Humanisms many definitions

So far throughout the readings and research I have done, I’ve learned that humanism was one of the most important intellectual, social, and philosophical developments of the Renaissance. I feel like it really changed the way people viewed all aspects of the world. God was looked at differently, religion and faith was questioned, and the classics were reanalyzed in a new perspective. According to Mckay, “Humanists studied the Latin classics to learn what they reveal about human nature. Humanism emphasized human beings and their achievements, interests, and capabilities(McKay, 413).

Charles Nauert tells us that Desiderius Erasmus, a Renaissance writer and philosopher, was influenced greatly by this new development of the humanistic ideal, and pioneered new ideas about classic Latin literature and sacred texts.

Forced into a monastery as a young boy, Erasmus did not enjoy the monastic life, but found great interest and pleasure in the study of the Latin classics. During a visit to London in 1499, Erasmus became acquaintances with a man named Jon Colet, whom he shares ideas and opinions with. The two together developed new ideas and further defined the ideas of humanism. Over time, these new ideas and developments of the humanism ideal changed the way people looked at history and the rest of the world.

I think that humanism can act as a checks-and-balances type of ideal for Christian humanists. It seems to me that Humanism’s purpose is to keep the Christian faith to a very rational, intellectual, and prudent set of ideas and beliefs for Christian humanists.

Humanism focuses specifically on human nature, rather than God. Erasmus even said himself, “This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfections.” This statement explains to us that whether it is triumphs and successes, or failures and mistakes, the study of human nature is extremely important because people can learn from these things and continue to grow, learn, teach, and discover new things and ideas. This idea makes a lot of sense to me. On top of that, out of this new humanist ideal came the idea of free will. This new approach reveals that humans are not bound by God or the Church, but have the ability to make their own decisions and do what they want to do. Humanism, in a way, introduces the idea of free will.

Works Cited

McKay, John. Western Society: A Brief History. London [u.a.: Palgrave MacMillan, 2010. Print.

“Desiderius Erasmus.” Wikipedia. N.p., 3 Feb. 2012. Web. 3 Feb. 2012. <;.

Nauert, Charles. Editorial. Desiderius Erasmus. Stanford Encyclopedia of

Philosophy, 2008. Web. 3 Feb. 2012. <


Erasmus, Desiderius, Martin Luther, and Ernst F Winter. Erasmus and Luther:

Discourse on Free Will. Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2012.






  1. vinay1496

    Hello Mr. Rischitelli,
    What do you think is the most interesting aspect of Erasmus’ philosophies? Having written about Erasmus myself, I was wondering what you thought in particular about his views on Christian reformation. Thanks,

  2. mralexacademic2014

    I really enjoyed reading this, but I was wondering the whole time: where did he get this information? WHile the history presented is interesting, there is only one in-text citation. Next, I can’t quite tell: are you saying that Arasmus is the father of Humanism? If so, evidence? I do however like the order in which you went about presenting the information, having areas in which you show your views on the topic.
    Thanks for an enjoyable read.

  3. harperlarp

    Noah: This was a very interesting account of the evolution of humanist ideals! However, I am curious; do you think this introduction of free will is the cause of many modern humanists’ dislike of religion? And if not, what do you think was the catalyst for this change in view between then and now?

  4. jackr224

    I really enjoyed reading this post, but i do have one question. How did Erasmus and Jon Colet go about spreading their new ideas about humanism that “changed the way people looked at history and the rest of the world”.?

  5. allie0607

    Hey Noah! You mention humanists compatibility with the Christian faith and I was wondering what the relationship between Humanism and other religions was like during the renaissance period? Thanks 🙂

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