Ontology of Man, Seen by Different Philosophers

Topics: Philosophy, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Neoplatonism Pages: 6 (1558 words) Published: January 22, 2008
The philosophy of man is an intricate and multidimensional

system involving complex problems rationalized by theoretical ideals.

In writing the Oration on the Dignity of Man, Giovanni Pico della

Mirandola approaches this study universally, wherein, humanism and the

worth and dignity of the populace is affirmed. Saint Augustine's

Confessions attempts to explain the truth and philosophies of man, but

does so with a different approach, referring to man as a product of

society self-consciously misdirected by his soul. These philosophies

share some similarities while also differing from one another; however,

both share a common purpose: to explain the philosophy of man. This

essay will proceed to juxtapose and integrate the works of Giovanni

Pico della Mirandola and St. Augustine taking into consideration the

time periods within which each lived and studied.

Saint Augustine defines the apparent imbalance between what or

who people are and what people truly desire. Desire, according to

Augustine, is accompanied by will, which can misdirect and lead to a dualism of internal and external conflict. This dualism describes the separation that occurs when one is persuaded by social structures to act in a manner that is different from his or her authentic being. His philosophy is greatly reliant upon religion and is derived from the experience of his sinful youth and conversion to Christianity. Conducting his knowledge through an understanding of original sin - Christians usually refer to this as mankind's first offense, where evil's effects are felt by the entirety of the human race (Christian Classics). Augustine's interpretation, while also incorporating will, corresponds with the predestined nature to succeed through hardships, therein, founding man's virtue.

On the other hand, while Pico identifies the importance of a

Christian back round, he approaches this philosophy holistically,

combining natural philosophy and science. In his later studies he marries these ideas to the concept of theology. In this manner, he deviated from what had been the traditional ontological argument to create a new understanding of the relationship between man and religion. He referenced the ‘chain of being' and alleged that after God had granted life to creatures he created man who would be grateful of all of his effort and appreciative of the beauty of God's work (wikipedia, Pico). He believed in one's ability to prosper and advance the hierarchical chain through enlightened intellect so that he or she can comprehend the work of God. This idea, although extraordinarily profound for its time period, is evidently what caused the emergence of humanism, thus, birthing social and individual fluidity in said ‘chain of being'. Furthermore, this then placed the idea of ‘present day' in the limelight and cast that of ‘the afterlife' in a secondary role.

Saint Augustine's philosophy focuses on the virtues one received in the afterlife, as opposed to the struggle of a worldly existence. This is not to say that he neglects life on earth, only that his approach is to illustrate that what one does in their lifetime reflects his or her prosperity in the afterlife. Although Saint Augustine was limited in the amount of Knowledge that he was able to obtain, he still managed to define and describe the differences and similarities between free will and self, while identifying a dualism between the body and soul. The explanation of self is crucial in the clarification of his philosophy of man. "Seek for yourself, O man; search for your true self. He who seeks shall find himself in God". Augustine believes that true happiness of the self comes from God, however, because man is free and can therefore exercise ‘free will' he or she is susceptible to evils impressed by the temptations of the external world. The interaction between body and soul is in conflict when not acting within the...
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