The School of Athens


Recently, I was asked by a friend why I chose The School of Athens as the image for this blog. Frankly, I could not think of anything that could be more appropriate. Let me explain…

Between 1509 and 1511, Raphael had been given a commission to paint four reception rooms in the public portion of the Vatican palace. One of these rooms, Stanza della Segnatura (Room of the Signatura) contains four frescoes, each of which presents a different theme. They are; Seeks Knowledge of Causes (Philosophy), Divine Inspiration (Poetry, including music), Knowledge of Things Divine (theology), and To Each What is Due (Law). The School of Athens is the representation of the first of these themes, Seeks Knowledge of Causes.

First, the appropriateness of Seeks Knowledge of Causes, I would think is apparent. In terms of business intelligence, do we not drill down into information to find the root cause of various issues? Isn’t the core of data science the search for understanding causes and effect relationships? With this understanding, we can then predict future events, which is predictive analytics, then recommend a course of action through this understanding, which is prescriptive analytics.

There is something, however, which is even more basic. Philosophy is the love of wisdom. Philosophers seek truth. This is the work of Business Intelligence and Data Science. We seek to reveal a truth, developing a deeper understanding of the world around us. While it may sound lofty and idealistic to think that what we do for businesses is the revelation of truth, I believe that when we do our jobs well we are making a substantive difference in the lives of people. What we do is lofty. Also, bear in mind that we do this for all sorts of organizations with a plethora of goals. Think of the difference we make in the world when we address our skills to health services, life sciences, climate science … the list goes on.

I also like the image because the various philosophers are engaged with one another. They are debating truth, collaborating, sharing and challenging ideas. One of the things I love about my work is engaging with really smart people, collaborating with team members. The best part of my work is discussing designs, brain storming, sharing ideas, and having those ideas challenged. Not only does that improve the ultimate work product, but members of the team learn from one another. Ultimately, this is my hope for this blog. I would like for it to be a place to share knowledge and challenge ideas. A platform for us to discuss with one another our thoughts on our profession.

Finally, I just think that it is a really cool fresco. I have been fortunate to see it in Rome several times. It is even more impressive when confronting it in real life. A game I play is to try to name all the philosophers in the painting, I am still working on that one. If you like this image, there is another called Quatro Stato (The Fourth Estate) which is based on this one. Quatro Stato, however, invokes the strength and resilience of the Italian people as they march to a free and independent Italy.

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