Tuesday, January 18, 2011

answers to replies on Neoplatonism e-list discussion

> dear Ted,

Well, 'orthodox' and 'sincere' or 'pious' are two different things. Pico, like Plethon in the 'On the Differences Between Plato and Aristotle' and everyone since who was interested in Plato (never mind kabbalah and natural magic!) had to argue, first and foremost, that this was 'orthodox' philosophy. Not whether it was true, pious, beneficial, etc. etc., but orthodox. I think it's clear that Pico thinks his kabbalah, natural magic, etc. lead to a more fundamentally Christian (that is, true) Christianity, but his problem was putting the idea over to the ORTHODOX.
> Earl

What I'm saying is Pico sure seems to have thought he was "orthodox," although if you read his Apologia it seems clear that he has a difference of opinion about what philosophical doctrines are fair game for discussion. He appealed over the heads of his accusers because he didn't think they were a very good judge of orthodoxy, mistaking the doctrines of Aquinas for articles of faith.

>Could you please explain how, for Pico, angelology relates to contemplation?
>John Uebersax

In the Oration Pico says that we should imitate the contemplative life of the angels.
I'm arguing in my thesis that this is a consistent theme for him, which we also see
developed in Commento, Heptaplus, and De Ente ("the life of the angels is not perfect")

>Thanks for the reply. So he doesn't, as far as you know, consider angels as mediators or otherwise instrumental in human contemplation, inspiration, etc. -- i.e., in a role of 'messengers')?
>John Uebersax

Following Dionysius and Aquinas Pico sees the angels as playing a role in human contemplation
by illuminating them. In his Disputations he argues that this is the influence we should be looking
at, rather than the influence of planetary bodies. But I don't think Pico is trying to conjure or invoke angels with his "Kabbalah and Magic," which he rarely discusses in conjunction with angelology.

The jury is still out on Pico's epistemology, which in the 900 Conclusions seems to be playing with the idea that humans have an "angelic part" of the soul that is higher than reason, which some have argued makes him anti-scholastic while others point out that his theory is contradictory and confused.

One thing that I find interesting (and I hope to hear from Professor Allen about this) -- angels play a central role in Pico's writing and apparently his spirituality, whereas for Ficino the angel is "absent" in the sense that it doesn't play such a central role. Seems like this contrast is worth further study.

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