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Essay on Positions of the Greek Philosophers in Rafael's Painting

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Raphael’s painting, “The school of Athens” is not merely a conglomeration of all of the philosophers of the time period, but includes a more profound amount of time, effort, and thought put into the placement and depiction of each of the characters. Each of the characters has been painted in a way that is reflective of their individual beliefs and philosophy. Though each individual was depicted as a specific philosopher from the time period there is still some debate over exactly which philosopher is which. There are at least ten of these philosophers who have been depicted so clearly that there is no argument as to the reasoning behind their portrayal. Some of the philosophers that were specifically painted in such a way were: Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, Hypatia, Diogenes, Euclid, Heraclitus, Epicurus, Averroes, Parmenides, and Pythagoras. These philosophers all had different beliefs and ideas about the world, and each is placed into the painting in such a way that represents these ideas.
Plato is placed directly in the middle of the painting, walking beside Aristotle, and holding an animated conversation. Plato wears red clothing, wears no shoes, has long hair, and a long beard. In one hand he holds a book, while his other hand has a single index finger pointing toward the sky. Each of these characteristics describes Plato and his philosophy in a specific manner. The most obvious characteristic about Plato’s portrayal is his index finger pointing toward the sky. This seems to represent his philosophy about ideas, or forms. Plato believed that behind everything in the “sensible world” there is the “intelligible world” which consists of all of these forms and ideas. Plato believed that these forms are immutable, they are not ph...


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...g. He appears to be deep in thought, serious, and not exceedingly friendly. While Diogenes looks casual and open minded, Heraclitus appears to be segregating himself, whereas the other philosophers simply avoided Diogenes because of his many cynical ideas. Heraclitus is pictured the furthest forward in the painting because he played an instrumental role in the philosophy of Europe. Heraclitus played his role prior to Socrates and Plato, his ideas fundamental to the development of all of the other ideas that came at a later time. He is placed in the front because his role was largely significant in the development of all of the philosophy that was to come and though he is not associated with anyone else, it is clear that he is important by his placement in relation to all of the other important men and women that are positioned behind him in less important places.



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