According to the dictionary, a renaissance man is one who has wide interests and is expert in several areas.  The term's origin is interesting as well.

Although not a humanist I do think there is merit in not only diverse interests but expertise in several as well.  To that end I think it would be interesting to see if we are mimicking this type of behavior. 

For example, I enjoy Rimsky-Korsakov and Dierks Bentley.  I make a living in technology but my hobby involves wrenches and the like.  I am not by any stretch of the imagination the epitome of the renaissance man, but it isn't something I would scoff at being called. 

Share the ways your life resembles the renaissance man.

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I think one truly is making progress in becoming a Renaissance Man when he is proficient in various disciplines, philosophies and hobbies not merely expressing interest or possessing a "passing knowledge." Most men have varied interests. I enjoy Walden as much as Harry Potter and listen to Eminem as well as Bach. I think it is in mastery that we begin to achieve greatness. Most of us have the wide interest part of the definition down but the expert part is lacking. 

A very good read, to be sure.  I enjoyed the insight and personal experiences, although I didn't closely identify Steve Jobs as a renaissance man.  There could be a distinction between what the article describes ("mastery of one") and what would be considered a renaissance man at it's root.  To illustrate, here is a quote from Robert A. Heinlein that I think illustrates the distinction a bit more dramatically:

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

While I personally may be hard pressed to cover a simple majority of these items, the thought is once again "wide interests and expertise in several areas", which is not to detract at all from the relevance and insight of the article.  I took a whack at it by describing in brief the width of one of my interests and a journeyman's level of expertise in work and hobby - I'd love to hear how others imitate this notion as well. 

I hope to some day achieve the status of renaissance man. I have a very diverse array of interests currently, and am working up to expert in all of them. The only areas I feel I lack are music and art. Both are things I am interested in, I am a great appreciator of both, but don't have the time to put in to be as good at them as I want to be. In the end I may never achieve my goal of being a renaissance man, but in the journey I hope to improve myself.

And how, pray tell, did you (rightfully, I'm sure) earn that monicker?

Also, I don't think Renaissance Man is something that one can just start calling oneself. I think it's something that people notice about you, and start calling you on their own. I have a friend that is a gold smith. As a gold smith, as with most trades, there are a few levels. Apprentice, Journeyman, Master. An apprentice becomes a journeyman when he achieves a certain level of skill, and has worked a certain number of hours. The skill part is at his master's discretion. You can only be apprenticed to a master, though as a journeyman, you can operate on your own, you don't have to be under a master. But the only way to become a true master gold smith, is that people must start calling you a master gold smith. The quality of your work must be such, that people assume you are a master.

I feel it's the same with the concept of renaissance man. But that's just me. 

Calling yourself a renaissance man is a bit like giving yourself a nickname.  If you have to tell people you are ... you're probably not.  A true renaissance man is probably too busy to contemplate his renaissance-manliness anyway.



Ah, I can certainly agree with your premise.  In regards to the contemplation issue, would a renaissance man at least occasionally reflect on his state of being? 

Probably not.  Introspection is overrated.  And, a renaissance man has better things to do than stare at his navel.  Disciplines to conquer.


Agreed. Thomas Jefferson said "Do you want to know who you are? Don't ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you".

One could postulate that introspection about the essence, purpose, and nature of man, however, would be part and parcel of the humanistic movement during the renaissance. Descartes (an ideal RM) proposed "Cogito ergo sum", which certainly exudes self-reflection, although at a level I am ill-equipped to deeply ponder.

First of all I want to sincerely apologize for the following smart-ass comment.

But as a historian I can't help noting that both Jefferson and even more so Descartes are no renaissance men, but perfect examples if not archetypes of enlightenment.

Alright. Just wanted to set this straight.

I certainly am not offended by your comment.  I also would defer to a historian's expertise rather than my limited viewpoint. 

These gentlemen demonstrated the defined qualities of a RM.  Certainly Descartes, as a mathematician, writer, philosopher, and by all accounts a polymath could be synonymously called a RM?  Thomas Jefferson, a farmer, lawyer, and writer of our Declaration of Independence demonstrated diverse interests and expertise in several areas.  My hope was to illustrate (however poorly) that the qualities of these figures in history exemplified what a RM is, even though their philosophies and timelines may transcend the Renaissance.  I can understand that a popular definition may not necessarily be an accurate historical definition and ask your pardon on taking too much of a liberty to present it in that light. 

It's true that the term 'Renaissance' could be a bit misguiding here, because when you see it you may first think at the corresponding historical period (that was my case); that's also why I had to look at the French translation.

Still, and although the word does not directly refer to the historical period, I think that the skills and expertise of a RM should include something 'classical' : the humanities in general, and languages in particular incl. Latin and Greek


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