Pico Della Mirandola, Giovanni

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Pico Della Mirandola, Giovanni


Born Feb. 24, 1463, in Mirandola, near Modena; died Nov. 17, 1494, near Florence. Italian Renaissance thinker.

Pico studied at the universities of Bologna, Ferrara, and Padua, where he absorbed the Scholastic tradition of Aristoteli-anism and Averroism and the culture of philological humanism. He studied ancient Hebrew and Arabic, examined the Old Testament and the Koran in the original, became interested in the cabala, and practiced “natural magic.”

In 1486, Pico issued 900 theses, most of which he had taken from all the philosophical and religious teachings known to him and some of which he had formulated independently. (The introduction to the theses, Oration on the Dignity of Man, is one of the most significant statements of the Renaissance perception of the world.) He announced his intention to defend the theses in Rome before Christian scholars. The papal curia condemned 13 of the theses. After Pico voiced his objections in his Apologia (1487), all the theses were condemned, and their author was arrested. In 1488, Pico moved to Florence, where he joined the circle of Lorenzo de’ Medici and the Florentine Neoplatonists, headed by M. Ficino (the Platonic Academy). He wrote a commentary on G. Benivieni’s canzone “Of Heavenly Love,” as well as the treatises Heptaplus (1490) and On Being and One (1496). In the last years of his life he was influenced by Savonarola and became increasingly immersed in religious mystical moods.

Pico did not complete most of his projects and failed to systematize the extremely heterogenous philosophical themes that inspired him. He strove for a universal “reconciliation of philosophers,” basing his hopes on the assumption that all religions and all schools of philosophy are partial manifestations of a single truth and can be reconciled in a universally understood Christianity. Another of his central ideas concerns the special place of man in the universe (the “dignity” of man), by virtue of man’s connection with everything terrestrial and celestial, from the lowest to the highest. In combination with freedom of choice, this special status gives man cosmic liberty—a creative ability for self-determination that makes him akin to god.

In his pantheistic tendencies, Pico was close to Ficino and Nicholas of Cusa. In the work Disputations Against Astrology (1495), which greatly influenced natural philosophy, Pico rejected astral determinism in favor of man’s free will.


Opera omnia. Basel, 1601.
De hominis dignitate; Heptaplus; De Ente et Uno. Edited by E. Garin. Florence, 1942.
Disputationes adversus astrologiam divinatricem, vols. 1-2.
Edited by E. Garin. Florence, 1946-52.
In Russian translation:
Istoriia estetiki, vol. 1. Moscow, 1962. Pages 506-14.


Bragina, L. M. “Eticheskie vzgliady D. Piko della Mirandola.” In the collection Srednie veka, fasc. 28. Moscow, 1965.
Monnerjahn, E. Pico della Mirandola.… Wiesbaden, 1960.
Garin, E. Pico della Mirandola. Parma, 1963.
L’Opera e il pensiero di G. Pico della Mirandola nella storia dell’ Umanesimo, vols. 1-2. Modena, 1965.
DiNapoli, G. G. Pico della Mirandola e la problematica dottrinale del suo tempo. Rome, 1965. (Contains a bibliography.)
Trinkaus, C. In Our Image and Likeness: Humanity and Divinity in Italian Humanist Thought, vols. 1-2. Chicago-London, 1970.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Pico della Mirandola, Giovanni. De hominis dignitate, Heptaplus, De ente et Uno.