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Plato vs Aristotle

Numerous experts in modern time regard Plato as the first genuine political philosopher and Aristotle as the first political scientist. They were both great thinkers in regards to, in part with Socrates, being the foundation of the great western philosophers. Plato and Aristotle each had ideas in how to proceed with improving the society in which they were part of during their existence. It is necessary therefore to analyze their different theoretical approaches regarding their philosophical perspectives, such as ethics and psychology.

This paper however will mainly concentrate on Aristotles views on friendship and how it impacts todays society. The main objective in Platos philosophy is a creation of a perfect society. He constructs a foundation for a utopian society in his book The Republic. The purpose of his thought process was to cleanse his society of the woes he felt plagued it and construct a new one. Plato lived during the Peloponnesian War, which consequently lead to the end of the Athenian democracy. He had eyewitness account of his mentors (Socrates) trial and execution.

Bitter and angered by the political corruption that gripped the Athenian democratic government, he disengaged from participating in politics. He strongly felt that neither a moral individual nor a state that is rational could be established in a democratic environment. Plato felt that the common man wasnt intelligent or capable of dealing with concepts that influence the state such as economics, policy of foreign affairs and other relative matters. He viewed political incumbents in Athens government as being elected for matters that were irrelevant to main factors that affected the state.

Another danger was that excessive liberty for the people of the democratic society could potentially lead to anarchy. In Platos perfect society, he forged ahead to eliminate the disease (pluralism of friendship) that plagued the human character and society (Class Notes). Essentially, Plato wanted to establish the perfect form of society, linked by one single entity. Aristotle, unlike Plato, was not focused or concerned about the idea of a perfect society, instead he wanted to improve upon the one that he was part of during his existence.

Rather than develop a framework for a society that is perfect, he suggested that society should, in it self, strive to utilize the best system it can attain. He felt that utopia was abstract and superficial. It wouldnt allow for realistic problem solving solutions. He felt that Platos view of a strict overhaul of society in general wasnt necessary. He believed that society was at its optimum and you can only improve upon the existing one. Platos perfect society would consist of three basic groups, which are Guardians (Gold), Auxiliaries (Silver), and the Artisan (Bronze).

The highest of these classes are the gold people, which consist of rulers and non-rulers. Those that are rulers are societys decision & policy makers and non-rulers occupy levels of civil servants. The fundamental prerequisite to becoming a genuine philosopher is to have knowledge of forms, thus enabling you to know the truth. Platos theory of the forms is partly logical and part metaphysical. Armed with the truth, he believed that philosophical ruler will always make the right decision, and rule with total wisdom, justice and virtue.

The rulers, he felt, wouldnt posses any money or property, they would be free of desires, excesses, and vices. The Auxiliaries (Silver) are people of strength, courage, and military capacity; they occupy a small sector of society. All auxiliaries would be subjected to a series of tests, which will check their powers of resistance to self-interest, pleasure and other temptations. The last level, Artisan (Bronze), are the workers which might be composed of farmers and artist, essentially non-skilled workers.

They would produce all the consumable and non-consumable goods deemed necessary for consumption and the continued economic viability of the society. Plato whole-heartedly felt that if ever the bronze or iron people rule the state would collapse (Class Notes). He sought to establish the concept of the gold class having wisdom, thus they should be wise and good rulers. It was imperative that those who rule be philosophers and skilled in areas that pertained to the interest of the state. Aristotles disagreed with Plato in regards to allowing one particular class to govern the state politically for indefinite period of time.

He felt that to not allow interaction among the various classes would inhibit those who posses the ability to engage in political life, an injustice. He feels Platos structure of classes is politically incorrect for the state. He quotes It is a further objection that he deprives his Guardians even of happiness, maintaining that happiness of the whole state which should be the object of legislation, ultimately he is stating that those who rule (Guardians), sacrifice their happiness for control and absolute power.

Those who are of the gold class, lead such a rigid life, that it will become necessary to impose the same strict way of life on those being governed. He places the idea of moderation on a high pedestal. Many individuals come to favor the concept of moderation because it is flexible, part liberal and part conservative. Platos ideal society is so difficult to conceive that Aristotle believes that no human being can achieve its rudimentary requirements. He decided to express in the Republic how men should conduct it self in a perfect society and what attitude they should posses.

In retrospect, Aristotle felt by using real world experience along with real people, he can see first hand how and what way can he improve society. Plato and Aristotle both agreed on justice and viewed it objectively; that is it controls the belief a life of good nature would be provided for all people no matter their ranking in society. Aristotles states In democracies, for example, justice is considered to mean equality, no oligarchies, again inequality in the distribution of office to considered just. Plato views the idea of law and justice as what sets the standard for societys behavior in a state.

Aristotle puts emphasis on the institution of the polis or civilized community. The polis was structured to allow the average individual in society to participate in political matters. This institutional forum is not the city-state or the community, but merely the larger of the two entities. It is rather a partnership between households, clans, and villages for the sake of a fully developed and self-sufficient life. The polis enables those individuals who naturally posses moral intellect and wisdom an opportunity to rise to higher positions (Class Notes).

Justice is the political good within the polis, and it must promote the common interest of the people of the state. What is seen as good must be distributed and regulated through out the state. The law is also the regulating factor that arises from equal and free people in civil institution. The well being of a society is solely based upon the connection between the effort in which the citizens of the state adhere to the law of the land. A good citizen of the state will posses prudence, moderation, and justice, and above all to rule and be ruled.

His belief contradicts Plato theory of one controlling class, governing the political matters and decisions that effect the state. The Theory of Democracy that Aristotle states is that democracy is a perversion form of government of polity (Class Notes). He clearly states The people at large should be sovereign rather than the few best. Plato on the other hand, wouldnt permit citizens to engage in public participation concerning governmental issues, as Aristotle would have enjoyed. Plato also felt that public judgments of disapproval and approval were based on emotional belief, instead of factual knowledge.

He believes that if a revolution occurred it would happened within the corridors of the palace, hence palace revolution. This type of revolution happens when there is a transmission of power from one holder of power to another. Aristotle perceives such an event occurring between the wealthy and less fortunate in society. He feels to prevent such actions, one must participate in them. Plato thinks that in a utopia a disgruntled group of Guardians will emerge and disengage themselves from the ruling law of the state.

He feels that an oligarchy two things may initiate a possible revolution: the first one is the ruler and their offspring would grow to be weak, sympathetic, and second is that the number of poor individuals will grow larger and there for be taken advantage of by the ruling class. Aristotle states that to know the factors that caused the revolution, which destroys the constitution, is to also know the principal of effect, which in turn ensure its preservation. Aristotle and Plato also have contrasting views on ethics, psychology and metaphysics.

In regards to ethics, Aristotle believes that virtue is necessary for happiness, while Plato says virtue is enough for happiness. The psychological difference between the two is that Plato feels the body is a prison for the soul; body and soul are two different entities, capable of maintaining independence from one another. As for Aristotle, he claims that the body and soul are two different things, one consisting of matter the other form. He sees everything in the universe being composed of matter and form, so its not surprising that he perceives human being are too. To him form is simply the way matter is arranged.

For example, a cat is composed in a feline way; thats what makes a cat. Human being for that matter, have a unique method of structure, too; thats their form. In fact, Aristotle strongly feels that nothing in existence can be without form and matter. If you eliminate its structure and form you have nothing left. So for Aristotle, the concept of soul without body or body without soul is incoherent. In regards to form, Plato expressed how things should be through utilizing vague language and poetry. In respect to friendship, I firmly believe that Aristotles views on friendship holds value in todays society.

First we will touch on the various points that Aristotle makes regarding friendship, then expand on his main principle in connection to modern time, if possible. Aristotle distinguishes between three types of friendship: friendships of utility, friendships of pleasure and friendships of virtue. The idea behind friendship of utility is that it is founded on the idea of usefulness. The interaction among friends is only valued if there is usefulness between the two individuals. An example of this would be any automobile dealer and car buyer. Factoring in that they know each other, both need what the other can provide.

The bond that unites the two people is based on usefulness. As long as they each can provide what the other needs, it satisfies the friendship. The second concept would be friendship of pleasure, which is basically the amount of pleasure generated between the participants. An example of this would be two people engaging in a social event, such as an outdoor festival. Each of the participants enjoys the others company. They are friends because of the pleasure they bring to themselves. The last kind of friendship is the friendship of virtue. This friendship is special and unique, such that it can only be between two people.

Rather than utility and pleasure, where it can establish a group of people, this type of friendship is connected solely between two people. This type of friendship is also unique based on the fact that it can only hold any true value if both individuals are of the same virtue. People in general might regard these definitions of friend objective. Some believe that doing something for someone is solely based on the act of self fulfillment. Aristotle, I believe is not incorrect in stating that the idea in friendship in utility and pleasure is for our own sake, and the concept behind friendship of virtue is for the sake of the friend.

These three categories are arranged in a certain format that there are influenced by the next level. These bonds of friendship can arise from various forms of potential fraternal groupings. Present day possibilities can include: various college organizations, union members, national communities and any other form of groups that people find a common denominator. For Aristotle Aristotle is more philosophically inclined than Plato; he tends to get rid of ideas that are irrelevant, and he believes that the concept of forms existing separate from matter is somewhat superfluous.

He dives right into the heart of the matter. You can see Aristotle as someone who believes the world in which he occupies very satisfying just the way it is. His main focus is always connected with things that are consistent with ideal experience, without introducing unnecessary notions of concepts that cant be proven. Platos vague, poetic language in metaphysics and physics didnt stimulate inspiration; it made him uncomfortable. Both Plato and Aristotle were two men who envisioned methods on ways to improve their existing society. Plato, the political philosopher, was basically in pursuit of philosophical truth.

Aristotle was more concerned with citizenship and institutional politics. They both had developed ideas and concepts to improve society as a whole. Aristotle and Plato have had a tremendous impact on political scientists of today. In Aristotle case, he was responsible for developing various democratic ideas. Even in modern democracies like our own Aristotles ideas hold true. When we vote in the election of the ruler of our country we, theoretically, are voting for the single most excellent citizen of our nation. That is we are voting for that citizen who can do the best job of working toward our common interest.

The citizen of a state who has the greatest ability to work towards the salvation of the constitution has a great gift that can benefit all citizens. It only makes sense to allow that particular individual to lead the rest of the citizens in working towards the common interests of the state. In conclusion, these men were great thinkers. Their opinions on society and its function were quite different, but they both had the same concern, to build a better way of life for their societies they in lived in and for the societies that would come to be in the future.

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Home » Plato vs Aristotle

Plato VS Aristotle

In ancient Greece two great written philosophers lived. First there was Plato and then Aristotle. Aristotle was a pupil of Plato. Despite being taught by Plato they had different theories and views. Their ethics were very typical and traditional of ancient Greece but Aristotle detailed virtue ethics and the path to happiness. Plato’s political theories for a utopian society varied from Aristotle’s view of best state for each society’. Their metaphysical theories are complete opposites and very contradicting. Even though Plato and Aristotle came from the same era and were closely linked they had very different philosophies.

Plato had typical views of ethics for an ancient Greek. Aristotle shared these views he was more specific about ethics and the path to happiness. Plato and Aristotle both believed that a good person choose morally sound choices because of their reason and good character. A person who follows their good character and reason instead of trying to avoid consequences is a virtuous person. Aristotle believed “virtue is a matter of developing the unique ability to reason.”(Pacquette 268) Being virtuous to Plato and Aristotle also meant, “doing things- no matter what these things were- in a way that reflected rational thought and involved making the best of one’s skills, talents and opportunities.” (Pacquette 268) Aristotle and Plato both agreed that a person’s good moral character and reason guided their ethical choices. A good moral life to them would lead to “eudaimonia, an ancient Greek word that translates into English as happiness.” (Pacquette 268) Though Plato talked and wrote about virtue and happiness, Aristotle went into great detail about his ideas. Aristotle is known as the creator of the theory of virtue ethics. “Aristotle held that there are three forms of happiness. The first form of happiness is a life of pleasure and enjoyment. The second form of happiness is a life as a free and responsible citizen. The third form of happiness is a life as a thinker and philosopher.”(Gaarder 115) Aristotle felt that for a person to achieve eudaimonia, they must achieve all three forms of happiness otherwise they will not be truly happy and satisfied because their life would be unbalanced. Aristotle believed balance is key to happiness. “To be a good person, according to Aristotle, is to act in accordance with right reason, in other words, the rational part of the soul must control the irrational parts by choosing to follow a middle path or mean between the extremes of excess and deficiency. This was Aristotle’s theory of the Golden Mean.”(Pacquette 268) Aristotle thought that true happiness could only happen when people live a balanced life, Plato also agreed. “The ethics of both Plato and Aristotle contain echoes of Greek medicine: only by exercising balance and temperance will achieve a happy or harmonious’ life.” (Gaarder 115) Both Plato and Aristotle agreed that a balanced life is a good life, and that with reason people will make morally good choices but Aristotle believed that this did not come naturally. He felt that “moral virtue is the result of habit and training. Because if this, he believed that people can be taught to be virtuous. He said that people must know- the deliberately choose to do- what is good.”(Pacquette 269) Aristotle and Plato had very similar views on ethics due to both living in the same era in ancient Greece.

Political and social theories between the two philosophers were very different. Plato had very Totalitarian or even communist views for state government. He in his novel The Republic, he describes in much detail his utopian society. He felt society should be organized into three groups: “rulers, auxiliaries and labourers.”(Gaarder 91) The rulers or guardian class would have reason; education and intelligence this would make them well suited for leadership. Plato called these rulers Philosopher Kings’, they would rule for the good of all in the society. Philosopher Kings would not be allowed to possess material objects as to avoid corruption. Private ownership and wealth would not be allowed in Plato’s state. “Everyone would own property in common, and money wouldn’t exist.”(Pacquette 389) In this way Plato’s utopian society resembled a communist state but he did this because he “strongly believed that abolishing wealth and private ownership of property would eliminate the difference between rich and poor. This would mean that people would be distinguished only by their intelligence and character, not by family background or personal wealth.”(Pacquette 389) He not only wanted private ownership banned but also family as an institution because he felt the “rearing of children is considered too important to be left to the individual and should be the responsibility of the state.” (Gaarder 92) Plato’s hierarchical state did though allow social mobility. “People could move up to the next level if they demonstrated certain abilities.”(Pacquette 389) Plato felt his anti-democratic state would work very well because “everyone would know and accept his or her position in society, and everyone would have enough material comforts and education to function in his or her designated role.

Because people’s social class would correspond to their innate characteristics, Plato believed that the citizens of his imaginary city state would know true happiness.”(Pacquette 390) Plato believed that his Republic would be the ideal state and would work for everybody, Aristotle disagreed. He did not believe that one kind of government would suit every society. He “acknowledged that no one system of government suited every society. Much depended on the aims of the state and whether the rulers could be trusted to act for the benefit of all citizens.”(Pacquette 391) Aristotle believed that there were three forms of good constitution. “Monarchies can succeed if the rulers are as wise as Plato’s philosopher kings, but fail if the rulers are tyrants who oppress people. Aristocracies can also succeed provided the small group of people who hold power do not enslave the people they rule.”(Pacquette 391) “The third good constitutional form is what Aristotle called polity, which means democracy. But this form also has its negative aspect. A democracy can quickly develop into mob rule.”(Gaarder 116) Aristotle and Plato both “feared democracy might lead to the rule of the ignorant many over the educated few.”(Pacquette 392) He felt that it might be possible to combine the best aspects of each constitution while avoiding their downfalls but the best aspects and the downfalls depend on the state. “Unlike Plato, Aristotle believed firmly that the rule of law is the foundation of political order.”(Pacquette 392) Aristotle felt this because he thought that law can guarantee that reason prevails, and it can balance the forces that contend for power in society.”(Pacquette 392) Aristotle valued the rights if the individual citizen over the power of an absolute ruler. This is in contrast to Plato because Plato puts the greater good of society over the individual citizen. Plato and Aristotle also disagreed about the role of women in the state and in society. Aristotle viewed women very negatively. He felt women were the incomplete or an “unfinished man”(Gaarder 116) Aristotle thought that women should not participate in the government and “should be excluded from political life.” (Pacquette 392) He based this on the fact that he felt women “do not have the capacity to reason.”(Pacquette 268) Plato thought the opposite. “Women could govern just as effectively as men could for the simple reason that the rulers govern by virtue of their reason. Women [] have exactly the same powers of reasoning as men, provided they get the same training and are exempted from child rearing and housekeeping.”(Gaarder 92) Plato took his argument a step farther by saying “that a state that does not educate and train women is like a man who only trains his right arm.”(Gaarder 92) Plato’s totalitarian utopia with sexual equality is opposite and contradicting to Aristotle’s good forms of constitution and sexual discrimination.

Plato and Aristotle have adverse metaphysical philosophies and theories. Plato believed that everything has a “timeless mold’ or form’ that is eternal and immutable.”(Gaarder 83) and they exist in a “reality behind the material world’ called the reality of ideas'”(Gaarder 83) Plato called these forms “ideas”(Gaarder 85) Aristotle disagreed, he stated, “the idea’ horse was simply a concept that we humans had formed after seeing a certain number of horses. The idea horse or form’ thus had no existence of its own.”(Gaarder 107) He did not agree with Plato’s theory of ideas of the forms’ existing in a world beyond our own. He felt “the idea’ or form’ horse was made up of the horse’s characteristics”(Gaarder 107) and that “the forms were in the things, because they were the particular characteristics of these things”(Gaarder 107) Plato and Aristotle have opposing theories of forms. Plato believed the forms exist first in the world of ideas’ while Aristotle believes forms come after we see objects numerous times. Plato believed that all natural phenomena are merely shadows of the eternal forms’, but most people give no thought to the shadows, never realizing even that they are shadows and pay no heed tot he immortality of their soul. (Gaarder 89)

This is explained in Plato’s famous “allegory of the Cave.” Aristotle disagreed with Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”, he did not think all natural phenomena including humans are just shadows or reflections of another world. He felt these shadows or reflections were in our soul and are “reflections of natural objects”(Gaarder 107) Aristotle thought these shadows are in our souls because we experienced them first in nature. He thought, “nothing exists in our consciousness that not has first been experienced by our senses.”(Gaarder 107) He did not believe in innate ideas and he felt the “highest degree of reality is that we perceive tings with our senses.”(Gaarder 107) Aristotle trusted and believed what he experienced with his senses while Plato only trusted his reason. Plato felt that only with our reason could we understand and obtain true knowledge. We can only have opinions’ about what we experience with our senses. He only trusted his reason because “we cannot always trust the evidence of our senses. The faculty of vision can vary from person to person.”(Gaarder 86) He also did not trust the sense because he felt we couldn’t have “true knowledge of something that is in constant state of change.”(Gaarder 85) He trusted reason because he felt reason was the same for every person. Plato only trusts his reason and does not believe what he experiences with his senses while Aristotle felt that experiencing things with our sense is the highest degree of reality and believed all our knowledge comes from what we experienced with our senses. Plato and Aristotle’s theories on metaphysical topics, of forms’ and what is reality are very different and completely opposite.

Even though Plato and Aristotle lived in the same country during the same time period and Plato was Aristotle’s teacher, they had very different ideas about politics and metaphysics while both maintaining traditional ancient Greek ethics.

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