We are reading Ideas: A History of Thought and Invention from Fire to Freud by Peter Watson.
This week, we read chapter 18: "The arrival of the secular - capitalism, humanism, individualism"
This book will take us about a year, at a chapter a week. Also, the chapters can more or less be read independently.
I leave this diary on my hotlist all week, so, feel free to comment anytime.
You could start the diary with a boilerplate explanation and then a few questions that might make the diary easier to write.
so I'll do that. The "boilerplate" will be from the table of contents Watson provides, and then the questions will be from my head. Thanks Kathy!
From the Table of Contents
The changing concept of the Renaissance
The role of the black death
Why the Renaissance began in Italy
Schooling in Italy
The crucial role of the abbaco schools
Life in Renaissance Florence
The woolen industry, banking, and the origins of capitalism
The marriage of aristocratic and bourgeois values
The change from ecclesiastical to secular patronage in the arts
The improved status of the artist
The rediscovery of classical antiquity and the emphasis on this life
Petrarch and the rediscovery of Plato
The aesthetic aristocracy
Humanism and the growth of religious tolerance
The humanities in Florence
On p. 390 - It is interesting that the rise in atheism took place, not during or immediately after the black death, but later
- The role of the city is crucial, and was more so when communication was much slower. Both in ancient Greece and in Renaissance Italy, there were many cities (although by modern standards, some would be called towns), bringing more people into contact with each other on a regular basis. Even now - once, a friend visited from a rural community and told me he saw more different people in one restaurant in NYC than he did in a year at home.
- The idea that "the world is susceptible to understanding and control" is one of those revolutionary concepts (like numeracy) that is so basic it's hard to conceive of what was like otherwise.
p. 391 - The study of history exists in a chicken-egg relationship with individualism and the rise of the secular.
p 393 - Without the rich and super-rich, would the Renaissance have happened?
p 394 - Now that the merchant class was demanding and paying for art, more control of life was wrested from the church.
- Artists signing their work is yet another sign of individualism.
p 396 - Adding Plato to the body of knowledge was a huge thing - contrast Plato and Aristotle in how they write and reason about the world, and what each considered important! In addition, it loosened the hold of Aristotle, which, I think, later gave rise to experiment.
p 397 - The rise of the importance of beauty in everyday life is another huge step.
p 398 - It is interesting to contrast the initial role of capitalism with its current role. Originally, it was intimately linked to the rise of individualism and aesthetics, today, it is often seen as antithetical to those values. Part of this change happened in the industrial revolution. I wonder how much of what some people lay on capitalism ought be laid to industry?
p 400 - Erasmus is central to humanism in a way that few people have been central to a movement - perhaps Einstein in physics. It is ironic that his moderation made him enemies on both sides, and friends in neither.