School of Athens by Raphael
(H: 5 × W: 7.7 m)
In Raphael’s Philosophy mural (commonly known as School of Athens) the settig is not a “school” but a congregation of the great philosophers and scientists of the ancient world. Raphael depicted these luminaries, revered by Renaissance humanists, conversing and explaining their various theories and ideas. The setting is a vast hall covered by massive vaults that recall ancient Roman architecture—and approximate the appearance of the new Saint Peter’s in 1509, when Raphael began the fresco. Colossal statues of Apollo and Athena, patron deities of the arts and of wisdom, oversee the interactions. Plato and Aristotle serve as the central figures around whom Raphael carefully arranged the others. Plato holds his book Timaeus and points to Heaven, the source of his inspiration, while Aristotle carries his book Nicomachean Ethics and gestures toward the earth, from which his observations of reality sprang. Appropriately, ancient philosphers, men concerned with the ultimate mysteries that transcend this world, stand on Plato’s side. On Aristotle’s side are the philosphers and scientists interested in nature and human affairs. . . . The groups appear to move easily and clearly, with eloquent poses and gestures that symbolize their doctrines and present an engaging variety of figural positions. Their self-assurance and natural dignity convey the very nature of calm reason, that balance and measure the great Renaissance minds so admired as the heart of philosophy. Significantly, in the work Raphael placed himself among the mathematicians and scientists rather than the humanists. Certainly the evolution of pictorial science came to its perfection in School of Athens. Raphael’s convincing depiction of a vast perspectival space on a two-dimensional surface was the consequence of the union of mathematics with pictorial science, here mastered completely (from Fred S. Kleiner, Gardner’s Art Through the Ages, 13th edition, Boston: Wadsworth, 2011, 586-587).
Apostolic Palace, Vatican City
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics XI-X (1163b-1181b23) (pages 163-203)
Topic of Discussion
For our discussion, we will begin with brief summaries of the chapters in books nine and ten. Your summaries should be approximately two minutes. Here are the assigned chapters:
Then be prepared to share your thoughts about whether we should embrace Aristotle’s eudaimonía as the goal for our lives. In formulating and articulating your perspectives, you should discuss in concrete terms and with references to the text of the Nicomachean Ethics (and not just books nine and ten) what achieving that goal would require.