Guide On the Dignity of Man (Hackett Classics)

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Visit store. See other items More See all. Item Information Condition:. Sign in to check out Check out as guest. The item you've selected was not added to your cart. Add to Watchlist Unwatch. Studies in Renaissance Thought and Letters. Rome: Edizioni di storia e letteratura, Wiesbaden: Steiner, Wallis' translation of On the Dignity of Man was made from a Renaissance edition, but has been revised by Mr. Miller to agree with the critical edition.

A line of Hebrew printed incorrectly in that text has been emended by Professor Paul Shiman of the University of Colorado. The translators are heavily indebted to the Garin edition for identifications of quotations and references to other works. And Mercury's, "a great wonder, Asclepius, is man!

Why should we not wonder more at the angels themselves and at the very blessed heavenly choirs? Finally, it seemed to me that I understood why man is the animal that is most happy, and is therefore worthy of all wonder; and lastly, what the state is that is allotted to man in the succession of things, and that is capable of arousing envy not only in the brutes but also in the stars and even in minds beyond the world. It is wonderful and beyond belief. For this is the reason why man is rightly said and thought to be a great 1 Asclepius I. Scott, I, Now hear what it is, fathers; and with kindly ears and for the sake of your humanity, give me your close attention: Now the highest Father, God the master-builder, had, by the laws of his secret wisdom, fabricated this house, this world which we see, a very superb temple of divinity.

He had adorned the super-celestial region with minds. He had animated the celestial globes with eternal souls; he had filled with a diverse throng of animals the cast-off and residual parts of the lower world. But, with the work finished, the Artisan desired that there be someone to reckon up the reason of such a big work, to love its beauty, and to wonder at its greatness.

Accordingly, now that all things had been completed, as Moses and Timaeus testify, He lastly considered creating man.

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Everything was filled up; all things had been laid out in the highest, the lowest, and the middle orders. But it did not belong to the paternal power to have failed in the final parturition, as though exhausted by childbearing; it did not belong to wisdom, in a case of necessity, to have been tossed back and forth through want of a plan; it did not belong to the loving-kindness which was going to praise divine liberality in others to be forced to condemn itself.

Finally, the best of workmen decided that that to which nothing of its very own could be given should be, in composite fashion, whatsoever had belonged individually to each and every thing. Therefore He took up man, a work of indeterminate form; and, placing him at the midpoint of the world, He spoke to him as follows: "We have given to thee, Adam, no fixed seat, no form of thy very own, no gift peculiarly thine, that thou mayest feel as thine own, have as thine own, possess as thine own the seat, the form, the gifts which thou thyself shalt desire.

A limited nature in other creatures is confined within the laws written down by. In confonnity with thy free judgment, in whose hands I have placed thee, thou art confined by no bounds; and thou wilt fix limits of nature for thyself. I have placed thee at the center of the world, that from there thou mayest more conveniently look around and see whatsoever is in the world.

Neither heavenly nor earthly, neither mortal nor immortal have We made thee. Thou, like a judge appointed for being honorable, art the molder and maker of thyself; thou mayest sculpt thyself into whatever shape thou dost prefer. Thou canst grow downward into the lower natures which are brutes. Thou canst again grow upward from thy soul's reason into the higher natures which are divine.

Pico della Mirandola: Oration on the Dignity of Man: A New Translation and Commentary

It is given him to have that which he chooses and to be that which he wills. As soon as brutes are born, they bring with them, "from their dam's bag," as Lucilius says, what they are going to possess. At man's birth the Father placed in him every sort of seed and sprouts of every kind of life. The seeds that each man cultivates will grow and bear their fruit in him.

If he cultivates vegetable seeds, he will become a plant. If the seeds of sensation, he will grow into brute. If rational, he will come out a heavenly animal. If intellectual, he will be an angel, and a son of God. And if he is not contented with the lot of any creature but takes himself up into the center of his own unity, then, made one spirit with God and settled in the solitary darkness of the Father, who is above all things, he will stand ahead of all things.

Who does not wonder at this chameleon which we are? Or who at all feels more wonder at anything else whatsoever? It was not un fittingly that Asclepius the Athenian said that man was symbolized by Prometheus in the secret rites, by reason of our nature sloughing its skin and transfonning itself; hence metamorphoses were popular among the Jews and the Pythagoreans. And his saying so was reasonable: for it is not the rind which makes the plant, but a dull and non-sentient nature; not the hide which makes a beast of burden, but a brutal and sensual soul; not the spherical body which makes the heavens, but right reason; and not a separateness from the body but a spiritual intelligence which makes an angel.

For example, if you see a man given over to his belly and crawling upon the ground, it is a bush not a man that you see. If you see anyone blinded by the illusions of his empty and Calypso-like imagination, seized by the desire of scratching, and delivered over to the senses, it is a brute not a man that you see.

If you come upon a philosopher winnowing out all things by right reason, he is a heavenly not an earthly animal.

Respecting the Dignity of Man

If you come upon a pure contemplator, ignorant of the body, banished to the innermost places of the mind, he is not an earthly, not it heavenly animal; he more superbly is a divinity clothed with human flesh. Who is there that does not wonder at man?