Plato and Aristotle: An Analysis
Plato and Aristotle: An Analysis
Determining the best form of political association was important to the ancient Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle, and each of them expressed his opinion in important works such as the Republic and Politics. In explaining, comparing, and contrasting the political philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, it is evident that each of them shared the same goal of identifying and promoting the best form of political government. They also shared in common the same philosophy regarding the origins of a political state. The State arises, Plato says through Socrates in the Republic, “out of the needs of mankind.
” (Plato) Aristotle agrees, and declares that the state is a political partnership that exists for purposes of self-sufficiency as well as for the sake of living well. In other words, the State exists in order to provide for the well-being of its citizens. Aristotle expresses this in Politics when he argues, “the good life is the purpose of the city-state. ” (Aristotle) Furthermore, both Aristotle and Plato agreed that Man is by nature a political animal, because he has the ability to express his thoughts about justice.
Their respective analyses reflected their respect for justice, and their elevation of it to the highest priority. In the Republic, Plato defines just political rule as a system in which each interest is satisfied to the proper extent and everyone has what is theirs. The philosophers have the knowledge they want; the warriors have the honors they want; and the commoners have the goods and pleasures they want, under the enlightened guidance of philosophers and warriors. The methods of Aristotle and Plato were similar in many ways.
They both utilized logic, evaluations of contemporary politics, and lengthy comparisons of various types of political rule to arrive at their conclusions. As citizens of ancient Greece, they both shared much the same outlook on society, religion, morality, and politics. They also shared similar historical perspectives, and their perceptions of contemporary events were formed through the same philosophical context. One of the contrasts between their methods is that Plato used analogies to make his points.
He examined a political state by comparing the state with the human soul. Unlike Aristotle, he also used a style of approach in which he made his points through dialogues involving Socrates. He also designed an ideal state run by people he referred to as “The Guardians” which differed from Aristotle’s approach in Politics, in which style and form more closely resembled an essay or monologue. In Politics, Aristotle emphasized that correct political rule involves pursuing policies which are to the common advantage of the most people.
Aristotle reasoned that rulers who placed their own interests above everyone else’s had no political legitimacy, for their tyranny brought suffering upon their own people. Aristotle described the best forms of political rule as kingship, aristocracy and polity, and described the worst forms as tyranny, oligarchy and democracy. Plato was also harshly critical of tyranny, and described it in the Republic as, “not a matter of minor theft and violence, but of wholesale plunder, sacred and profane, private or public. ” (Plato) Both men’s methods involved a comprehensive analysis of the consequences of each form of rule.
Aristotle criticized Democracy because its consequences were rule by the multitude, which causes injustice. He criticized Oligarchy because its consequences were rule by the wealthy, which also causes injustice; and he criticized Tyranny because its consequences were dictatorship, which again causes injustice. In terms of the merits of the citizenry, Aristotle notes that the people may collectively be the best judges of certain things, so it is justified for them to take part in deliberations. But like Plato, he feels that the common people are not qualified to share in the highest offices.
Both Plato and Aristotle also agree that laws need to be made in accordance with the regime, and agree that the more just a ruler is, the more just the laws will be. Essentially, both Aristotle and Plato asserted that the goal of politics should be justice. One difference between them is that Plato believed that the best claim to rule was education and virtue, although he conceded that there is also a claim to rule based on wealth and on numbers. Another difference is that Aristotle emphasized that the most important task for a leader was to be a lawgiver, and to frame the appropriate constitution for the city-state.
In Aristotle’s system, it was the leader’s duty to provide enduring laws, customs, and institutions for the citizens. According to Aristotle, once the constitution was in place, the ruler needed to take the necessary steps to maintain it, to implement reforms when he considered them necessary, and to guard against any subversion of the political system. Aristotle’s emphasis on a constitution sets him apart from Plato, who considered philosopher kingship the best form of political rule. Aristotle described a constitution as “a certain ordering of the inhabitants of the city-state,” and as “the way of life” of the citizens.
(Aristotle) He also speaks of the constitution of a community as “the form of the compound” and argues that whether the community is the same over time depends on whether it has the same constitution. (Aristotle) It should be noted that despite the fact that Aristotle’s political views were influenced by Plato, he was very critical of the ideal city-state set forth in Plato’s Republic. He based his criticism on the grounds that Plato’s ideal city-state overvalued political unity, embraced a system of communism that was impractical and inimical to human nature, and neglected the happiness of the individual citizens.
In contrast, in Aristotle’s view of the ideal State each and every citizen would possess moral virtue and the equipment to carry it out in practice, and thereby attain a life of excellence and complete happiness. All of the citizens would hold political office and possess private property because “one should call the city-state happy not by looking at a part of it but at all the citizens. ” (Aristotle) In conclusion, the ancient Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle were both concerned with identifying and promoting the best form of political association.
In works such as the Republic and Politics, they used similar methods of analysis to evaluate the best form of political rule. For Aristotle, the best form of political rule corresponded to the best way of life for a human being. Since the best way of life is living nobly and according to virtue, the best political form of rule is the one which promotes this kind of life. For Plato, the best form of political rule was Aristocracy, for it involves rule by the best people in the political community. Bibliography Aristotle. Politics. New York: Dover Publications, 2000. Plato. Republic. New York: Viking Press, 1955.
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 28 November 2016
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