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Plato v Aristotle

Aristotle and Plato are two of the most influential philosophers in Western thought. They lived in ancient Greece, but their ideas continue to shape modern thinking on ethics, politics, and metaphysics. While both philosophers have much in common, there are also key differences between their worldviews. In this blog post, we’ll explore some of those differences.

Metaphysics

One of the main differences between Aristotle and Plato is their view on metaphysics. Plato believed that the world we perceive with our senses is an illusion, and that true reality can only be apprehended through reason. He posited the existence of a realm of abstract ideas or Forms that exist outside of time and space. This realm is perfect, immutable, and eternal. The material world is merely a copy or imitation of the Forms.

Aristotle, on the other hand, believed that the material world is real and that we can understand it through empirical observation and logical analysis. He rejected Plato’s notion of a separate realm of Forms and instead believed that everything that exists has a material cause and a formal cause. The material cause is the physical matter of which something is made, while the formal cause is the principle of organization or design that gives it its shape and structure.

Ethics

Another difference between Aristotle and Plato is their view on ethics. Plato believed that morality is objective and absolute, and that we can discover it through reason. He believed that the highest good is the Form of the Good, which is the ultimate source of all other values. The aim of human life is to achieve harmony with this ideal.

Aristotle, on the other hand, believed that morality is not absolute but rather depends on the context and circumstances. He believed that the highest good is eudaimonia, which can be translated as “happiness” or “flourishing.” Eudaimonia is not a state of mind, but rather a way of living that involves cultivating virtues such as courage, honesty, and generosity. Aristotle believed that these virtues can be acquired through habituation and practice.

Politics

Finally, Aristotle and Plato had different views on politics. Plato believed in the ideal of the philosopher-king, a wise and just ruler who would govern with the aim of promoting the common good. He believed that the best form of government is a meritocracy, in which the most qualified individuals are chosen to rule.

Aristotle, on the other hand, believed that there is no one best form of government. He believed that the form of government that is most appropriate depends on the circumstances of the society. He identified three types of government: monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. Each of these forms of government can degenerate into its corrupt counterpart: tyranny, oligarchy, and mob rule, respectively.

Conclusion

Aristotle and Plato were both influential philosophers who continue to shape our thinking today. While they had much in common, they also had key differences in their metaphysical, ethical, and political views. Plato believed in the existence of a realm of abstract Forms, absolute morality, and the ideal of the philosopher-king. Aristotle rejected the notion of a separate realm of Forms, believed in situational ethics, and identified three types of government rather than a single ideal. By understanding these differences, we can better appreciate the richness and complexity of ancient Greek philosophy.