Tuesday, February 1, 2011

one paragraph summary blurb

The Angelology of Pico della Mirandola

I wrote my MA thesis to argue for the philosophical importance of the Angelology
of Pico della Mirandola, which has been subject to controversy due to his use of
"Magic and Kabbalah" in some of his writings. Most of the accusations of heresy
or "angel magic" have not held up in scholarly discussion, but Pico's angelology is
still regarded dubiously. My strategy in the paper is to look the ways that Pico uses
angels in his text, showing that his motivations are philosophical rather than magical
or heretical at each point, although he's making creative and original use of some of
the traditions he touches upon. I focus on Pico's controversial rhetorical strategy of
comparing angels to men, which Pico introduces as a Biblical problem, supported by
the authority of the apostle Paul via the writings of Dionysius the Areopagite. Rather
than see this "Angel Comparison" as angel magic, I will show that Pico explores this
idea consistently through his texts as part of the philosophical-theological problem of
angelic knowledge. This problem is one of the main themes of his Kabbalah because
he follows Dionysius in understanding Moses as having gotten his Law from angels.
While I admit that "magic and kabbalah" is still a problem in Pico studies, I conclude that
our best strategy is to come to a better understanding of the philosophical problems of
angelology that Pico is dealing with before we can speculate about any implications or
hints of angel magic that might be present in his texts.

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