The Renaissance, which began in Italy in 1300s, was one of the largest periods of growth and development in Western Europe. The increase in trade caused an abundance in wealth that resulted in the focusing of the arts. Such things as literature, paintings, sculptures and many more works are known to have blossomed from the period known as the Renaissance. The Renaissance was started by many rich Italian cities, such as Florence, Ferrara, Milan, and Venice (Bram 274). Because these cities were very wealthy, many merchants started to spend money on different things, such as painting, learning, new banking techniques, and new systems of government. These things gave rise to a new type of scholar, the humanist, and a new philosophy, humanism.
To understand the term humanism, one must first know what some assume humanism to be. Many definitions are widely proclaimed by different groups and organizations. The American Humanist Association(AHA) defines humanism as a rational philosophy informed by science, inspired by art, and motivated by compassion. Affirming the dignity of each human being, it supports the maximization of individual liberty and opportunity consonant with social and planetary responsibility. It advocates the extension of participatory democracy and the expansion of the open society, standing for human rights and social justice. Free of supernaturalism, it recognizes human beings as a part of nature and holds that values--be they religious, ethical, social, or political--have their source in human experience and culture. Humanism thus derives the goals of life from human need and interest rather than from theological or ideological abstractions, and asserts that humanity must take responsibility for its own destiny. (Schafersman).
Humanism is also defined as "a democratic and ethical" point of view on life that reiterates the fact that human beings have the right to and responsibility of giving meaning to and shaping one's own life, according to the International Humanist and Ethical Union (Schafersman).