David O Neill

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The Renaissance Philosophy of Man
General Introduction to Pico by Kristeller (Pg. 215 - 222)
Writings display was wealth of knowledge. Extensive range of learning. Absorbed many different ideas that his contemporaries would have considered incompatible with their thinking. Had a classical education then in Uni in Paris became familiar with Middle Age Philosophy and was ready to defend it if humanists attacked. Also learned Hebrew and Arabic with gave an impulse to oriental studies. Pico was a many sided ‘universal’ intellectual. Contributed to Ren Phil. Attacked astrology. Pico’s conception of the dignity of man and his ideal of a universal harmony among philosophers. Find this in ODOM (oration on dignity of man). One of his most famous writings. Has been attempts to dismiss it as just rhetoric but it was a bad attempt. It’s ideas are confirmed in Pico’s other works and rhetoric does not suggest Pico did not endorse these ideas. Circumstances of the composition of ODOM – in 1486 Pico published his 900 theses inviting all scholars interested to a public debate in January 1987. Debate didn’t take place because of Pope Innocent VIII – Some of the theses were condemned as heresy. Pico tried to respond to this and defend them but only made it worse. The ODOM was written as in introductory speech for the public debate. This was common practice in medieval schools. Written in two parts – First dealing with a general philosophical theme and the second announcing and justifying the topics of the debate to follow. ODOM was printed after Pico’s death. First part – General justification for the study of philosophy. Begins with a praise of man. He believes the true distinction of man is the fact that he has no fixed properties but has the power to share in the properties of all other beings, according to his own free choice. Since man has this choice, it is his duty to make the best possible choice and to elevate himself to the life of the angels. Philosophy assists...