Philip Hensher

The attraction of freethinking humanism

From Erasmus to David Hume, the humanists of the past appear consistently kinder, more decent and generous than their contemporaries

Detail of a fresco by Cosimo Rosselli showing the Italian humanists Marsilio Ficino, Pico della Mirandola and Agnolo Poliziano (Sant’Ambrogio, Florence). [Bridgeman Images]

Already a subscriber? Log in

Election special offer

The stage is set. Grab a front-row seat with The Spectator. Subscribe and get 3 months for just £3 – plus a free election mug.

  • Weekly delivery of the magazine
  • Unlimited access to our website and app
  • Spectator newsletters and podcasts
  • Our online archive, going back to 1828


Want to join the debate?

Only subscribers can comment. Sign up and – in the run-up to the election – you’ll get the next three months for just £3.

Already a subscriber? Log in