Sunday, January 9, 2011
Pico Under Fire
My aim is to persuade my reader of the philosophical seriousness and sincere Christian piety of Pico's angelology. That is the overwhelming impression I have received after spending so much time reading even Pico's magic and kabbalah, but especially tracking down the philosophical themes that Pico employs. In the paper I do not have the space to respond to criticisms of Pico individually in much detail, but a few trends in Pico evaluation and interpretation (and misinterpretation) are worth mentioning at the outset. First is what I'm calling the extreme theurgic interpretations, which are unfortunately present as fatal assumptions in the Pico criticism of some of the best Renaissance historians of the 20th century. Pico was not discussing magic because he wanted to suggest a view of "Man as Magus," but because he thought magic as natural philosophy demonstrated things useful to philosophical theology. Variations of this assumption seem to be present in surveys of medieval and early modern angelology I have sampled, which refer to Oration as using angels as a lame excuse to angelize the philosopher, or Heptaplus as cheap angelizing of the cosmos. Really Pico demonstrates a thorough acquaintance with the scholastic problems of angelology of his day and does impressive research and brilliant speculation in efforts to solve them.