Pico Project
February 19, 2005 11:02 AM   Subscribe

Pico's Brain. The "Discourse on the Dignity of Man" (1486) by Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494) is considered the "Manifesto of the Renaissance" and a key text of Renaissance Humanism. The Discourse merits attention today precisely on account of its affirmation that human nature, which is in itself indeterminate and weak, comes alive and obtains its identity through the plurality of human cultures, each representing customs that, though distinct, are essentially identical. Hence the possibility of harmony and grounds for "peace" among cultures. The Pico Project makes accessible a complete resource for the reading and interpretation of the Discourse within its own context, from an initial encounter through direct contact with the original text, presented here in its first printed edition (Bologna 1496) of which there exist no extant manuscripts. Of course, Pico was also a Kabbalistic scholar (Umberto Eco is not a fan of Pico's kabbalistic work .pdf file). More inside.
posted by matteo (8 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Pico Project's -- a joint project by Università degli Studi di Bologna and Brown University -- guide and templates here.

The Discourse speaks to us from a very distant world. Pico knew neither the Reformation nor the New World and was in a certain sense a man with one foot in the Middle Ages and the other in the Renaissance. His philosophical and linguistic knowledge was exceptionally broad-ranged but his relationship to his sources is very different from that of modern philology. The language of the Discourse is the highly refined Latin of Humanism and herein lie the difficulties of a modern reading.
posted by matteo at 11:06 AM on February 19, 2005

If we seem to stand upon the shoulders of giants (from the past) that is because we have no step ladder. Pico,alas, still caught up with the Great Chain of Being--god et al now in the dustbin as we move on to Jerry Springer, hip hop, Spark Notes and reality TV
posted by Postroad at 1:29 PM on February 19, 2005

yeah, but I think Pico would have loved those hip-hop videos -- a little Bacardi and stuff, a dip in the Jacuzzi. that would have cheered him up a bit, too.
posted by matteo at 2:03 PM on February 19, 2005

great post.
posted by Substrata at 3:33 PM on February 19, 2005

..and for the rest of the story:

Ten years after Pico wrote the "Manifesto", a change of mood had occurred in Italy through a series of political events. A new ruler of Florence named Savonarola called for the burning of all the books, paintings and luxuries in what has famously been called the "Bonfire of the Vanities" in which much of the great art of the Renaissance was consumed. Pico was to found dressed in monastic garb and a devout follower of Savonarola.
posted by stbalbach at 4:48 PM on February 19, 2005

My fellow Pico!

[great post. thanks.]
posted by picopebbles at 8:44 PM on February 19, 2005

Thanks, matteo.
posted by homunculus at 12:20 PM on February 20, 2005

..and for the rest of the story:

"Florence soon tired of Savonarola's hectoring. During his Ascension Day sermon on May 4, 1497, bands of youths rioted, and the riot became a revolt: taverns reopened, and men gambled publicly. On May 13, 1497 he was excommunicated by Pope Alexander VI and in 1498 he was simultaneously hanged and burned, in the same place and manner that he had condemned others."

Oh yes. What comes around, goes around.

Great post Matteo.
posted by semmi at 2:12 PM on February 20, 2005

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