Giovanni Pico della Mirandola Biography


Giovanni Pico, count of Mirandola and Concordia, or Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (PEE-coh DAYL-lah mee-RAHN-doh-lah), was born February 24, 1463, in the castle of Mirandola, near Ferrara, Italy. He died at the age of thirty-one on November 17, 1494, at Fiesole in Tuscany, Italy. A deeply religious man, yet one who did not want to bow before the authority of the church and its dogma, Pico explored various paths of speculative philosophy. He was a Christian humanist, and as much as anyone he gave to the humanist movement the doctrine that humankind, under God, was at the center of reality. This idea was the burden of his best known work, the Oration on the Dignity of Man, a cornerstone of Renaissance thought.{$S[A]Mirandola, Count of;Pico della Mirandola, Giovanni}{$S[A]Concordia, Count of;Pico della Mirandola, Giovanni}

Pico was a startlingly precocious child with a remarkable memory. At the age of fourteen he was studying canon law at the University of Bologna, and during his youth he mastered Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Arabic, and Chaldean. While still a young man he traveled much in Italy and abroad, joining Marsilio Ficino’s Platonic Academy in Florence in 1484. In 1485 he was studying in Paris and there conceived a grand plan: a synthesis of all philosophies—Aristotelian and Platonic, Christian and non-Christian. No one system of thought, maintained Pico, was all right or all wrong; the truth in all systems should be sorted out and combined....

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Dougherty, M. V. “Two Possible Sources for Pico’s Oratorio.” Vivarium 40, no. 2 (2002): 219-241. Discusses parallels between Pico della Mirandola’s work and the philosophy ofr Aristotle and Boethius.

Farmer, S. A. Syncretism in the West: Pico’s “900 Theses” (1486), the Evolution of Traditional, Religious, and Philosophical Systems, with Text, Translation, and Commentary. Tempe, Ariz.: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 1998. Although this is primarily a translation of a text, it is prefaced by an introduction of over 150 pages that discusses Pico della Mirandola’s intellectual life and context.

Garin, Eugenio. “Giovanni Pico della Mirandola.” In Portraits from the Quattrocento. Translated by Victor A. and Elizabeth Velen. New York: Harper & Row, 1972. A short profile.

More, Thomas. “English Poems,” “Life of Pico,” “The Last Things.” Edited by Anthony S. G. Edwards, Katherine Gardiner Rodgers, and Clarence H. Miller. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1997. The Tudor theologian’s works on Pico della Mirandola.

Rabin, Sheila. “Kepler’s Attitude Toward Pico and the Anti-Astrology Polemic.” Renaissance Quarterly 50 (Autumn, 1997): 750-790. Details Johannes Kepler’s debate with Pico della Mirandola on astrology.

Schmitt, Charles B. Gianfrancesco Pico della Mirandola and His Critique of Aristotle. The Hague, the Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff, 1967. A philosophical study.

Wirszubski, Chiam. Pico della Mirandola’s Encounter with Jewish Mysticism. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1989. A dense but thorough examination of Pico della Mirandola’s exposure to the Kabbala.