Who is Giovanni Pico Della Mirandola?

Who is Giovanni Pico Della Mirandola?

June 25, 2021 Off By Felso

Humanist thinker who lived between 1463-1494. Mystic.

He is one of the proponents of the Neoplatonic view. He completed his university education at the age of 14 and turned to philosophy.

One of the main late humanists, Mirandola (1463-1494) was born in Mirandola, near Modena, in Italy. He studied law in Bologna and philosophy in Ferrara and continued his education in Padua, which was the center of Aristotelianism at that time. He learned Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Arabic.

At the age of 22 he went to the University of Paris, the most important center of scholastic philosophy and theology in the West. Here, at the age of 23, he prepared 900 theses against what was known on religion, philosophy, natural science and magic, and his theses were banned by the Papacy because they were found to be unchristian. His article called De Hominis Dignitate (Prophecy on the Value of Man), which prefaces these theses, is important in terms of recognizing his philosophical approach. Known as the Manifesto of the Renaissance, it is one of the main texts of Renaissance humanism. In this work, Pico emphasized the importance of continuous research in order to reach knowledge in a Neoplatonic understanding.

When the human race comes to existence, God has placed it at the center of the universe so that he can see everything easily and obtain knowledge easily, and has given him free thought to realize himself as he knows. Thus, man is not a random being, but a being who makes his own place, who is like God in this world. It is a kind of macrocosm as well as microcosm. For this reason, it is the highest value and honor in the sight of God. As it is seen, Mirandola, although he could not go beyond the basic notion of the Middle Ages, managed to bring the value and dignity of man to the forefront in accordance with this idea and acted in accordance with the spirit of the Renaissance. Mirandola brought together Platonism, Neoplatonism, Aristotelianism, Hermeticism and Kabbalah in these 900 theses and became an ideal example of Renaissance eclecticism. In 72 of these theses, he tried to describe a complete system of nature. Although he emphasizes that he is in favor of universal reconciliation, it is seen that Neoplatonism predominates in his theses.

Pico, in one of these theses, said that “the sin of a finite mortal should not be determined eternally, but should only correspond to a temporary punishment.” According to him, “The human task is a mystical task following three stages: first of all, the necessary moral development will be realized; then it is necessary to achieve rational knowledge, and finally, identification with absolute reality is achieved and final competence is achieved.” In this discourse, Neoplatonism clearly reveals itself. This mystical process is a form of explanation that official Christianity cannot tolerate. This and similar approaches are clear proof of why his work was excommunicated. Although Pico was generally influenced by Plato in this famous work, he also had a deep respect for Aristotle with the influence of the Aristotelian Marsilio Ficino. Pico’s aim was to reconcile the Platonic and Aristotelian schools. Because he believed that they expressed the same concepts in different terms. He believed that an educated person should also know the Hebrew and Talmudic sources, the Hermetic sources. He believed that these represented the concept of God seen in the Old Testament in different words. One of the people he was most influenced by in his short life was the Dominican Girolamo Savonarola, a fierce anti-humanist. After the death in 1492 of Lorenzo de Medici, patron of the Renaissance, in Florence, political instability led to the strengthening of Savonarola, a fierce enemy of the Renaissance. As this person clashed with the Medici family, the family had to leave Florence. In contrast, Pico became a devoted follower of Savonarola. He decided to become a monk and destroyed all his poems, but died mysteriously in 1494 at the age of 31. It is said that he was poisoned by his secretary because of his close relations with Savonarola.

Mirandola saw man as an honorable being who is similar to God in this world and emphasized the importance of continuous research in reaching knowledge.

Man’s task has three stages; 1. Mandatory moral development, 2. Intellectual knowledge, 3. Identification with absolute reality and becoming competent.

Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook