Plato and Aristotle Essay
Plato and Aristotle
Plato and Aristotle were two philosophers who made an impact on philosophy as we know it as today. Plato is thought of as the first political philosopher and Aristotle as the first metaphysical philosopher. They were both great intellectuals in regards to being the first of the great western philosophers. Plato and Aristotle each had ideas in how to better life by improving the societies in which they were part of during their lives. The views of Plato and Aristotle look different but they do have some similarities to them.
Plato is mostly known for his Theory of Forms and Aristotle is known for his thoughts in universals. Even though they both thought a bit differently they did agree in a few things. Plato and Aristotle not only had an impact on society in the past but today’s society as well. Plato was a teacher to Aristotle and lived during the Peloponnesian War, which lead to the end of the Athenian democracy. He had eyewitness account of Socrates, his mentor, trial and execution. Unhappy with the political corruption that plagued the Athenian democratic government, he removed himself from politics.
He strongly felt that neither a moral individual nor a state could be established in a democratic environment. Plato felt that the common man was not intelligent enough to deal with concepts that influence the state such as economics, policies and other relative matters. He thought of philosophers as being the most intelligent among men. He viewed political incumbents in the Athens government basically as bought individuals in office for the good of themselves and not society as a whole. Another danger was that extreme liberties given to the people in the democratic society could potentially lead an anarchy.
Aristotle was a student of Plato’s and teacher of Alexander the Great. He created his own school in Athens. He thought of metaphysics to be the first philosophy, which was a large interest to him. Aristotle’s stated that forms were universal. According to Aristotle, notion of Essential properties makes something what it is, and accidental properties are the differences of that item. Aristotle believed the state and the individual are similar and democracy would be the better government. In Book VII of The Republic by Plato, Socrates describes the Allegory of the Cave.
It is a metaphor to illustrate the effects of education on the human soul. It can also be understood as what is real and what is believed to be real in life. Even though Plato had his ideal city, the forms was really what people could connect with. There is so much one can take from his thoughts on the forms that could be applied to society today. Plato starts out comparing people that are uneducated to prisoners chained in a cave, unable to turn their head. All they can see is the wall of the cave in front of them. A fire behind them burns bright.
Between the fire and the prisoners, there is an area for puppeteers to move around and hold up the puppets to cast shadows on the wall that is in front of the prisoners. This is what the prisoners see every single day. This is all they know; shadows, echoes, the smell of the fire, and darkness. They believe that that shadows are reality. One of the prisoners is allowed to go outside of the cave. Once they reach the outside of the cave, they are blinded by the light because they have not seen such. Once their eyes start to adjust, they start seeing shapes and objects around them.
They see that the sun is what creates light and that the tall objects with leaves are trees. They are colorful with moving parts. They go back outside to tell the prisoners, but they are not believed. Those still inside of the cave thinks the person just came in from the outside ill because that is not what they see in the cave, they did not see the outside for themselves, so therefore, it does not exist. So now the person that just came in from the bright sun light cannot see very well in the darkness of the cave, their eyes have not adjusted to the darkness, and people think they are crazy.
This is where this view fails for Aristotle because it is not realistic. Aristotle rejects Plato’s Theory of Forms, and makes the way for his realistic approach, which underlines observation first and abstract reasoning second. Being a student of Plato’s, I believe he was indebted to justify at lengths why he disagrees with doctrines of his teacher. He provided detailed arguments against many of Plato’s doctrines, a lot of his major works, focusing in particular on the Theory of Forms. In Aristotle’s critique he thinks this theory is essentially an assertion of the superiority of universals over particulars.
Plato argues that particular instances of beauty or justice exists only because they participate in the universal Form of Beauty. Say a there are two objects, one is colorless and the other one is red. The colorless one goes where the red on is located. Since the colorless object and the red object are participating, they are both red objects. They have a certain nurture and nature. However, Aristotle argues that universal concepts of beauty and justice derive from the instances of beauty and justice in this world. We only arrive at an idea of beauty by observing particular instances of beauty.
This universal quality of beauty has no existence beyond this idea that we build from particular instances. He is staying that the particulars come first and the universals come after and therefor, Aristotle places emphasis on the importance of observing the details of this world. Which leads me to understand his thoughts on happiness a little more. With putting the weight on observing happiness can measured by a person’s life. Aristotle lays out in Book X in the Nicomachean Ethic’s, the continuation of his thoughts on pleasure, happiness and the end of life, and ethics and politics.
His view on happiness and the end of human life really made me question his way of thinking. Aristotle suggests that happiness is the final end of life because nothing is greater than happiness or the good life and it goes against his universal theory. Aristotle proposes that happiness, or the good life, is taken to be a most final end. “We said, then, that happiness is not a characteristic, for in that case it could be present even to someone asleep thought his life, living the life of plants, and to someone undergoing the greatest misfortunes.
”(Nicomachean Ethics, 1176a-1176b). The good life for humans is the life of choosing to life the life according to the virtues. “For we choose everything, so to speak, for the sake of something else-except happiness, for it is the end. ” (Nicomachean Ethics, 1176b). Also, it seems that only humans can be happy because the happiness is an important nature of every individual human and it is unique to humans in that the function of humans is what distinguishes them from other kinds of things. Happiness is a self-sufficient activity desirable for its own sake.
One seeks nothing from happiness beyond the actual experience or performance of it as an activity. Activities that are desirable in themselves are activities in conformity with virtue and indicates that the greatest happiness must be activity in conformity with the highest virtue. It is wrong to confuse happiness with various kinds of amusements involving bodily pleasures, as many people do. Such amusements are neither virtuous nor ends in themselves, but are merely relaxing diversions in which one occasionally engages for the sake of future activity.
The greatest happiness is activity in conformity with the highest virtue is excellence. Intelligence is man’s highest possession and the objects of intelligence are the highest objects within his grasp. It is clear that the life of contemplation and theoretical wisdom must be the greatest of human virtues and the highest form of happiness. The objects of the contemplative life are the unchangeable and eternal verities that underlie and govern the universe. From contemplation of these truths the soul derives a feeling of purity and stability.
“Further, this active is most continuous, for we are more able to contemplate continuously than we are to do anything else whatever. ” (Nicomachean Ethics, 1177a). Also, the wise person is able to contemplate by himself, the wiser he is the more adept he will be doing so. Contemplative happiness is not dependent on other men. It is the form of life in which human beings come most nearly to being divine, the life that harmonizes with intellect, and that life seems to be the happiest, according to Aristotle.
There is another kind of happiness, based on moral virtue and practical wisdom, which is concerned with feelings that spring from man’s bodily nature. It can be defined as the harmonious coordination of all parts of man’s complete being. This kind of happiness is not as exalted as the contemplative, but it helps prepare us for the higher happiness and, since man is not all mind and reason, gives us something to fall back upon when we are unable to remain continuously at the higher level.
“For if there is a certain care for human things on the part of gods, as in fact there is held to be, it would be also reasonable for gods to delight in what is best and most akin to them – this would be the intellect – and to benefit in return those who cherish this above all and honor it, on the grounds that these latter are caring for what is dear to gods as well as acting correctly and nobly. ” (Nicomachean Ethics, 1179a). This person is the happiest and a wise person would be extremely happy.
I believe this idea has some hints of Plato’s forms. The one person who went outside of the cave and saw it all was brought down by all the people in the cave that didn’t see the outside. Aristotle states that you cannot be happy with a lot of friends because they are not true friends. I believe those excess friendships would be a similar situation in the cave. They would not bring your happiness, only suffering. Aristotle and Plato have similarities
in their city states as well. Plato gives a place to women, but Aristotle does not seem to care for women. When reading Plato, the texts are in Socrates’s voice. It makes it hard to connect what he is saying, especially in the Republic since it is a play. Also, one cannot tell if Socrates, Plato, is being serious or straightforward or if it’s Socrates’s thoughts or Plato’s. In Nicomachean Ethics, the text is Aristotle’s lecture notes and he is the author of them.
While reading, it seems that Plato comes out and gives his opinion on matters, but Aristotle presents them, but does not come out and say what his thoughts are. Plato and Aristotle were two philosophers who made a huge impact on philosophy. They were both great western philosophers. Plato and Aristotle each had ideas in how to better life by improving the societies in which they were part of during their lives. Although they are thought to have completely different views, when laid out, their views have some similarities.
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 26 November 2016
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