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Oration on the Dignity of Man Essay

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As history progressed to the Middle Ages, new technology, people, and ideas emerge throughout the world. Similar(ly) to Ancient Greece, we see the study of religion and philosophy become a big part of life. One of the most notorious and ambitious philosophers at the time was Giovanni Pico Della Mirandola. He was a Christian who wanted to consolidate various religions and unite all of those ideas with Christian principles. Some of the religions he wanted to combine include Jewish, Greek, and Islamic values.

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His ideas revolve around the study of humans, more specifically, how we came into existence and how we interact with the world around us and God. His theories, however, were highly criticized by the Church because they believed that his work opposed Christian ideologies and perception of free will and humanity. Pico was not happy with the church either but nevertheless, he formulated a collective theory and put his ideas into text called the 900 Conclusions. The Oration on the Dignity of Man was an introduction to this work and answers many questions regarding the creation of mankind and the relationship we have with God and nature.

Pico begins his oration by explaining how mankind was created by God. He also answers the question of who we are “man is the intermediary between creatures, that he is the familiar of the gods above him as he is the lord of the beings beneath him; that, by the acuteness of his senses, the inquiry of his reason and the light of his intelligence, he is the interpreter of nature, set midway between the timeless unchanging and the flux of time; the living union (as the Persians say), the very marriage hymn of the world, and, by David’s testimony but little lower than the angels” (3). ….man created out of………made out of…………………………………………………… In addition, Pico describes why God created man, he needed a being to appreciate all of his creations “But when this work was done, the Divine Artificer still longed for some creature which might comprehend the meaning of so vast an achievement, which might be moved with love at its beauty and smitten with awe at its grandeur” (3).

Humans are the greatest creation of God, and we have been given the opportunity to choose where we end up in life. Pico says that we have the free will to choose our own paths. He claims that this can strengthen or weaken man’s relationship towards God “impeded by no such restrictions, may, by your own free will, to whose custody We have assigned you, trace for yourself the lineaments of your own nature. I have placed you at the very center of the world, so that from that vantage point you may with greater ease glance round about you on all that the world contains. We have made you a creature neither of heaven nor of earth, neither mortal nor immortal, in order that you may, as the free and proud shaper of your own being, fashion yourself in the form you may prefer. It will be in your power to descend to the lower, brutish forms of life; you will be able, through your own decision, to rise again to the superior orders whose life is divine” (4). Pico also writes that since we have this freedom, we must choose our paths wisely. If humans become sensual and brutish, they will be like animals. On the other hand, if they’re rational and intellectual, they can become heavenly like angels “Whichever of these a man shall cultivate, the same will mature and bear fruit in him. If vegetative, he will become a plant; if sensual, he will become brutish; if rational, he will reveal himself a heavenly being; if intellectual, he will be an angel and the son of God” (4-5). According to Pico, if humans emulate the actions of angels, through intellectual engagement, we can ascend closer to God.

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