The Oration by philosopher Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463–1494), to which later editors added the subtitle On the Dignity of Man, is the most famous text written in Italy at the height of the Renaissance. The Life of Giovanni by Gianfrancesco Pico, his nephew, is the only contemporary account of the philosopher’s brief and astonishing career—Giovanni, who challenged anyone to debate him on nine hundred theses in Rome, whose writings made him a heretic by papal declaration, died at the age of thirty-one. Together, these works record Giovanni’s invention of Christian Kabbalah, his search for the ancient theology of Orpheus and Zoroaster, and his effort to reconcile all the warring schools of philosophy in universal concord. In this new translation, the two texts are presented with ample explanatory notes that transform our understanding of these fascinating thinkers.
Brian P. Copenhaver is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and History at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he directed the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, editor of History of Philosophy Quarterly, past president of the Journal of the History of Philosophy, and on the boards of Harvard’s I Tatti Renaissance Library and the Italian Istituto Nazionale di Studi sul Rinascimento. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim and Getty foundations and has authored many books, including Hermetica, The Book of Magic, and Magic in Western Culture.
Michael J. B. Allen is Distinguished Professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles.