Oration on the Dignity of Man

by Giovanni Pico della Mirandola
Start Free Trial

What does Pico mean when he said we are miraculous beings?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Pico's primary point on why human beings are miraculous is due to the free will that God has embedded within individuals.  For Pico, the truly miraculous element of human beings is that they possess free will:  "To him is given to be what he desires and what he wills."  Pico's argument suggests that the human being is the last creation of the divine.  The rest of the divine configuration possesses fixed definition, and will not change.  The angels will always be subservient to the divine, the animals will always be in their form, and the plants in theirs.  Yet, human beings are a miracle because of the fluidity in their definition, a lack of totality intrinsic to free will:  

If he cultivates his vegetable seeds, he will become a plant. If he cultivates his sensitive seeds, he will become brutish. If he cultivates his rational seeds, he will become a heavenly animal. If he cultivates his intellectual seeds, he will be an angel and a son of God.

This is the element that is such a miracle within human beings.  The human being has the choice and the power to be whatever is wished.  This element of free will and choice is nowhere else seen in the divine configuration. Amidst a condition in which form and totality are present, Pico sees the human being as a miracle because of the power to choose whatever they wish to be.  When Pico speaks of why human beings are miracles, it resides in the element of free will and choice intrinsic to the human condition.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team