From his Oration on The Dignity of Man, what is Pico's view about man's freedom and free will?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Count Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, better known simply as Pico, is a reknowned renaissance philosopher. His Oration on the Dignity of Man is a famous work of the fifteenth century, dealing with Man's place in the universe and his ability to exercise free will due to the gifts bestowed on Adam. There have been many interpretations and theories based, particularly, on Immanuel Kant's philosophies, as to Pico's intentions in his Oration, but what is clear is that Man should emulate the angels and that Man, given an undefined and "indeterminate" nature by God, has the capacity, with his own "souls' judgment," to  "cultivate" and create a future for himself and his descendants.

Pico attempts to reference nine hundred theses from all sectors of religious and secular society; Christian, Moslem, Jewish and pagan influences. At the time, his reflections caused an outcry and Pico was imprisoned at the insistence of the (Roman Catholic) Church which regarded the "Conclusions" which he drew from the theses, and his subsequent attempt to apologize, his "Apologia," as bordering on heresy. His attempts to suggest that the way to God and, therefore, to enjoying a close relationship with God through prayer and a combination of beliefs and practices, including very spiritual and mystical practices and even magic, ensured that he provoked controversy, such as was his intention. 

A more spiritual relationship with God, who has a special and unique relationship with Man, over any other animals, is assured through striving to be angel-like and, ultimately Man can look forward to being;

"like burning Seraphs, full of divine power, we shall be ourselves no longer, but shall be Him, the very one who made us."

God, "the supreme Architect" and "the best of artisans," does not restrict Man but gives him the ability to make decisions, from the "world's center," so that, from a strong position of his own making Man "mayest fashion thyself in whatever shape thou shalt prefer." 

samishah | Student

I think:

Adam, to the end that according to thy longing and according to thy judgment thou mayest have and possess what abode, what form, and what functions thou thyself shalt desire. The nature of all other beings is limited and constrained within the bounds of laws prescribed by Us. Thou, constrained by no limits, in accordance with thine own free will, in whose hand We have placed thee, shalt ordain for thyself the limits of thy nature. We have set thee at the world's center that thou mayest from thence more easily observe whatever is in the world. We have made thee neither of heaven nor of earth, neither mortal nor immortal, so that with freedom of choice and with honor, as though the maker and molder of thyself, thou mayest fashion thyself in whatever shape thou shalt prefer. Thou shalt have the power to degenerate into the lower forms of life, which are brutish. Thou shalt have the power, out of thy soul's judgment, to be reborn into the higher forms, which are divine."