Title page for ETD etd-01172009-063307

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Higgins, Tanya C.
URN etd-01172009-063307
Title The plight of the humanists :a reinterpretation of the battle between the ancients and the moderns
Degree Master of Arts
Department History
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Feingold, Mordechai Committee Chair
Alexander, Michael V. C. Committee Member
Baumgartner, Frederic J. Committee Member
Shamsky, Neil Larry Committee Member
  • Humanism
Date of Defense 1993-04-15
Availability restricted
Historians have traditionally viewed the controversy between the ancients and moderns within the narrow scope of the title. However, in the seventeenth century the issue of learning and knowledge was a significant issue in the controversy.

By 1600, the humanists were well established in the universities and applied the classical world view as an ideal for life. The humanists' emphasis on the classic world view along with their compatibility with scientific investigation strengthened their influence in university learning, which lasted until the mid-seventeenth century.

From the 1640s onward, several groups explicitly dcriticized the prominence of humanist ideals in the universities. The sense of these criticisms and the humanists' responses indicate that the issue was not simply ancient against modern, but one world view against another.

During the Civil War and Interregnum, radical puritans censured the use of human learning in the universities and alerted the humanists to future attacks on their domination of learning. After the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, the new philosophy emerged as a strong force in the quest for knowledge. The new philosophers' vitality encouraged them to denounce human learning and propose the subordination of human learning to the ever-advancing new philosophy. As a result, the humanists staunchly defended traditional learning and their standing in the universities.

This thesis re-examines the ancient and modern controversy during the seventeenth century and views it as a continuing debate over which knowledge would best benefit English society. In this way, historians can better understand the motivations for humanists to the reactions of the humanists to the scientists.

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