Plato V/S Aristotle Philosophies
The questions that were posed: Plato or Aristotle, What are the differences in the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle? Which philosophy might have been the better one to live by in the era? Give examples and details to support your argument. Plato, who was the most famous student of Socrates, thought like Socrates and was not happy with the Athenian society as it was. Plato was even more upset with the Athenian society because they had his teacher put to death; even though it was reported that many of the Athenians were sorry for having done this. Hunt et al, 88) Both Socrates and Plato were republicans. He called democracy “a charming form of government”. In his dialogue “The Republic”, Plato is said to be a blue print for a perfect society. In it he talks about justice, statesmanship, ethics and politics.
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He did not believe that justice could be achieved through democracy. It is democracy that he blamed for the death of his teacher. (90) He wanted the “Republic” to warn the people of Athens that they needed a good education, respect for the law and leaders of their society.
He felt there should be a stronger community base; like it was before the wars and the arrival of this democracy. The way people were able to understand what he called “the truth of the Forms” was how he would rank people in his perfect society. Plato felt that women could rank as high as men since they had the same virtues. He felt that these people could live together in the same barracks area and could have sex to make more enlightened children. Plato felt that society should be run by someone from this communal area.
The ones who were the highest in enlightenment would be the ones to govern over the people. They would be called philosopher-kings. In his school that he named the Academy, after Academus or Hecademus, a mythical hero who had a cult following, Plato taught that people are born with knowledge. He said it was not learned after birth. It was only recalled. He said that knowledge is only in the mind. There is supposed to be a higher level that people are supposed to experience over and above that of the senses. This is needed because the senses have a tendency to deceive.
There is a need for a higher plane of existence called Forms. These Forms allow the person to better understand the ultimate truth. Aristotle, even though he was taught by Plato had different ideas about how things should go. Aristotle was said to have been the tutor for Alexander the Great. He was also a biologist that was called a polymath, which means he knew much about everything. He too started his own school. It was called Lyceum. He did not believe that there was an Essence or Form. He believed in nothing but the facts.
Where Plato said that knowledge was born inside everyone, Aristotle said that knowledge comes from experience. The thought is that Rationalism knowledge comes from experience and Empiricism knowledge (posterior) comes after experience. Aristotle also had a great confidence in sense perception. He felt that there are principles that come from experience. His beliefs would not allow him to believe that there is a world of Forms that transcends time and space. He said that if there were Forms and absolutes they would have to be found in the thing itself.
He is best known for his ideas that logic is the way to win an argument rather than being persuasive. To him, looking at things in their natural settings would allow one to find out more about it. Aristotle did not think that women could be equal to men because of his false idea about biology. And he felt that slavery was not a bad thing. Aristotle did not believe that all people had the “rational part that should rule in a human”. (91) He like Plato did not think it was a good idea for regular people to run the government.
He also felt that “better” people were needed to handle this. (91) According to Aristotle people should be able to train their minds to overcome the impulses that people have. He was not telling people to not do what they felt good doing. He just wanted them to think things through before they did them. The intellect of the human mind should be able to outshine the human will. The mind to Aristotle was the “god-like” part of the human and it was the part that should and could find the balance needed to keep what you want from ruling your common sense.
Plato put the person’s will and self-control in the hands of someone else. Aristotle on the other hand felt that man is in charge of his own destiny and makes the ultimate decision to do something or not. In our society today there is a basis for what Aristotle thought in the way of philosophy. Many in the West value the concept that self-control overrules wantonness. Since the basis for society prewar was in the form of deities and Plato’s school of thought is still seemingly based on a type of deity, maybe the best way for the people of that era to be was more along the lines of Aristotle.
His was would cause the people to think more about what they were doing. This may have been the best way for the culture to retain its once prosperous status. This would afford the Athenians the opportunity to rule rather than be ruled. When one accepts the consequences for their own actions and think about what could happen if they do things a certain way, it is less likely that the situation will turn out badly. The parts, of his philosophy, that were not good for that time is the thoughts on slavery and women. This would not promote unity which is what was needed.
Hunt, Lynn, Thomas R. Martin, Barbara H. Rosenwein, Bonnie G. Smith. The Making of the West, Peoples and Culture, A Concise History. 3rd ed. Boston / New York. Bedford / Martin. 2013. Print