Date of this Version
In the early part of the fifteenth century a change as subtle and indefinable as it was significant, came over the spirit of European society. Without sharp break with the past, involving no strictly new creation, no sudden or unheralded revolution of ideas, gradually rose an altered mode of viewing man, the world, life-far less theological than the old, less respectful to tradition, more confident in man's powers and future-in fine, laic and human. Renewed study of classical antiquity was sign and instrument, rather than essence, of the new movement. If men looked back, it was mostly to clear their vision to look and walk forward. The new thinking, if marked by temporary unbelief, and more given than the old to human and secular things, was not essentially irreligious; if less scholastic, not less profound. Vaster conceptions of the field of truth were born. It was felt that no problem had been absolutely settled, and that the human faculties, either fettered or discouraged or else applied to inane inquiries, had as yet scarcely given a hint of the productive activity possible to them. Hence fresh, courageous, successful effort to see what man might be, do, know.