The image I’ve chosen to define my blog is titled The School of Athens (Scuola di Atene), a well-known fresco painting by famous Italian Renaissance artist Raphael. Located within the Apostolic Palace of Vatican City, it depicts an idealized gathering of the greatest minds in philosophy, ranging from Plato and Aristotle (the central figures), to Epicurus, Zeno of Citium, and Averroes.
With the definite exception of the first two, there is much dispute about the identities of the others, and different scholars and art historians have postulated their own theories as to who’s who (the artist himself gave no clear indication). Read more about the probable list of identifications here, and do feel free to read up on each of them.
Needless to say, this one of the most beautiful and famous of Raphael’s works, if not the entire Renaissance. However, I didn’t choose it only for it’s aesthetic beauty, which was nonetheless a major factor. Rather, it appeals to me mostly because it represents an idea very close to my heart: that of the dialectic, a form of argumentation that has underpinned philosophy, and the search for truth, since ancient times.
The dialectical method consists not of debate or rhetoric, but dialogue. Rather than be committed to a position and concerned only with being right (and proving it), those engaging in a dialectical approach with one another are looking to establish truth, through reasoned argument and rational inquiry. Rather than try to persuade through appeals to emotion or the like, the dialectical person looks to ask questions, understand other positions, and put forward their own views with the intention of validating its truth value. Through civil discourse, an open-mind, and tireless curiosity, one tries to seek the truth.
I try to imagine what it would be like to share a platform with all these wise figures, and the many who have since emerged thereafter. Looking at this image, I fantasize about bring a part of it, if at the very least a spectator. Just think of the great pool of knowledge that would form from doing nothing more than engaging in thoughtful and reasoned conversation.
The image represents, in the most romantic of fashions, precisely what I mean to promote on this blog and throughout my life. I’m just one person of course, and hardly qualified to bring about a paradigm shift on my own; I have no delusions of granduer, nor the arrogance to presume otherwise. But the point of progress through the advancement of human wisdom is that we’re all in it together. Human knowledge is the sum of generations of contributions, often times brought about by nothing more than critical thinking and open-minded exchanges with others.
I wouldn’t feel so enlightened to the world were it not for my valuable interactions with the multitudes of people who have enriched my life in some form or fashion. With increasing interconnection, coupled with a sense of global and pan-humanist consciousness, the entire world is a bona fide School of Athens. We don’t always get it right, but more and more of us are talking, learning, and progressing in the same spirit of dialectic captured so beautifully in this painting, and responsible for so much richness within human thought. I couldn’t have asked for a greater welcoming banner.
So join me – share your thoughts, concerns, views, and works. Let’s have a discussion, as sincere in its search for truth as it is in its mutual civility. I welcome your wisdom.