As we have seen from previous blogs, Raphael's School of Athens painting of 1509-11 in the Vatican Stanza della Segnatura contains many philosophers from Ancient Greece as well as contemporary portraits.
An unusual exception in the entire School is the man bending over on the left, wearing a turban.
AVERROES, a Muslim philosopher from Cordoba, Spain, from the 12th century, and he is the ONLY MUSLIM depicted on this wall. Averroes was born in 1126 in Cordoba, the son of a cadi or Islamic judge. When he dies in Marrakesh in Morocco in 1198, he has written enough philosophical treatises to influence not only Thomas Aquinas but other Christian thinkers after him. His real name was Ibn Rushd, and Salmon Rushdie, the modern novelist, has his last name because of this philosopher (Rushdie's father changed his last name to Rushdie to be associated with the honor of Ibn Rushd.)
As a Muslim believer, AVERROES wanted to reconcile the writings of Aristotle with Islam, and he writes down what he believes as a philosopher in the process. He believed in the immortality of
the human intellect, and his IDEALISM about the world of thought gave reason for Raphael to place him between Epicurus and Pythagoras on the left side of the painting with Plato and the IDEALISTS.
Here are three quotations from his works.
Two truths cannot contradict one another.
Knowledge is the conformity of the object and the intellect. (Decisive Treatise and Epistle Dedicatory)
Ignorance leads to fear, fear leads to hatred, and hatred leads to violence. This is the equation.
As a judge he thinks in terms of the IDEALS of JUSTICE, not justice which accommodates itself
to different situations. He also writes a treatise on medical matters unrelated to philosophy. However,
he did not believe in the immortality of the individual soul, so in that tenet he clashes with later
Christian writers. In Venice at the end of the 15th century, his works were newly published and
examined since he was known as the "Commentator," especially on Aristotle, who was just being
translated into Latin and Italian from the Greek. But his ideas about the division between philosophy and religion, though debated by later Christian writers, fit in perfectly with the division that Raphael
and Julius reenacted on the walls of the Stanza della Segnatura. The painting directly across the room from The School of Athens is known as The Disputa (see my blog entry on this painting,)but is set in opposition to Philosophy
and represents religious thinkers in history instead of philosophers. Theology as opposed to Philosophy.
the only turban in the group, he is still included as a great thinker on a wall of eminent thinkers, and he is included in the conversation with philosophers like Parmenides whose ideas coincided with his own. Raphael has given another culture (Spain) and belief (Islam) an affirmation and value unusual in a room painted for the Pope's library and signing place in 1511. A certain vote for multiculturalism five hundred years before the philosophical term was in vogue and a sure indication that the artist believed that learning could take place anywhere, any time, in any religion.
His depiction of Averroes on the wall of the idealistic philosophers just confirms Averroes' own
belief in the immortality of the intellect.