Aristotle Vs. Plato Learning Is Recollection
What alternative does Aristotle offer to Platos claim that learning is recollection? Where would Aristotle locate the mistake in Platos argument in The Phaedo?
In his dialogues The Phaedo and Meno, Plato, through the form of Socrates, puts forth the idea that all learning is recollection. In The Phaedo, to prove that the soul is immortal, Socrates asserts the view that all learning is recollection and we simply need to be reminded of facts that our immortal souls are aware of. In Meno, Socrates attempts to show the truth of this belief by doing complex geometry with a nearby slave boy. Socrates leads the boy through a series of questions, and he answers correctly lending to Socrates idea about learning. His brightest pupil, Aristotle, disagreed with this view and put forth a differing view in his work The Metaphysics.
In The Metaphysics, Aristotle puts forth the view that universal information is gained through experience and not recollection as Plato had said. Man connects a series of events into a causal chain through experience. For instance, gathering the fact that a certain remedy has helped two different sick people get better is simply a matter of experience. In his view, art is even greater and closer to wisdom than experience. Experience belies art, in that art is created by the formulation of universals from many individual experiences.
Extracting the universal idea that the remedy given to those two people will help all people afflicted with the same sickness is a matter of art. The main difference comes in that men of art know the causes of things, while men of experience simply know how to deal with them. For instance, a carpenter may know that when wood gets wet it becomes warped, but a man of art knows the chemistry behind such a change. Therefore, a man of art is to be seen as wiser, because not only do they know what happens, they know why things happen. Also, the man of art can teach, which men regard as the highest form of wisdom, while men of experience cannot. In short, he sees wisdom as the highest form of knowledge, and its only attainable by experience. A man of experience is wiser than the common man, and a man of art is wiser than men of experience.
Aristotle goes on to talk about how at first all the arts were directed at the necessities of life, but as time passed some arts became aimed at higher goals. The people who aimed for these higher goals looked to the first causes and principles of things. Because they were looking to the highest causes they are regarded as the most-wise. Aristotle says, All men what is called wisdom to deal with the first causes and principles of things. This is why we see men of art as the wisest, because they know about the causes of things as well as the things themselves. They combine both theoretical knowledge and experience.
I believe that Aristotle would place the problem in Platos recollection theory in the immortality of the soul. Plato argued that souls come into this world aware of the forms, and therefore they know everything before hand, and just have to be reminded of what they already know. Aristotle felt that the soul was more of a life force than an immaterial and immortal object hovering around our physical bodies. In this was indeed the case, then we would lose all the possibility of recollection in order to learn, and would have to rely on something else. In Aristotles case he felt that it was experience that led us to knowledge.
As Platos most talented pupil, one would expect Aristotles theories to be in line with the teachings of Plato. This is clearly not the case in many instances, and the two become somewhat rivals and took opposing stances on many thoughts.