Erwin Panofsky (1892–1968)—Selected Quotations (part 1)

Humanität [humanity]…for Kant…man’s proud and tragic consciousness of self-approved and self-imposed principles, contrasting with his utter subjection to illness, decay and all that is implied in the word ‘mortality.’

Pico said that God placed man in the centre of the universe so that he might be conscious of where he stands, and therefore free to decide ‘where to turn’.

[Humanism] is not so much a movement as an attitude which can be defined as the conviction of the dignity of man, based on both the insistence on human values (rationality and freedom) and the acceptance of human limitations (fallibility and frailty)…

Erasmus of Rotterdam, the humanist par excellence, is a typical case in point. The church suspected and ultimately rejected the writings of his man who had said: ‘Perhaps the spirit of Christ is more largely diffused than we think, and there are many in the community of saints who are not in our calendar.’ The adventurer Ulrich von Hutten despised his ironical skepticism and his unheroic love of tranquility. And Luther, who insisted that ‘no man has power to think anything good or evil, but everything occurs in him by absolute necessity,’ was incensed by a belief which manifested itself in the famous phrase: ‘What is the use of man as a totality [that is, of man endowed with both a body and soul], if God would work in him as a sculptor works in clay, and might just as well work in stone?’

To perceive the relation of signification is to separate the idea of the concept to be expressed from the means of expression. And to perceive the relation of construction is to separate the idea of the function to be fulfilled from the means of fulfilling it.

Erwin Panofsky, The History of Art as a Humanistic Discipline, 1940

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