   offered   modern   languages,   geography   and
bookkeeping, preparing students for careers in business.
      In  Renaissance  philosophy  a  change  was   expressed   through   an
assimilation  of  Platonic  philosophy  into  Christianity   by   means   of
translation and interpretation. This led to the emergence of a new  form  of
philosophy  known  as  Neoplatonism.  Renaissance  humanists  saw  a   human
occupying central position in the great chain of being  between  the  lowest
form of physical matter (plants) and the purest spirit (God). A human  being
was the  link  between  the  material  world  (through  the  body)  and  the
spiritual world (through the soul).  M. Ficino (1433-1499) was  one  of  the
most  important  humanists  that  contributed  to  the  emergence   of   the
Neoplatonism.  Concerning  religion,  Renaissance  philosophers   were   not
rejecting Christianity, they mostly believed in God and  were  only  against
the policies and practices of the Catholic Church at that period.
       The  Enlightenment  philosophers  such  as  Voltaire  (1694-1778)  or
Diderot (1713-1784) went  beyond  Renaissance  philosophers.  They  severely
criticized  traditional  religion  and   actively   called   for   religious
toleration.  Moreover,   the   Enlightenment   philosophers,   Voltaire   in
particular, championed, among other things,  deism.  Deism  was  based  upon
Newtonian world-machine, which implied the existence  of  a  mechanic  (God)
who had created the universe, but did not have direct involvement in it  and
allowed it to run according to its  own  natural  laws.  These  philosophers
believed that God did not extend grace  or  respond  prayers.  Diderot,  who
advocated similar ideas, made a  great  contribution  to  the  Enlightenment
with creation of the famous Encyclopedia (Classified Dictionary of  Science,
Arts and Trades), which included  works  and  ideas  of  many  philosophers.
Thanks to the Renaissance printing and the reductions  in  the  Encyclopedia
price, Enlightenment ideas became available to general  literate  public  of
the century.
      One of the innovations in history during the Renaissance  was  in  the
way history was recorded. In writing of history, humanists divided the  past
into ancient world, dark ages and their own age, thus providing a new  sense
of  chronology.  Humanists  were  also  responsible  for  secularization  of
history. By taking new approaches to historic sources,  humanist  historians
sensibly reduced the role of miracles in history.  Concerning  history,  the
Enlightenment philosophers had a similarity with the  Renaissance  humanist-
historians in that they  also  placed  their  histories  in  purely  secular
settings. However, the difference between the two was  that  if  Renaissance
historians  had  de-emphasized  the  role   of   God   and   miracles,   the
Enlightenment  philosophers-historians,  such  as  Voltaire,  eliminated  it
altogether. Also, philosophers-historians  extended  the  scope  of  history
over  the  humanists  preoccupation  with  politics  by  paying  increasing
attention to economic, social, intellectual and cultural developments.
      Among the most important technological innovations of the  renaissance
was printing. J. Gutenberg played an important role in bringing the  process
of printing to completion between 1445-1450. This process was vital for  the
diffusion of knowledge and humanist  ideas.  Printing  spread  very  rapidly
around Europe and its effects were soon  felt  in  many  areas  of  European
life. Continued after the invention of printing process,  the  expansion  of
both, publishing and the reading public, became particularly visible  during
the Enlightenment. Even though, as  during  the  Renaissance,  most  of  the
published works  were  aimed  at  small  groups  of  educated  elite,  there
appeared more publications for the new  reading  public.  This  new  reading
public consisted mainly of the middle classes and included women  and  urban
artisans. An important role in the increase  of  these  publications  played
the development of magazines for the general public and emergence  of  daily
newspapers  an innovation unknown to the Renaissance.
      In  art,  Renaissance  humanism  and  naturalism  revealed  themselves
through the exposition of the world of beauty and human body.  Flat,  static
paintings of the medieval art left their  place  to  the  three-dimensional,
salient and convexo-concave style of  the  Renaissance.  Leonardo  da  Vinci
(1452-1519),  Michelangelo  (1478-1564)  and  other  great  artists  of  the
Renaissance demonstrated in their works an  ideal  individual  in  whom  the
physical beauty and that of the soul converged  together  according  to  the
standards  of  antique  aesthetics.  Renaissance  artists   considered   the
imitation of nature of their primary goal, human beings became the focus  of
attention. To the great discontent of the Church,  themes  of  human  nudity
also became present in works of the Renaissance artists. Likewise,  a  human
being with his basic desires and passions appeared in literature.
      In the Enlightenment art, the similarity with the Renaissance was that
the Baroque style largely used in Renaissance continued into the  eighteenth
century.  Also,  Neoclassicism   persisted   to   have   a   wide   support.
Neoclassicism was the revival of the classical style of ancient  Greece  and
Rome. Nonetheless,  by  1730s,  a  new  style  known  as  Rococo  (a  French
innovation) began to  gain  great  popularity.  Unlike  the  Baroque,  which
accentuated majesty and power through the use of grand diagonals  and  games
of light, Rococo emphasized grace and gentleness. This style could  be  seen
in the works of important artists of  the  eighteenth  century  such  as  A.
Watteau (1684-1721) and  G.  B.  Tiepolo  (1696-1770).  In  architecture,  a
combination of the Baroque  and  Rococo  gave  rise  to  some  of  the  most
beautiful  architectural  constructions  such  as  Vierzehnheiligen   church
decorated by the great architect B. Newmann (1687-1753).
      A major change in music during the Renaissance was the change  in  the
composition for the mass.  To  replace  Gregorian  chants,  the  Renaissance
madrigal saw its emergence as a chief form of secular  music  in  Italy  and
France. Major changes also took place in  the  music  of  the  Enlightenment
period. Eighteenth  century  saw  the  rise  and  increasing  popularity  of
classical  music  with  its  operas,  orchestras,  sonatas,   concerts   and
symphonies. This period gave the world such remarkable composers  as  J.  S.
Bach (1685-1750), G. F. Handel (1685-1759) and,  of  course,  W.  A.  Mozart
(1756-1798). However, music did not  become  completely  secularized;  Bach,
for example, was still composing religious music.  Another  similarity  with
the Renaissance age was that most of  the  musicians  still  depended  on  a
patron such as an aristocrat or prince.
      As for  medicine,  certainly  there  were  differences  concerning  it
between the two periods, since the two centuries  that  separated  them  did
bring some improvement into  medical  practices.  The  surgeons  experienced
significant changes  during  the  eighteenth  century.  In  the  1740s  they
started  organizing  their  own   guilds,   separate   from   the   barbers.
Furthermore,  surgeons  started  to  be  licensed  what  required   clinical
experiences. This had brought in some selection  into  the  ranks  of  those
practicing surgery.
       Technological innovations such as the rudder  facilitated  the  great
geographical discoveries of the Renaissance.  Here  are  some  of  the  most
important discoveries: in 1456 Portuguese ships reached the Green  cape  and
in 1486 Africa has been sailed around from the  south.  While  familiarizing
African coasts,  Portuguese  were  sending  their  ships  to  the  west  and
southwest Open Ocean leading  to  the  discovery  of  Assorian  Islands  and
Madeira Islands. In 1492 Columbus on  his  way  to  India  crossed  Atlantic
Ocean and embarked on Bahamas Islands thus discovering a  new  continent  of
America. In 1498 a  Spanish  traveler  V.  De  Gama  sailing  around  Africa
brought his ships to the Indian coasts. From XVI c.  Europeans  reach  China
and Japan of the existence of  which  they  have  only  had  a  vague  image
before.
      The perception about  the  Earths  shape  has  changed  as  well;  F.
Magellans (1519-1522) trip around the world confirmed that  the  Earth  was
round. As if the world  boarders  became  wider;  trade  routes  now  passed
through the oceans, linking different continents between  each  other.  Thus
commenced the first phase of the emergence of  the  world  civilization  and
globalization. During the Enlightenment this process accelerated  even  more
with the creation of new public  and  private  banks,  acceptance  of  paper
money and development of triangular trade. With  colonization  of  Americas,
India and Africa,  the  term  global  economy  was  more  than  appropriate.
Triangular trade linked Europe, Africa, the East and  the  Americas,  making
eighteenth  century  merchants  and  traders  more  and  more  wealthy   and
powerful.
      Among the multiple discoveries of the Renaissance, one was  especially
complicated  and  frightening.  This   was   the   Copernicus   (1473-1543)
heliocentric theory, which gave a new vision of the Universe, the Earth  and
thus the human being. Before, the Earth was believed to  be  the  center  of
the world with other heavenly spheres rotating around  it.  Now,  the  Earth
became a tiny point in the emptiness of Space revolving about its  axis  and
the Sun in the center. The Enlightenment, on the other hand,  did  not  know
much of the scientific discoveries, but it was the age when  the  scientific
ideas of the Scientific Revolution were popularized. Scientific  ideas  were
not spread so much by the scientists themselves, but by such individuals  as
B. de Fontenelle (1657-1757). He was secretary of the French  Royal  Academy
of Science (1691-1741) and contributed a lot to  the  communication  of  the
scientific discoveries especially in astronomy.
      Concerning politics, the  Renaissance  saw  the  beginning  of  modern
politics,  whereby  interests  of   the   state   are   of   the   principal
consideration.  Fundamental  to  politics  were  the  works  of  an  Italian
politician N. Machiavelli (1469-1527). In his famous work  The  Prince  he
introduced political ideas that would have a great impact not  only  on  the
rulers of that period, but on the  political  leaders  centuries  later.  He
believed that morality was not among the top  priorities  in  the  political
activities of that time. Therefore, he maintained that  if  a  ruler  is  to
stay in power, he  should  be  prepared  to  do  wrong  when  necessary.  He
continued that the states main preoccupation was to provide  stability  and
in order for a ruler to rule efficiently, he should  use  diplomacy  and  be
neither too loved, nor too feared. Hence, the  concept  of  the  balance  of
power emerged as popular political thought of the Renaissance. According  to
this concept, a country should not get involved in a war with a  neighboring
country the leader of which is  strong.  It  is  better  to  have  a  strong
neighboring ruler with whom you can negotiate  and  agree,  rather  than  to
create a chaos and thus uncertainty and danger.
      Just like  Machiavelli  was  a  giant  of  political  thought  in  the
Renaissance, Montesquieu (1689-1755) was for the Enlightenment,  though  his
propositions were much different from those of Machiavelli. In his works  he
called  for  the  separation  of  powers  into  legislative,  executive  and
judiciary, advocated religious toleration and  denounced  slavery.   Another
great philosopher of the Enlightenment was J. J.  Rousseau  (1712-1778).  In
his work Discourse  on  the  Origins  of  the  Inequality  of  Mankind  he
explained why the government was an evil, but  a  necessary  one.  In  his
another  very  famous  work  The  Social  Contract  he  tried  to   accord
individual liberty with governmental authority. All  these  political  ideas
were new and  thus  very  different  from  the  political  thoughts  of  the
Renaissance.
      The Renaissance political thoughts contributed to  the  centralization
of power of monarchial governments. Of course, the degree to which  monarchs
were successful in consolidation and extension of their political  authority
varied from country to country. While France, Spain and England  emerged  as
centralized and more or less consolidated monarchies during the age  of  the
Renaissance, the Holy Roman Empire and the Ottoman  Empire  saw  a  decline.
Central and Eastern Europe also experienced a decentralization of  political
authority, rather than its  centralization.  During  the  Enlightenment  the
process o centralization and  growth  of  states  continued.  Most  European
states enlarged their  bureaucracies  and  consolidated  their  governments.
However, as a  result  of  all  the  geographic  discoveries  and  following
overseas trips and colonization, European economy started to shift from  the
Mediterranean to the Atlantic seaboard. By the eighteenth  century,  England
and France appeared as great commercial empires. Also, Eastern  and  Central
Europe emerged as major international  players  in  the  European  political
arena. Russia, Austria and Prussia  three of  five  major  European  states
were located in Eastern or Central Europe. These states became  so  powerful
that they managed  to  completely  destroy  Poland  by  dividing  its  lands
between themselves. Although the ideas of the  Enlightenment  did  leave  an
impact on the eighteenth century rulers, few of them actually  attempted  to
implement the enlightened reforms into  practice.  The  majority  of  rulers
still believed that for a state to run effectively and prosper, it needed  a
strong absolute ruler.
      In  religion,  clerical  corruption,  the  popes  preoccupation  with
secular matters such as finances and territorial power led  to  the  growing
discontent with the Church during the Renaissance period.   J.   Hus  (1374-
1415) and J. Wyclif (1328-1384) are viewed by many  as  the  forerunners  of
the Reformation. Both of them attacked the excessive  power  of  the  papacy
within Catholic Church and called for reforms.  Although  remaining  a  very
important institution, Catholic Church and its  religious  practices  became
increasingly questioned and criticized  by  the  Renaissance  humanists.  As
during the Renaissance age, Catholic Church of the Enlightenment  still  had
a lot of power and remained hierarchically  structured.  Religious  devotion
also remained strong during the  eighteenth  century.  Nonetheless,  critics
and  skepticism  against  the  Church  became   more   and   more   intense.
Philosophers of the Enlightenment were more than ever calling for  religious
toleration and acceptance of religious minorities. Among  the  intellectuals
of that period more and more turned to deism and believed in natural laws.
      The great majority of women of the Renaissance was  not  educated  and
was not considered intellectually equal to men.  There were some  exceptions
of course, but, as such, women did  not  play  any  important  role  in  the
intellectual  life  of  the  Renaissance.  This  has  changed   during   the
Enlightenment.  Some  of  the  eighteenth  century  intellectuals,  such  as
Diderot, expressed more positive views of women. Moreover, women  themselves
begun to  emerge  as  important  intellectual  thinkers,  questioning  their
rights and proposing ways to  improve  their  situation.  M.  Wollstonecraft
(1759-1797)  was  regarded  by  many  as  the  founder  of  modern  European
feminism. Another  important  difference  from  the  Renaissance  concerning
women, was their role in the spread of new ideas of  the  Enlightenment.  Of
course, here we are talking again about the women of the  elite  or  wealthy
upper class. By organizing salons, women  such  as  Madame  Geoffrin  (1699-
1777) or Marquise  du  Duffand  (1697-1780)  brought  together  writers  and
artists  with  aristocrats,  government  officials  and  other  members   of
literate elite. These women could affect political decisions  and  influence
literary and artistic tastes.
      Completely different to the  Renaissance  was  the  emergence  in  the
eighteenth century  of  a  science  of  man  or  social  sciences.  Social
sciences were  based  on  the  philosophers  believes  that  certain  human
actions were governed by natural laws. One  of  the  pioneers  of  a  social
science such as psychology was Scottish  philosopher  D.  Hume  (1711-1776).
Other famous philosophers such as A. Smith (1723-1790) and F. Quesnay (1694-
1774) were viewed  as  founders  of  the  modern  economics.  They  rejected
mercantilist concepts by arguing the economic primacy of  agriculture.  They
also advocated the doctrine of laissez-faire,  which  rejected  the  states
intervention in the economic activity and called  for  letting  the  natural
forces of demand and  supply  to  work  freely.  In  his  famous  Wealth  o
Nations Smith presents his  major  ideas  on  the  origins  of  wealth  and
functions of government in the economy, thus laying down the foundations  of
the nineteenth century economic liberalism.
      As we could observe from  the  analysis  above,  the  Renaissance  and
Enlightenment indeed had a lot of differences, but they also had  a  lot  of
similarities.  And  this  could  not  be  otherwise,  because  all  of   the
achievements and discoveries of the Renaissance became the  building  blocks
of the Enlightenment progress. Just as human beings are prone  to  progress,
they are also prone to traditions. That  is  why  many  of  the  Renaissance
values continued into the Enlightenment. Each period in history marks  human
society in some way and even in our days we still hear the echo of  previous
centuries and still find some similarities between our time and  those  far-
away centuries.





"Comparison of the Renaissance and Enlightenment ( ) "