Plato and Aristotle: a Comparison

Comparing the political theories of any 2 fantastic theorists is an intricate job. Plato and Aristotle are two such theorists who had concepts of how to improve existing societies throughout their specific lifetimes. While both Plato and Aristotle were fantastic thinkers, maybe it is essential initially to analyze the ideas of each before demonstrating how one has actually laid the groundwork and established certain themes for the other. Plato is regarded by numerous experts as the very first author of political viewpoint.

He fashioned a distinct view of humanity, a view that has had a crucial developmental influence on all subsequent theories of human nature.

Plato explained the distinction between a perfect ideal and its imperfect replicas, and gave the name forms to these particular perfects. Plato’s philosophy was focused on his well-known Theory of Forms, or Theory of Concepts. The theory is based upon the observation that there needs to be some universal quality that all things classified under a single name share in typical.

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For example, a tulip is stunning in a really various method from a human, but both the tulip and the human should share something in common if we are to call them both “stunning”.Before Plato, there were some other philosophers that had made some remarks about the theory of knowledge especially Socrates. However, Plato has been credited with the origin of the theory of knowledge as it was found in his conversations. His theory of knowledge closely intertwined with his theory of forms (ideas), envisaged that there were two essential characteristics of knowledge.

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Plato’s answer is that they share in common the Type of Charm, which is itself unnoticeable, unvarying, and everlasting. Types, Plato argues, transcend the empirical world of sensation, and they include both the physical and ethical dimensions. This implies that everything we see has a corresponding kind, as does every virtue. There is a type of a tree, and of a person, and of a flower, just as there is a form of temperance, nerve, and justice (Nelson, 35). Kinds are perfect, ideal universal concepts, existing as transcendental truths.

In regards to the soul, Plato thought that a soul could exist apart from the body which in an earlier existence, it had actually gotten understanding of these forms, which it remembered in this life (Velasquez, 154). To a big extent, Plato’s Theory of Forms was inspired by the questioning of his teacher, Socrates. Socrates would typically ask his hearers for the characteristic that makes a thing what it is (Velasquez, 147). We can see this in the dialogue Euthyphro, which we studied in class.

In this dialogue, Socrates says: “I’m afraid, Euthyphro, that when you were asked what piety is, you did not wish to make its nature clear to me, but you told me an affect or a quality of it, that the pious has the quality of being loved by all the gods, but you have not yet told me what the pious is? do not hide things from me but tell me again from the beginning what piety is? ” (p. 14, 11a-b).Consequently, he completely rejects imperialism on the account that knowledge does not arise from sensory experience. In his arguably best publication, Thaeatetus, Plato explores the question, what is Knowledge much more ardently than in any of his other works. In this dialogue involving Socrates and the young man named after the text, the dialogue turns aporetic because it ends at an impasse. What the dialogue inferred in the beginning is that knowledge is perception. This is evidently not true because it would be impossible to attribute knowledge to perception without a semantic structure and hence it would be impossible to state it.

Along with the legendary question of is what is pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?, Socrates was also asking Euthyphro to give him examples of holiness, and identify the characteristic that makes all holy things holy.Because this view fails to give an account of how the logical construction takes place in the first place, Socrates objects. In essence, the failure to differentiate between what is knowledge and from true belief about knowledge only adds to identify a diagnostic quality of knowledge. Because there is s problem of how to identify knowledge, then it also follows that there will be a problem in how to identify the diagnostic quality of knowledge. This regression makes Thaeatetus conclude that we cannot define knowledge. A very interesting point emerges in Platos remarks at the end of the dialogue, bringing into focus the concept of understanding and the role of wisdom in enabling us to even start considering that perhaps we only begin having true belief and about what knowledge is when we actually understand anything (Chappell, 2005).

He is claiming that there must be some characteristic that all holy things have in common, as well as one which makes unholy things holy. Plato’s view of human nature is a direct consequence of his Theory of Forms. He held that we can be completely virtuous only if our reason knows the forms, and in particular, our reason must know the form of the good (Velasquez, 151).

The Form of the Good is the ideal or perfect nature of goodness, a principle form that illuminates all the other Forms of Knowledge. Plato compares the Form of the Good to the sun. The Form of the Good is to knowledge what the sun is to sight and the objects that we see. Just as the sun emanates light, the Form of the Good emanates truth. Just as we are able to see the world with our eyes using the light of the sun, we can make sense of the world with our minds with the help of truth, which is derived from the Form of the Good.

In regards to the theme of happiness and virtue, Plato held that we could achieve full happiness and virtue only by coming to know the perfect forms that exist in another world (Velasquez, 155). He claimed that happiness and virtue can be achieved only when the three parts of our soul are in harmony with one another. Happiness is possible only if reason rules the emotions and desires and both the emotions and desires have been trained to be led harmoniously by reason (Velasquez, 150). In addition to this, Plato said that we can be completely virtuous only if our reason knows the forms.

Ultimately, Plato’s emphasis upon the ideal state, his focus on the existence of another world, as well as his theory of forms, was the basis for his influential view of human nature. Plato would be the inspiration for many future philosophers, most notably, his student Aristotle. To this day, Plato’s philosophy remains very much alive. With a vision more practical and worldly than his teacher’s, Aristotle, a student of Plato’s, distinguished himself as Plato’s most brilliant student at his Academy in Athens.

Unlike Plato, who was distinguished as the first writer of political philosophy, Aristotle is recognized as the first political scientist. Although Aristotle was indeed a student of Plato, his approach to human nature is one of the more prevalent themes that was developed, as well as altered, by Aristotle. As he grew older, Aristotle began to have increasing doubts about Plato’s views. While he agreed with Plato that each class of things has certain essential characteristics (a form), he did not believe that they existed in a world that was separate from what we see around us.

In the allegory of the cave, Plato compares people untrained in the Theory of Forms to prisoners in a cave, chained to the wall with no possibility of turning their heads. With fire burning behind them, they can only see the wall of the cave and the shadows of the puppets placed between them and the fire (Platos Cave, n.d). The prisoners are unable to fathom that the shadows they see and the echoes they hear are a reflection of real objects, behind them. The Allegory of the cave summarizes most of Platos views and philosophical thoughts. His central tenet, the belief that the world available to our senses is only a reflection (a poor imitation) of the real world, of which the real one can only be intellectually grasped, is synonymous to his theory of forms, which exalted the world of ideas (form) above the world of senses (matter).

It is therefore easy to mistake appearance for reality, based on what the prisoners in the cave experience they easily refer to the shadows using the names of the real objects that the shadows reflect. In this way, Plato tries to show that our knowledge is only a reflection of the real ideas in our minds. He maintained that what is seen on the earth is an imitation of the real thing. The prisoners, by looking at the shadows may learn what a book is but this does not enable them to claim that it refers to an object, which they have seen. Likewise, we need the physical objects in order to enable us acquire concepts. However, it would be a mistake to imagine the concepts same as the things we see (Platos Cave, n.d).

Plato concludes that men Begin to understand reality by being out in the full glare of the Sun (out of the cave). He gives an illustration of a more true reality of the road and the images of people passing along it. These he explains are perceptions that present the immediately apparent reality of shadows upon the wall and the conceptual recognition that the images being carried are not as real as the variously motivated people carrying them.

According to Aristotle, the characteristics that make a thing what it is and that all things of that kind have in common are the form of the thing. A simple way of looking at it is this: the form of a dog consists of those qualities that all dogs have in common, and that make a certain thing a dog, and not a cat, for example. Dogness exists only in actual dogs. Once Aristotle realized that the world could be explained without a separate world of ideal forms, he began to develop a new reality that was much closer to common sense than Plato’s (Velasquez, 153).

Unlike Plato, who believed that a soul could exist apart from the body, Aristotle claimed the soul is merely the form of a living human, and like other forms, it cannot exist apart from the visible things in this world (Velasquez, 154). Likewise, in regards to happiness, Aristotle yet again refutes Plato’s suggestions to look outside of this world. Aristotle held that happiness and goodness could be found in this world as well, and can be found in the various pursuits and activities that we engage in.

Happiness, which Aristotle believed to be the human purpose, is to be found by doing well what humans are best able to do: live their lives with reason (Velasquez, 156). This also relates to the concept of eudeimonia, or flourishing: “Moreover, we take the human function to be a certain kind of life, and take this life to be activity and actions of the soul that involve reason; hence the function of the excellent man is to do this well and finely. Now each function is completed well by being completed in accord with the virtue proper” (Nicomachean Ethics, Book 1, Ch.7, lines 12-17).

Aristotle claimed that the human essence involves the activity of flourishing ? actions which amount to flourishing. It is something that we labour over and accomplish. Furthermore, Aristotle argued that although we do not have an immortal soul, like Plato claimed, we do have reason and can use our reason to control our feelings and actions. This in turn will produce happiness that we as human beings seek. Both Plato and Aristotle imparted lasting legacies that left quite an impression on the world of Philosophy.

Aristotle theory of knowledge was based on his strong belief in Logic. He developed the principles of reasoning. He argued that the possibility of error forces the mind to determine the truth validity of a given statement. This meant the intellect must have adequate reasons, which can ensure the proposed judgment conforms to reality. He believed that such reasons, were the foundation of perfect knowledge, perfect knowledge being knowledge through causes.

Aristotle devised a method of leading the mind to correct reasoning (syllogism) which is a structure of two statements (premises) which follow from each other and a conclusion necessarily drawn from the two above. He developed the first principle of reasoning which was the principle of no-contradiction where he stated that something could not be and be at the same time in the same manner (Adventures in Philosophy, n.d).

Aristotle differed with Plato in his theory of Knowledge. He believed that experience showed that individual substances exist and a predicated of the substance and that an individual is not produced by some idea or model, as opposed to what Plato thought, but by fellow individuals of the same species.

His theory of knowledge was based on empirical evidence as opposed to Plato who was an idealist. Aristotle believed that first there had to be an individual who through germ or seed was able to reproduce another one hence, the seed in the individual would be in potency form because of its capacity to become an individual in future.

To make this possible matter (substratum) where this seed with potency could develop under the right conditions was needed. It was supposed to remain unchangeable but perform its function. Aristotle believed that only individuals could be referred to as beings in the full sense of the word. Every individual was a compound of matter and form.

Matter was the indeterminate element, which was unchanging, and Form (potency) was the force and power shaping and developing the individual. This he called active potency. Every form, because it possessed some actual determination of matter, was also called act. Therefore the Human being development analysis was designated as comprising matter (substratum), form (determining element), potency (both active and passive), and act.

By giving an example of an artist, Aristotle explains how ideas in the mind of an artist become a work of art in the physical world- his classical example, the piece of marble, which becomes a

While Plato did indeed influence Aristotle a great deal, there are many fundamental differences in the two philosophers’ theories. Firstly, Plato claimed that the progression of human development had to come from outside of this world, or from another world altogether. Aristotle disagreed. He argued that we achieve things in this life, for example, happiness and virtue, and we need to look “down”, or inward, and not “up” towards what exists outside of oneself, and this world. Although Aristotle’s views of human nature grew from the views of his teacher Plato, Aristotle’s final theories were quite different from Plato’s.

Not only did Plato look to another world of unchanging forms to explain human nature, but his theories of the form differ greatly from Aristotle’s. Where Plato said that we as human beings acquired human knowledge in another life through the soul existing outside of our bodies, Aristotle held that we acquire all our knowledge in this life, and that the soul cannot exist apart from the body. Finally, where Plato believed that happiness is acquired by coming to know the forms that exist in another world, Aristotle held that happiness is acquired by being moderate in our feelings and actions in this world (Velasquez, 158).


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Plato and Aristotle: a Comparison. (2016, Oct 30). Retrieved from

Plato and Aristotle: a Comparison

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