HomeΦιλοσοφια: International Journal of Philosophyvol. 38 no. 2 (2009)

“Hidden Keynote” in Giovanni Pico Della Mirandola’s Understanding of Human Dignity and Freedom

April Capili

Discipline: Philosophy, History



This paper points out that the idea of creation serves as the “hidden keynote” in Pico’s celebrated Oration. Against the claims of some prominent commentators, the author argues that Pico does not see freedom as the ultimate basis of man’s dignity. By contrasting Pico’s statements with those of Jean-Paul Sartre, it can be seen that freedom for Pico is conditioned. This view has implications for understanding the human condition, the possibilities for self-definition, and for determining the moral worth of various manners of living. Drawing attention to the notion of creation helps one to understand Pico on his own terms and the historical context, and to see how his notions of human will and dignity are distinct from modern and contemporary conceptions.