In The Evolution of Free Will in the Context of the Renaissance Man, I explore the movement of the debate on freedom of the will, which is clearly charted in the art and literature of the Renaissance. Throughout the Middle Ages religion changed forever – due to the Protestant Reformation, Catholicism was no longer the sole authority on man and his destiny, and coupled with the promulgation of Humanism and the reemergence of Platonic ideas, sole reliance on God was antiquated, and a new sense of autonomy emerged. The belief spread that man could create himself. The transformation is apparent moving from Giotto’ s Last Judgment in the Arena Chapel in Padua, to the cautionary reminder of the afterlife found in Dante Alighieri’ s Divine Comedy, to essays melding humanistic confidence and debate on the soul in Marsilio Ficino’ s “ The Soul of Man” and discussion on man’ s ability to climb the Great Chain of Being in Giovanni Pico della Mirandola’ s “Oration on the Dignity of Man,” through Niccolò Machiavelli’ s The Prince, which appeals to princes as completely sentient, rational beings able to use logic and common sense to actualize their potential with virtually no mention of a metaphysical apparatus, ending with the Neo-Platonic art of Michelangelo Buonarroti.
Colleen Metzger, ’07 Warwick, RI
Majors: History, Theatre
Sponsor: Mark Hunter