Merrium-webster. com defines ultimate reality as “something that is the supreme, final, and fundamental power in all reality”. Although not mentioned in depth in Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle does believe in an ultimate reality; a god-like ‘prime mover’ that set everything into motion. Surprisingly similar, Plato uses reflection and reason to deductively determine that there is a ‘natural creator’ who “…created…everything…in its essential nature” (Plato 316). While they mostly agree on ultimate reality, each philosopher’s view is different on the Forms.
Although they might have been able to agree on an outside force influencing the universe, Plato and Aristotle’s separate way of thinking triggered Aristotle to reject Plato’s ideas about the Forms. To Aristotle, this outside force, or god, is the essential primary source of movement in the world. His god, who moves without being moved, is a being with eternal existence, who is “entirely blessed” (198), and engaged in continual contemplation. Similarly to Aristotle, Plato believes in a perfect originator.
In The Republic, Plato maintains that although humans have the capabilities to create, there is an ultimate creator. He uses the example of a couch to further his point. Plato explains that while an artist can paint a couch, it is not truly a couch; it is an imitation or a depiction (315). The painter creates what the couch appears to be. On page 316, Plato resolves to justly name this creator the ‘natural creator’ because this ultimate reality is the source from which all things are imitated and, therefore, born.
Furthermore, Plato would argue that everything we see and touch is only partially real; they are replicas of the true actuality. On the other hand, justice, courage, moderation, wisdom, and beauty are true realities for Plato. He calls these the Forms. They are not visible to the senses, but by overcoming bodily desires, the mind can straightforwardly perceive these real truths. Plato nearly teaches these Forms as divine because they are eternal yet he doesn’t elevate them to that high of a level because, while the Forms are perfect, they cannot move and think for themselves; they cannot take the place of god.
However, Plato’s pupil did not agree with everything Plato taught. Aristotle had his own views on the Forms reached by his own inductive reasoning. Aristotle’s true reality was the actual individual thing itself rather than the source from which something had been imitated. While Plato would argue particular instances of justice or wisdom occur only because of their universal Form, Aristotle would disagree. He would elucidate that the concepts of justice and wisdom occur simply because there are observed instances of them in our universe.
Aristotle further explains on page 8, “… there could not be some common Form over and above these goods. ” He believes that a conception of justice or wisdom can only be derived from illustrations and observations of these ‘goods’. Aristotle places an emphasis on observation of the world contrasting Plato who emphasizes an almost faith-like belief in a ‘natural creator’. Both philosophers believe in an outside influence on the world, yet while there are some similarities between Plato and Aristotle’s view on ultimate reality, their views differ significantly when it comes to the Forms.
Plato believes that our current world is a depiction of something else; what he calls a true reality. By putting off bodily desires, a human can see past the imitations in this world by using the Forms. Opposing Plato’s ideas of true reality, Aristotle illustrates that we cannot know anything until we already have knowledge of whatever this substance may be. His idea of the Forms is completely dependent on previous experience.
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