Positions Of The Greek Philosophers In Rafael's Painting

1857 words - 7 pages

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 physical, they are not touchable, but they can be known and understood. Plato’s finger pointing toward the sky could be representative of his beliefs in these ideas because it is as if he is gesturing to the ideas which are not a part of the ‘down to earth’ physical world. His finger is not pointing directly toward any object above him, just simply gesturing to the empty space, implying the presence of the ideas and forms that exist, but are not identifiable in this state. Plato is most likely portrayed in red because his philosophy always revolved more around the ideas of forms instead of physical touchable objects. It could be that the colors of red and a white/gray represent fire and air, which are two elements that are freer flowing, more open ended, and less grounded in the physical world. Many of Plato’s ideas were like fire and air, more abstract and less tangible than the ideas of the other philosophers of his time. Plato is likely pictured with no shoes on his feet because…
The man talking to Plato on his left is Aristotle. Aristotle is portrayed in blue, younger, with a short, brown beard and sandals on his feet. Aristotle has one hand holding his book, and the other hand is stretched in front of him, facing...

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