Giovanni Pico della Mirandola

M.V. Dougherty

in Renaissance and Reformation

ISBN: 9780195399301
Published online March 2013 | | DOI:
Giovanni Pico della Mirandola

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy


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The Renaissance philosopher Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (b. 1463–d. 1494) is best known today for his Oratio de hominis dignitate, a speech often touted as an emblematic expression of the Renaissance. Originally, however, the Oratio was intended to open a debate in Rome where Pico had hoped to dispute his Conclusiones nongentae, a work of nine hundred theses covering a vast array of philosophical, theological, and esoteric topics that Pico had published in late 1486. A papal prohibition by Innocent VIII, however, canceled the planned disputation, and Pico was excommunicated after he authored in 1487 his Apologia, a sharp defense of thirteen of the nine hundred theses that had been identified as doctrinally problematic by an ecclesiastical commission. Pico was fully rehabilitated only in 1493 when Alexander VI became the new pope. Pico’s other extant works testify to his wide-ranging interests and training. In addition to studying ancient and scholastic philosophy, Pico learned Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic, and he was one of the first to use Kabbalah to support points of Christian doctrine. He had a life-long interest in reconciling philosophers of the past, arguing that the main oppositions between Platonic and Aristotelian metaphysics were simply verbal, and he intended to publish a work titled Concordia Platonis Aristotelisque. He had an early epistolary debate with Ermolao Barbaro on the relationship of philosophy and rhetoric, wrote on metaphysics in De ente et uno, engaged in biblical exegesis in the Heptaplus, and criticized astrology in his longest book, the unfinished Disputationes. Pico enjoyed the protection of Lorenzo de’ Medici and his intellectual contacts included Marsilio Ficino, Angelo Poliziano, and Girolamo Savonarola. Much of Pico’s work was published posthumously by his nephew and literary executor, Gianfrancesco Pico della Mirandola, in 1496. Pico was introduced to an English audience in the early 16th century by Thomas More, who produced an abbreviated English rendering of Gianfrancesco’s biography of his uncle, along with translations of three letters and several short spiritual writings by Pico.

Article.  14441 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy

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