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Humanism, the Arts & Social Change

The essence of humanism is found in the works produced during the Renaissance by writers, artists, and sculptors as they structured their works with humanistic values in mind. The development of humanism in the Renaissance involved a shift in how people thought, and this occurred at the same time that the horizons of the West were expanding, be they geographical, mental, social, economic, or political. There was a new focus on the individual, seen in political terms with a growing sense that individuality and government authority were at odds:

Individualism stressed personality, genius, uniqueness, and the fullest development of capabilities and talents. . . The quest for glory was a central component of Renaissance individualism (McKay, Hill, and Buckler 470).

Yet, individuality was expressed in government in the form of increased authority for enlightened despots or in republican forms of government. The shift in the view of the state was reflected in a number of ways by different theorists. The republican form of government was developed during the era of the Roman Republic and then revived during the Italian Renaissance in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries.

In the broadest sense, humanism was an educational movement, and for the humanists the classical writings were unique instruments for extending the consciousness


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