Re-Writing the Creation Story: How Giovanni Pico Della Mirandola's "Oration on the Dignity of Man" Influenced the Renaissance and Man's Perception of Himself

1904 Words Dec 1st, 2009 8 Pages
Re-Writing the Creation Story: How Giovanni Pico della Mirandola’s Oration on the Dignity of Man Influenced the Renaissance and Man’s Perception of Himself In the time before the Renaissance, there were two commonly accepted stories of the world’s Creation: those expressed in the first chapters of Genesis. These stories captured the work of God as he brought about the universe, the plants, the animals, and the humans, and they chronicled the fall of Adam and Eve, who used the free will that God had given them in such a way that it brought about their downfall. However, just as the Humanist movement was beginning at the forefront of the Renaissance, a brilliant young writer, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, published his Oration on the …show more content…
In both the stories of Genesis and Mirandola’s Oration on the Dignity of Man, free will is a gift from God and unique to human beings. In Genesis, Adam and Eve misuse their free will to disobey their Creator. By exercising this gift and eating the fruit of the forbidden tree, Adam and Eve caused their expulsion from the Garden of Eden and the suffering of all future generations. In the Oration on the Dignity of Man, Mirandola makes no mention of this fall or of the negative effects of free will. Instead, Mirandola portrays free will the opportunity to have control of one’s destiny, a gift which humankind can use to “degenerate into the inferior forms of life…[or] to rise to the superior orders of the divine,” (Mirandola, 244). This unique ability is unlike the free will depicted in Genesis, which is viewed pessimistically as the cause of Adam and Eve’s downfall. Mirandola shows free will to be a blessing from God, meant specifically for mankind. Unlike the constrained and limited existence of animals, humans were given the ability to “independently determine the bounds of [their] own nature,” (Mirandola 244). Humans were placed in the center of the Earth and could “fashion [themselves] in whatever form [they] prefer,” (Mirandola, 244). While both the story of Genesis and the Oration on the Dignity of Man describe God placing man in a seat of dominion over the animals and plant of the

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