Pico della Mirandola on the Dignity of Man and Some Contemporary Echoes of His Philosophy
Keywords:Pico della Mirandola, Renaissance man, free will, Jean-Paul Sartre, Pascal Quignard
The Oration on the Dignity of Man makes a claim, characteristic for the Renaissance, that the dignity of man, the real “excellency of human nature,” is not present in any specific human quality or ability. Neither is it present in the role of the human soul as the “tie of the world” (copula mundi), as Marsilio Ficino has taught. Even higher than this eminent human role in the world is the freedom of man to choose his role and task himself. At the same time, Pico believes that Man was created as the image of God, in the sense that no man is determined in advance: human free will reflects God’s free will in creation. From the point of view of the mainstream modern dualism, this is a paradox, even a contradiction. This paper argues the opposite: that the human free will is even nowadays, not less than in the Renaissance period, compatible with the belief in God. However, this is only the case if God (being transcendent or immanent to the world) does not command anything, if God does not demand anything – except love. Violence and killing are eo ipso prohibited, especially in the name of faith. Therefore, freedom and faith are perfectly compatible. Even more, modern humans are fatally unfree either in the secular “radicalization” of faith or in the atheistic secularization of the world. Unfree due to their existence (Dasein), enslaved by the Angst of “mere nothing.”
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