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Sources of Western Tradition. 4 Eras of Thinking: Renaissance & Reformation Scientific Revolution Enlightenment French Revolution. Humanists. Petrarch: the father of humanism Loved classical literature (Greek and Roman texts) and criticized medieval literature for its barbarous ways.

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Sources of Western Tradition

4 Eras of Thinking:

Renaissance & Reformation

Scientific Revolution


French Revolution

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  • Petrarch: the father of humanism

  • Loved classical literature (Greek and Roman texts) and criticized medieval literature for its barbarous ways.

  • He saw the Renaissance as a restoration of these great writings and ideas.

  • He remained a devout Christian above all else, combining his passion for the classics with Christianity.

  • Bruni: A Focus on Education

  • Man who coined the term “humanism”, meaning, “new learning”, or more specifically “literary culture needed by anyone who would be considered educated and civilized”.

  • He emphasized virtuous living through Christianity and study of the classics.

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Mirandola vs. Machiavelli

  • Pocco della Mirandola: Human Dignity

  • Renaissance Man: mastered Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and Arabic.

  • Another humanist who believed that God bestowed upon humans a unique ability to control our own lives and expand to great lengths.

  • Thought humans are dignified and powerful – their overall intent is positive.

  • Niccolò Machiavelli: The Prince

  • First thinker to break from ideology based primarily on Christianity; his main focus was the well-being of the state and its power.

  • He contended that a ruler should forget morals and religion and focus on material supremacy.

  • “Better to be feared than loved”, “the ends justify the means”.

  • How are these two thinkers opposites?

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Copernicus vs. The Church

  • Nicolaus Copernicus

  • Long debated publishing his works defying common knowledge for almost hundreds of years.

  • Found contradictions and blatant mistakes in previous writing about the universe.

  • Reluctantly stated that he believed the universe was heliocentric.

  • Cardinal Bellarmine’s letter to a friar

  • Uses the Bible as main evidence that Copernicus is wrong.

  • “If this is true, the Bible is completely false and the Christian religion is bogus.”

  • Notes that the Council of Trent says interpreting scripture against the Church is wrong.

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The Other Sci-Revolutionaries

  • Galileo

  • Hated the slavish reliance on Aristotle and the Bible for scientific evidence

  • Used telescope to survey the sky and prove Copernicus’ theory.

  • Rene Descartes: Founder of Modern Philosophy

  • Gave people understanding that their minds are very powerful

  • Stressed experimentation over reliance on what you are told.

  • Isaac Newton: The Synthesizer

  • Proved that all bodies – an apple or a planet – follow the same laws of gravity.

  • Believed that God created the universe – a perfect mechanism

  • Helped combine all previous thinkers and himself into Universal Law.

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Enlightenment Leaders

  • Immanuel Kant

  • Defined the Enlightenment as a rebirth of the intellect.

  • Saw French Revolution as victory of liberty over despotism.

  • Voltaire

  • Admired English liberty and toleration and attacked Old Regime for lack of them.

  • Attacked Christianity as superstition and supported “reason” over religion.

  • Supported religious tolerance as common sense and harmless.

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Locke and Rousseau

  • John Locke

  • Humans are born with natural rights of life, liberty, and property.

  • The state’s job is to ensure that each subject has these rights.

  • All people are born equal and should be represented only by a constitutional government that they elect.

  • Had HUGE influence on T.J. and the Declaration of Independence.

  • Rousseau

  • Education is the key to a successful society.

  • Against monarchy, for public liberty.

  • Children should “develop naturally and spontaneously.”

  • New information = more human understanding = corruption of the mind.

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Young and Sieyès

  • Arthur Young

  • Explains the taxing system of the French peasants.

  • Tells of terrible plight of the French peasants.

  • Why would a well-rounded Englishman travel through the French countryside to survey peasants? [just before the revolution]

  • Emmanuel Sieyès

  • Expressed the bourgeoisie’s disdain for the nobility.

  • He expresses the French Revolution’s ideals – liberty, equality, and fraternity – throughout his works.

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Maximilien Robespierre

  • Used virtue as driving force of democracy.

  • Explained that terror is the justified means to defend this virtue.

  • Man behind the Reign of Terror.