In Oration on the Dignity of Man, what is humanity's "place" in the Universe? https://history.mcc.edu/wordpress/history/2014/04/10/oration-on-the-dignity-of-man/

Expert Answers
samson98 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his “Oration on the Dignity of Man,” 15th century Renaissance philosopher Pico Della Mirandola discusses humanity’s place in the universe. According to Mirandola, when God created the universe, he could find no singular place for humanity—the only earthly species which could understand the beauty of his universe—to inhabit. However, God was not restricted by humanity’s natural homelessness; in fact, he used the situation as an opportunity to prove his creativity yet again. Thus, he called Adam and told him the following:

Adam, we give you no fixed place to live, no form that is peculiar to you, nor any function that is yours alone. According to your desires and judgment, you will have and possess whatever place to live, whatever form, and whatever functions you yourself choose. All other things have a limited and fixed nature prescribed and bounded by our laws. You, with no limit or no bound, may choose for yourself the limits and bounds of your nature. We have placed you at the world's center so that you may survey everything else in the world. We have made you neither of heavenly nor of earthly stuff, neither mortal nor immortal, so that with free choice and dignity, you may fashion yourself into whatever form you choose. To you is granted the power of degrading yourself into the lower forms of life, the beasts, and to you is granted the power, contained in your intellect and judgment, to be reborn into the higher forms, the divine.

In other words, unlike the material beasts and the spiritual angels, humans would have the free choice to determine their own natures. They could—through intellect—elevate themselves to spiritual beings, or they could—by disregarding the spiritual and focusing on the material world—degrade their natures such that they become little more than animals.

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question