Medieval Humanism And The Medieval World Essay

Medieval Humanism And The Medieval World Essay

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The word humanism is a relatively broad term described by Merriam-Webster as, “a system of values and beliefs that is based on the idea that people are basically good and that problems can be solved using reason instead of religion”. While this seems a perfectly reasonable definition for the present day, it does not adequately apply to medieval society. If such a definition was used by a person from the 12th century, that person would likely be looked at incredulously and then swiftly called a heretic or a blasphemer. The role of religion in medieval society is too ingrained in the medieval world. Richard Southern provides a more likely definition of medieval humanism. He describes humanism as having “elements of dignity, order, reason and intelligibility”, that is, seeing the nobility and beauty of the human person and the reemergence of the use of reason to solve the problems of the world (Southern 32). To look at this further and to ascertain the validity of that statement, we can draw our attention to the life of Guibert, the abbot of Nogent. From the ideas expressed in Guibert’s autobiography is possible to see hints of the beginning of medieval humanism.
The beginning of the first millennium common era was a tumultuous time. Europe seems to be waking up from a long period of disorder and violence brought on by the fall of Rome at the end of the fifth century. Western Europe was dominated by the rule of feudal lords, kings and local representatives from the Church. The peasantry lived a life of drudgery and virtually no rights under the feudal system and worked the land from birth until their likely early death. This life of suffering was augmented by frequent invasions by lords and nobility squabbling over bits of land an...

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...rthless records?” Even in this first sentence, Guibert plainly shows his disdain for relics that could not be actual relics. In later parts of the treatise, Guibert rebukes the relics of the Blessed Virgin saying that “the denial of the Blessed Virgin 's corporal assumption into heaven, though by no means contrary to the faith is still so much opposed to the common agreement of the Church, that it would be a mark of insolent temerity (Nash)”. Even these arguments alone shows rational intelligent thinking that was more often than not absent in early medieval times. People are beginning to break away from their preconceived notions about the world into a better understanding of how humans fit in the world around them. This remarkable change in the 12th century sparked the great works of Thomas Aquinas and William of Conches and many more visionaries (Southern).

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