APPENDIX Z44: Man: Mortal or Divine ***

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Man: Mortal or Divine
“When I behold Your Heavens, the work of Your
The moon and stars that You
set in place,
What is man that You are
mindful of him,
Mortal man that You take
note of him?
Yet You have made him little less than the angels
And adorned him with glory and majesty.”
Psalm 8:3-5
(c. 1000 BCE)
“Pico della Mirandola (1463-94) was one of the
spirits of the Italian Renaissance. Born into an
family, he was a child
prodigy, mastering Latin and Greek
at an early age and winning the title of papal
when we was only ten. Initially intending a career
in the
Church, he went to the University of Bologna to
law, but widened his
interests to include philosophy,
which he pursued at the universities of Ferrara
In 1486 he completed his monumental 900 Theses,
Conclusiones philosophicae, cabalasticae et
on the entire range of human knowledge. To accompany

them he wrote his Oration on the Dignity of Man, widely
regarded as a manifesto of
the Renaissance. In it he
argued that the human person was the centerpiece
creation, the one being other than God himself who
no xed nature. Endowed with freedom, he could rise
higher than the angels or fall lower than the
animals. This
is how he imagines God addressing the rst human:
Adam, we give you no xed place to live, no form
that is peculiar to you, nor any function that is
alone… All other things have a limited and xed
prescribed and bounded by our laws. You, with no
limit or no bound, may choose for yourself the
and bounds of your nature. We have placed you at the
world’s center so that you
may survey everything else
in the world. We have made you neither of heavenly
nor of Earthly stuff, neither mortal nor immortal,
so that
with free choice and dignity, you may fashion yourself
into whatever form you choose. To you is granted
the power of degrading yourself into the lower
of life, the beasts, and to you is granted the power,
contained in your intellect and judgment, to be
into the higher forms, the divine.”*
Oration on the Dignity of Man (1486), the text available at: http://
reader_1/pico.html#2. See Ernst Cassirer, Paul Oskar Kristeller
and John Herman Randall, Jr, The Rennaissane Philosophy
of Man, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1948; M.V.
Dougherty (ed.), Pico della Mirandola: New Essays,
University Press, 2008.
*** Jonathan Sacks, The Great Partnership, New York: Random House, Inc. 2011, pp.111-112

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