Summary of the Oration on Dignity of man
In 1486, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola addressed an audience of Catholic priests and bishops. In this talk, he agrees with the Church that human beings are marvelous creatures, with an amazing capacity for intellectual achievement, and act as intermediaries between heavenly beings and earthly creatures. However, the Church has not fully explored why man is so miraculous. When God was creating everything on Earth, God wanted one creature who could appreciate all His work. However, all the spaces in creation, from the lowest worm to the highest angel were already created. There was no more room in the chain of being, so God created man outside of the chain of being. Man is capable of learning from all of the creatures. Knowledge and learning help man be like the angels, heavenly beings, whereas not using one’s intellect makes man vegetate as other earthly creatures of flesh. When man uses philosophy and his intellect, he ascends the chain towards the angels. Thus man through his own human will can change himself, while the rest of creation only changes when outside forces act upon it. This raises the dignity of the liberal arts and increases the need to study.