The rediscovery of works from ancient Greece and Rome and observation of the natural world changed many Europeans' view of their world.
Renaissance intellectuals and artists revived classical motifs in the fine arts and classical values in literature and education. Intellectuals — later called humanists — employed new methods of textual criticism based on a deep knowledge of Greek and Latin, and revived classical ideas that made human beings the measure of all things. Artists formulated new styles based on ancient models. The humanists remained Christians while promoting ancient philosophical ideas and classical texts. Artists and architects such as Brunelleschi, Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael glorified human potential and the human form in the visual arts, basing their art on classical models while using new techniques of painting and drawing, such as geometric perspective. The invention of the printing press in the mid-15th century accelerated the development and dissemination of these new attitudes, notably in Europe north of the Alps (the northern Renaissance).
During the 16th and 17th centuries, Europeans developed new approaches to and methods for looking at the natural world in what historians have called the Scientific Revolution. Aristotle’s classical cosmology and Ptolemy’s astronomical system came under increasing scrutiny from natural philosophers (later called scientists) such as Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton. The philosophers Francis Bacon and René Descartes articulated comprehensive theories of inductive and deductive reasoning to give the emerging scientific method a sound foundation. Bacon urged the collection and analysis of data about the world and spurred the development of an international community of natural philosophers dedicated to the vast enterprise of what came to be called natural science. In medicine, the new approach to knowledge led physicians such as William Harvey to undertake observations that produced new explanations of anatomy and physiology and to challenge the traditional theory of health and disease (the four humors) espoused by Galen in the second century.
The articulation of natural laws, often expressed mathematically, became the goal of science, especially after the Europeans' encounters with the Western hemisphere. The explorations produced new knowledge of geography and the world’s peoples through direct observation, and this seemed to give credence to new approaches to knowledge more generally. Yet while they developed inquiry- based epistemologies, Europeans also continued to use traditional explanations of the natural world.
1.1.1: A revival of classical texts led to new methods of scholarship and new values in both society and religion.
1.1.1.A: Italian Renaissance humanists, including Petrarch, promoted a revival in classical literature and created new philological approaches to ancient texts. Some Renaissance humanists furthered the values of secularism and individualism.
1.1.1.B: Humanist revival of Greek and Roman texts, spread by the printing press, challenged the institutional power of universities and the Catholic Church. This shifted education away from a primary focus on theological writings toward classical texts and new methods of scientific inquiry.
1.1.1.C: Admiration for Greek and Roman political institutions supported a revival of civic humanist culture in the Italian city-states and produced secular models for individual and political behavior.
1.1.2: The invention of printing promoted the dissemination of new ideas.
1.1.2.A: The invention of the printing press in the 1450s aided in spreading the Renaissance beyond Italy and encouraged the growth of vernacular literature, which would eventually contribute to the development of national cultures.
1.1.2.B: Protestant reformers used the press to disseminate their ideas, which spurred religious reform and helped it to become widely established.
1.1.3: The visual arts incorporated the new ideas of the Renaissance and were used to promote personal, political, and religious goals.
1.1.3.A: In the Italian Renaissance, rulers and popes concerned with enhancing their prestige commissioned paintings and architectural works based on classical styles, the developing "naturalism" in the artistic world, and often the newly invented technique of geometric perspective.
1.1.3.B: The Northern Renaissance retained a more religious focus, which resulted in more human-centered naturalism that considered individuals and everyday life appropriate objects of artistic representation.
1.1.3.C: Mannerist and Baroque artists employed distortion, drama, and illusion in their works. Monarchies, city-states, and the church commissioned these works as a means of promoting their own stature and power.
1.1.4: New ideas in science based on observation, experimentation, and mathematics challenged classical views of the cosmos, nature, and the human body, although existing traditions of knowledge and the universe continued.
1.1.4.A: New ideas and methods in astronomy led individuals such as Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton to question the authority of the ancients and traditional knowledge and to develop a heliocentric view of the cosmos.
1.1.4.B: Anatomical and medical discoveries by physicians, including William Harvey, presented the body as an integrated system, challenging the traditional humoral theory of the body and of disease espoused by Galen.
1.1.4.C: Francis Bacon and René Descartes defined inductive and deductive reasoning and promoted experimentation and the use of mathematics, which would ultimately shape the scientific method.
1.1.4.D: Alchemy and astrology continued to appeal to elites and some natural philosophers, in part because they shared with the new science the notion of a predictable and knowable universe. At the same time, many people continued to believe that the cosmos was governed by spiritual forces.