National Contours for Moral Education: Italy

Moral Contours

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Historical figures

AQUINAS, Thomas
1225-74
Italy
RELIGION, PHILOSOPHY

 

Though initially mocked as a thickie ('Dumb Ox'), he became enormously influential throughout the western church during his lifetime and subsequently a major shaping influence throughout the Catholic tradition. This was because of the sheer persuasive power of how he interprets and explains the Christian faith and moral sense, in a rationally coherent and consistent way. To do this, he draws extensively on the pre-Christian philosophy of Aristotle, Plato and the Stoics, which he combined with earlier theological and Biblical thinking. Aquinas is a major source for RC moral education, most especially in regard to notions of conscience, natural law, and just war.

Life

Text of Summa Theologica

Writings and Philosophy

 

AURELIUS, Marcus
121-180CE
Italy
PHILOSOPHY, POLITICS

 

Stoic philosopher and Roman Emperor 161-80. His reign was informed by a sense of personal duty to serve the needs of the people of his extended empire. Unusually, his reflections setting out a justification for his actions in his writings during a year of military campaigning have survived as his Meditations. They have been widely read since, not least by others political leaders. Persecuting Christians he saw as a necessary part of his preservation of the good natural order of society.

Life

http://www.iep.utm.edu/marcus

Warning against over-rating http://www.iep.utm.edu/marcus

Writings

Meditations http://classics.mit.edu/Antoninus/meditations.html

 

 

BENEDICT of Nursia
480 - 543/547
Italy
RELIGION

 

Widely regarded as the ‘founder of Western monasticism’, Benedict’s known intent was to create a series of celibate communities, focussed on prayer and study, modelled at Monte Cassino. His pattern for daily living – the ‘Rule of Benedict’ - was subsequently adopted widely by others, including the subsequently known ‘Benedictines - wanting to develop a distinctive way of expressing their Christian faith. The monastic order came to represent a version of Christian social ethics which was radically discontinuous from the prevailing orders of family life and established hierarchies of state.

Life

Writings

BOETHIUS, Anicius
480 - 524
Italy
PHILOSOPHY, POLITICS

Roman philosopher and politician whose writings became even more influential during the 1000 years after his death than during his life. This is part because he wrote his best known book On the Consolation of Philosophy during his year’s imprisonment which ended in his execution. He reasons that philosophical reflection brings happiness and leads to God. He was active in the period following the fall of the Roman Empire and during the rule of the Ostrogothic king Theodoric the Great, whom he served as head of government administration. He was responsible for translating many of the works of Plato and Aristotle which have survived

Life

Writings

BORGIA, Lucrezia
1480 - 1519
Italy
RELIGION

 

A central character in the powerful Borgia papal family. Fact and wilful misrepresentation are difficult to distinguish historically. That she was intimately present to the notoriety of the contemporary Borgia scene cannot be disputed. That she had already experienced two broken betrothals by the age of 12 and had the first of her three marriages at 13 years is well documented, as are her physical beauty and her multiple miscarriages. Her implication in the use of poison and much sexual adventuring including incest is more contentious. There is evidence in later life of her effectiveness in estate management, including swamp-draining, her endowment of education and engagement with convent life. In both the real and imaginary versions of her life, questions are raised about the relationship between the respective claims of institutional religion and ethics.

Life

Writings

CICERO
106 - 43 BCE
Italy
LITERATURE, POLITICS

 

Famed for his oratorical and writing skills, Cicero’s works are major sources of previous Greek and Roman philosophy, distilled and clearly articulated. His use of moral argument established his public standing, but in later years he lost the moral highground and becoming open to technical legal challenge was killed by political enemies.

Life

Writings

DANTE, Alighieri
1265-1321
Italy
LITERATURE

 

Poet, ambassador and shaper of Italian language, Dante Alighieri is celebrated for his Divine Comedy, an overview of hellish and heavenly expressions of human behaviour, in which the institutions of religion and politics are found wanting. His journey through historical vistas begins in Hell, moves through Purgatory and leads into Heaven. The poet Virgil steers him through the forest of life in which he has lost his way leads him through the vistas of Hell and Purgatory peopled allegorically through different levels of immorality, including ignorance, lust, false counselling, fraud and hypocrisy. Beatrice the innocent love of his life then takes him through paradisal spheres finally handing him to Bernard of Clairvaux and a glimpse of the Beatific Vision which combines beauty and goodness with complete understanding.

Life

http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/dante-alighieri

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04628a.htm

http://www.worldofdante.org

Writings

The Divine Comedy - the Vision of Paradise, Purgatory, and Hell http://www.gutenberg.org/files/8800/8800-h/8800-h.htm

http://www.sparknotes.com/poetry/inferno

FRANCIS of Assisi
1181 - 1226
Italy
RELIGION

 

Founder of Franciscan Order of men and women committed to a life of poverty, chastity and humility, in service of the poor, the sick, and outsiders in prison or of a different faith, such as Islam. Stories of his affection for animals and his Canticle of the Sun are often cited as examples of Christian friendliness towards the environment. He was designated patron saint of Ecology in 1980.

Life

Work

IGNATIUS LOYOLA
1491 - 1556
Spain Italy
RELIGION

Joint founder of the society of Jesus (the Jesuits), given papal approval in 1540. He had previously been a Spanish soldier and hospital worker. His Spiritual Exercises were written as a basis for training the Jesuit missionaries in preparation for their travels to Brazil, India and Japan. By the time of his death there were almost a thousand members. The exercises rooted religion in the heart and not just the head. Examination of conscience is fundamental to good learning. He also founded the Gregorian University in Rome.

Life  

Writings 

JOHN XXIII
1881 - 1963
Italy
RELIGION

Angelo Guiseppe Roncali, elected Roman Catholic Pope at the age of 76yrs. He presided 1958 – 63 and convened the influential Second Vatican Council which initiated extensive reflection on the interpretation and expression of Christian beliefs. These included close attention to such areas of moral teaching as medical ethics, war and peace, work and wealth and dialogue with different world views.

Life

Writings

Video

Pope John signs the encyclical 'Pacem in Terris' (Italian with English subtitles) (7 mins) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XwFl4l2niWA

LEO XIII
1810 - 1903
Italy
RELIGION

 

Elected by fellow cardinals to become Pope of the Roman Catholic Church in 1878; he served for 25 years. In contrast to the recent history of the papacy he sought to engage more positively with contemporary politicians and scholarship. Drawing on the thinking of Aquinas he affirmed the goodness of rational learning. He re-established positive diplomatic links with Belgium, Germany, the UK and the USA. In his encyclical Rerum Novarum whilst opposing socialism he asserted workers’ rights. Whilst showing ecumenical interests, he declared the ministry of the Church of England to be entirely invalid. Moral education is a special responsibility of parents.

Life

Writings 

LUZZATTO, Moses
1707 - 1747
Italy
RELIGION, LITERATURE

 

Poet, playwright and theologian, also known as Ramhal. A follower of Luria’s Kabbalistic tradition, he attracted an immediate following, subsequently expanded by his influence on thousands of eastern European Jews who were attracted by his description of the moral life as a magnet drawing people to God. Contemporary Jewish critics judged him to be yet another false Messiah of whom over the centuries there had been many

Life

Writings 

MACHIAVELLI, Niccolo
1469 - 1527
Italy
POLITICS, PHILOSOPHY

Politician experienced from diplomatic service and interaction with local and international leaders and their representatives. Drawing on this subsequently in his writings in social and political philosophy, he provides critical advice for those involved in the affairs of state and active warfare. Evil means may well be justified for the achievement of better ends. 'Being Machiavellian' has come to connote (at best) critical realism or (at worst) amoral cynicism.

Life

http://www.pbs.org/empires/medici/renaissance/machiavelli.html

http://www.historyguide.org/intellect/machiavelli.html

http://www.philosophypages.com/hy/3v.htm

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1971/nov/04/a-special-supplement-the-question-of-machiavelli

Writings

The Prince http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1232

Art of War http://digilander.libero.it/il_machiavelli/translate_english/machiavelli_the_art_of_war.html

Historical, Political and Diplomatic Writings (4 vols) http://oll.libertyfund.org/people/niccolo-machiavelli

MARSILIUS
1275 - 1342
Italy
PHILOSOPHY, POLITICS

 

Marsilius of Padua was a philosopher and political theorist whose understanding of the Christian faith challenged the authority of the established Catholic Church. It was the God-given responsibility of the secular state to serve and order the needs of the people. The Church’s role should be focussed instead on teaching and liturgical celebration. He was excommunicated by Pope John XX11 but continued he writings in pursuit of peace.

Life

Writings

MONTESSORI, Maria
1870 - 1952
Italy
CURRICULUM, PHILOSOPHY

 

Maria Montessori studied medicine at university before setting up a hospital for mentally handicapped children and then devising – with influence from Froebel -  a sensory based and individually interactive method of teaching and learning for young children generally. The early development of self-discipline and independence would contribute directly to their moral education.  Schools have subsequently been established in her name committed to the principle of a free curriculum in many different countries.

Life

Writings

PILATE
c 15BCE - c39CE
Italy Judaea
POLITICS

 

Imperial Administrator for Judaea 26- 36CE, known from contemporary inscription and letters, text of Christian gospels and subsequent tradition. His hand washing over responsibility for subsequent execution of Jesus has made him an archetype of indifference to consequences following from bureaucratic actions – collateral damage. This gospel representation of him meant that anticipated dangers of portraying Jesus as an anti-Roman extremist were avoided at the expense of his death being instead blamed on his fellow Jews – with fateful historical consequences.

SAVANAROLA
1452 - 1498
ITALY
POLITICS, RELIGION

Girolamo Savanarola was a Dominican friar whose Christian zeal led him to social and political activity. Such was the extent of prevailing corruption in Florence that he saw the threat of divine judgement to be imminent – only to be avoided by a radical programme of moral re-education. In the absence of imperial and papal support, he was also challenged locally and mob violence brought about his torture and killing.

SENECA, Luceus Annaeus
4BCE -
SPAIN ITALY
PHILOSOPHY, POLITICS

 

Spanish born Roman author who used his writings, as well as his social and political contacts (including including imperial family tutoring role), to convey his Stoic beliefs and values. Thus in letters and lessons he presented what he considered to be significant moral virtues. He also used the power of satire to expose the abuse of political power – as in his Pumpkinification of the Divine Claudius. His apparently protracted death by suicide (in obedience to the Emperor’s order) was carried out with typical equanimity.

VIRGIL (Publius Vergilius Naso)
70 - 19BCE
Italy
LITERATURE

Roman author and poet, much admired throughout the history of western civilisation. In the Aeneid he created a vivid portrait of the origins and development of Rome and its empire by the Trojan hero Aeneas, modelling the moral and spiritual values of the Emperor Augustus. He was revered during his own life, reverenced at his burial place and chosen by Dante to supervise visits to the underworld.

 

Life

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/virgil.shtml

http://www.gradesaver.com/author/virgil

http://virgil.org/vitae

Writings

The Aenied http://classics.mit.edu/Virgil/aeneid.html

 

Current expertise

professore, Italy
Contact Information: email
University of Padova, Italy
Contact Information:
Libera università di Bolzano, Italy
Sapienza University of Rome, Italy
Università di Roma Tor Vergata, Italy
Disciplines:intercultural education, adult, education, teaching: higher education , pedagogy, citizenship/civics/social studies
Contact Information: a2.it
R.E.S.S. (Ricerche educative e studi sociali), Italy

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