Pico’s 900 Theses

1 06 2008

Image credit: “Circles within circles” by Nicolas LeFevre illustrating Pico della Mirandola’s cosmology

Part I: Steven Farmer’s Analysis of the Emergence of Religious Complexity

In the introduction to his book, Syncretism in the West: Pico’s 900 Theses (1486), the scholar Steven Farmer analyses the convergence of various written traditions in order to harmonize their ideas into a cohesive whole within religious thought. For Farmer, the emergence of written religious texts coming out of oral traditions forced practitioners to create syncretic systems that could square away the inconsistencies in religious doctrine that occured over time. The best paradigm to analyze this phenomenon came through the aborted fifteenth century debate proposed by the philosopher Giovanni Pico della Mirandola to synthesize all of the religious traditions known at that time under 900 individual theses. By this, Mirandola hoped to prove that all known faiths had the same basic defining principles, and that all things were in each other according to their appropriate manner.
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