Al-ghazali and Giovanni pico Della mirandola on the question of human freedom and the chain of being

Philosophy East and West 60 (2):pp. 143-166 (2010)
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The person most often credited as the first to free humanity from its bonds in the chain of being was the Renaissance humanist Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. Scholars have asserted that Pico's chain-of-being doctrine was either inspired or predated by earlier European thinkers, namely Marsilio Ficino, Nicholas of Cusa, Allan of Lille, and John Scotus Eriugena. By analyzing the works of the previously listed philosophers, this article argues that Pico's philosophical doctrine was in fact predated by no European writer. Instead, as the analysis of his works will show, the Muslim mystic al-Ghazali was the first to elucidate the ideas that are presently attributed to Pico. Furthermore, after researching Pico's library and scholarly development, the possibility that Pico was inspired by al-Ghazali's writings is assessed. It may be the case that a large part of the philosophical underpinning of Renaissance Humanism has its origins in eleventh-twelfth century Muslim thought



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