Pico on Chameleon-esqueness

“Who will not wonder at this chameleon?”

In the “Oration on the Dignity of Man” Pico Della Mirandola constructs the most important view on human nature of this time period. There is a great deal of ancient thought to be found is his writings as a renaissance writer, expecially the notion of an absolute, platonic truth and the layered and hierarchic model of the earthly and heavenly spheres. As is often proposed in these times, Pico holds that man exists in between the two opposing spheres, and by their chameleon-esque nature, they may choose where they end up.

For humans it is possible to choose to live the vegetative life, the animalistic life, the heavenly or the godly life. Living like a plant, being completely passive and barely more than a body, will make a person an actual plant in Pico’s eyes. Living like an animal, acting only upon lusts and sensory stimuli, will degrade a person to an animal. A person that thinks about difficult, analytical problems will by nature be regarded as a philosopher, and living in the heavenly realms. And lastly, the person who does not regard the outside world at all and is turned inwards to only his own soul, is considered godlike. This demonstrates the chameleon-esque nature of man.

In my opinion a person does not lose this characteristic once they have chosen a certain path. It is not that they have lost the choice of becoming whatever they choose, but instead have never had this choice in the first place. I believe that although the diversity in human beings as a whole is immensive, it is mainly determined by genes and upbringing how someone will end up. Even if after one choice they change paths to some other way of life, it is determined by other factors than by essentially a free will.