Pico della Mirandola: The Self-Made Man Meme
This chapter is focused on the Renaissance humanists and the influence they had on Western individualism through their celebration of the great potential of humans. While many of the humanist’s optimistic ideas are covered, including Petrarch, Marsilio Ficino, Giannozzo Manetti, and others. The particular focus, however, is on Pico della Mirandola and his short but remarkable Oration on the Dignity of Man written in 1486. Pico’s emphasis on not only the ability, but the obligation, to self-transform ourselves using our own free will and to challenge ourselves to find the divine within oneself is arguably the start of the self-made man meme. Man defines himself not in his being but in his doing, his becoming—a thoroughly modern idea.