Few people would admit not to be humanists, but what a humanist is does not make unanimity. It can be said, however, that in general humanism is an attitude toward life that emphasizes the individual, the non-spiritual or at least non-revelatory nature of things. It is a human quality that is not specifically linked to a single culture: all humanisms however share similar attitudes toward the centrality of the individual, respect for the other, and tolerance of one another. If humanism does not necessarily reject the divine, humanists may question the relationship of the individual to the divinity, or in most cases do not consider the divine an essential element to embrace virtue. In Europe, humanism is linked to the ideals and achievements of the Renaissance. A humanist would typically be a scholar, able to study not only the most available ancient texts, but also to study and compare manuscripts. Philology, an invention of humanism, imposed a rigorous intellectual discipline, which eventually extended to other aspects of personal and intellectual life
In the visual arts, humanism is echoed in the representation of life and of nature. Giotto, said Vasari, was “the pupil of nature.” Boccaccio too saw in Giotto an artist for whom there was “nothing in nature…he could not paint…or make similar to its original in Nature.” A comfortable relationship between the body and its surrounding space informs the architecture of Alberti and Brunelleschi. In Renaissance painting, man is a reality, not an abstraction, and is glorified in the individual portrait. Likewise, in sculpture which, more than any other art, is based on an intellectual notion, that of the classical antique model, the human body is rendered with such conviction that its artificiality disappears behind its presence.