“The School of Athens”: How the humanities can help revive the great conversation

Raffaele Florio, Salve Regina University


This dissertation in the humanities employs historical methodology and explores modern ideas in pedagogy using writings from the milieus of literature, philosophy, religious studies, and art history. The twentieth century is laden with writing that describes a social crisis which is both metaphysical and epistemological in nature. Many portray education as a pivotal factor in the conversation. The project shows the historical roots of the perceived crisis and answers the following questions: Have these discussions taken place in the past? If so, what role have the humanities played in the pedagogies of past societies who have considered themselves to be facing a crisis in worldview? The main focus of this research is on the educational philosophy of Italian Renaissance humanism, and it attempts to trace elements of this philosophy as they appear in modern pedagogical movements. Part one describes the twentieth century dialog. Part two analyzes the crisis of the fourteenth century and outlines the response of the humanists. Part three examines the crisis of the eighteenth century in France and evaluates the response of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Part four looks at the crisis of nineteenth century America and pays particular attention to the Transcendentalists. Part five looks at some twentieth century ideas to use humanism to find balance in the crisis and highlights some programs in higher education that that utilize these. The study concludes that perceived social crises which can be described as metaphysical and epistemological in nature have existed previous to the twentieth century and the humanities have served to bring balance to the discussion. It uses the sixteenth century painting—Raffaele's School of Athens—as a model for the twenty-first century.

Subject Area

European history|Education history|History|Educational theory

Recommended Citation

Florio, Raffaele, "“The School of Athens”: How the humanities can help revive the great conversation" (2006). Doctoral Dissertations. AAI3279850.

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