Almost everyone has heard of the two great philosophers, Plato and Aristotle.Few people though, know much about their life long achievements. Their ownpersonal beliefs and philosophies. In order to understand them, we must fistexamine the background of the two philosophers.Plato was born to an aristocratic family in Athens.
When Plato was a child,his father died, and his mother married Pyrilampes, who was an associate of thestatesman Pericles. As a young individual Plato had political ambitions, but hebecame disillusioned by the political leadership in Athens. He eventually becamea disciple of Socrates.
Socrates spent his time talking to people about ethicaltopics. He hoped by this means to discover definitions of the virtues, thinkingthat in learning what virtue is he would become virtuous and that this wouldmake his life a happy one. He also hoped to expose other people’s false conceitof knowledge about ethical matters, thinking that such conceit prevented themfrom becoming virtuous and happy. Socrates appealed to some people, but herepelled many others; he also came to be associated in the public mind withanti-democratic factions in Athens. In 399 BC, Socrates was tried on a charge ofimpiety, convicted, and put to death. Plato witnessed the death of Socrates atthe hands of the Athenian democracy in 399 BC.
By accepting Socrates basic philosophy and dialectical style of debate: thepursuit of truth through questions, answers, and additional questions. In 387Plato founded the Academy in Athens, the institution often described as thefirst European university. It provided a comprehensive curriculum, includingsuch subjects as astronomy, biology, mathematics, political theory, andphilosophy. Aristotle was the Academy’s most prominent student. During his lifetime, he had wrote many books towards philosophy, however The Republic is theone of more important work in the history of European thought.
In essence, itdeals with the central problem of how to live a good life; what is justice inthe State, or what would an ideal State be like, and what is a just individual?These questions also encompass of arts should be encouraged, what form itsgovernment should take, who should do the government and for what rewards, whatis the nature of the soul, and finally what godly sanctions and afterlife shouldbe though to exist.However, we must not forget the other great philosopher, Aristotle. He wasbornin 384 BC. at Stagirus, a Greek colony and seaport on the coast of Thrace.
His fatherNichomachus was court physician to King Amyntas of Macedonian, and from thisbeganAristotle’s long association with the Macedonian Court, which considerablyinfluencedhis life. While he was still a boy his father died. At age 17 his guardian,Proxenus, senthim to Athens, to complete his education. He joined the Academy and studiedunderPlato, attending his lectures for a period of twenty years.
In the lateryears of hisassociation with Plato and the Academy he began to lecture on his ownaccount,especially on the subject of rhetoric. Although he studied under Plato.Aristotlefundamentally disagreed with his teacher on just about everything. He couldnot bringhimself to think of the world in abstract terms the way Plato did; above allelse, Aristotlebelieved that the world could be understood at a fundamental level throughthe detailedobservation and cataloging of phenomenon. That is, knowledge. At the death ofPlato in347 BC, he had wrote many different book. Among them all, one of whichconsidered tohave greater inference over other is The Politics.
In the contest of The Republic, Plato’s major political work, is concernedwith the question of justice and therefore with the questions “what is ajust state” and “who is a just individual?” The ideal state,according to Plato, is composed of three classes. The economic structure of thestate is maintained by the merchant class. Security needs are met by themilitary class, and political leadership is provided by the philosopher-kings. Aparticular person’s class is determined by an educational process that begins atbirth and proceeds until that person has reached the maximum level of educationcompatible with interest and ability. Those who complete the entire educationalprocess become philosopher-kings.
They are the ones whose minds have been sodeveloped that they are able to grasp the Forms and, therefore, to make thewisest decisions.Furthermore, Plato associates the traditional Greek virtues with the classstructure of the ideal state. Temperance is the unique virtue of the artisanclass; courage is the virtue peculiar to the military class; and wisdomcharacterizes the rulers. Justice, the fourth virtue, characterizes society as awhole. The just state is one in which each class performs its own function wellwithout infringing on the activities of the other classes. Plato divides thehuman soul into three parts: the rational part, the will, and the appetites.
Thejust person is the one in whom the rational element, supported by the will,controls the appetites. An obvious analogy exists here with the threefold classstructure of the state, in which the enlightened philosopher-kings, supported bythe soldiers, govern the rest of society.However, in Aristotle’s The Politics, Aristotle ideal of a best state is alot more complex that just the three classes. Aristotle believes that differentraces are suited for different forms of government, and the question which meetsthe politician is not so much what is abstractly the best state, but what is thebest state under existing circumstances. Generally, however, the best state willenable anyone to act in the best and live in the happiest manner. To serve thisend the ideal state should be neither too great nor too small, but simplyself-sufficient. It should occupy a favorable position towards land and sea andconsist of citizens gifted with the spirit of the northern nations, and theintelligence of the Asiatic nations. It should further take particular care toexclude from government all those engaged in trade and commerce; the best statewill not make the working man a citizen; it should provide support religiousworship; it should secure morality through the educational influences of law andearly training.
Law, for Aristotle, is the outward expression of the moral idealwithout the bias of human feeling. It is thus no mere agreement or convention,but a moral force coextensive with all virtue. Since it is universal in itscharacter, it requires modification and adaptation to particular circumstancesthrough equity.
The communal ownership of wives and property as sketched by Plato in theRepublic rests on a false conception of political society according toAristotle. For, the state is not a homogeneous unity, as Plato believed, butrather is made up of dissimilar elements. The classification of constitutions isbased on the fact that government may be exercised either for the good of thegoverned or of the governing, and may be either concentrated in one person orshared by a few or by the many. There are thus three true forms of government:monarchy, aristocracy, and constitutional republic. The perverted forms of theseare tyranny, oligarchy and democracy. The difference between the last two is notthat democracy is a government of the many, and oligarchy of the few; instead,democracy is the state of the poor, and oligarchy of the rich. Considered in theabstract, these six states stand in the following order of preference: monarchy,aristocracy, constitutional republic, democracy, oligarchy, tyranny.
But thoughwith a perfect person monarchy would be the highest form of government, theabsence of such people puts it practically out of consideration. Similarly, truearistocracy is hardly ever found in its uncorrupted form. It is in theconstitution that the good person and the good citizen coincide. Idealpreferences aside, then, the constitutional republic is regarded as the bestattainable form of government, especially as it secures that predominance of alarge middle class, which is the chief basis of permanence in any state. Withthe spread of population, democracy is likely to become the general form ofgovernment.When it comes to ethics, Plato’s theory rests on the assumption that virtueis knowledge and can be taught, which has to be understood in terms of histheory of Forms. As indicated previously, the ultimate Form for Plato is theForm of the Good, and knowledge of this Form is the source of guidance in moraldecision making.
Plato also argued that to know the good is to do the good. Whatthis means, is that anyone who behaves immorally does so out of ignorance. Thisconclusion follows from Plato’s conviction that the moral person is the trulyhappy person, and because individuals always desire their own happiness, theyalways desire to do that which is moral.However, In The Politics, Aristotle does not regard politics as a separatescience from ethics, but as the completion, and almost a verification of it. Themoral ideal in political administration is only a different aspect of that whichalso applies to individual happiness. Humans are by nature social beings, andthe possession of rational speech in itself leads us to social union.
The stateis a development from the family through the village community, an offshoot ofthe family. Formed originally for the satisfaction of natural wants, it existsafterwards for moral ends and for the promotion of the higher life. The state infact is no mere local union for the prevention of wrong doing, and theconvenience of exchange.
It is also no mere institution for the protection ofgoods and property. It is a genuine moral organization for advancing thedevelopment of humans.Aristotle continues by making several general points about the nature ofmoral virtues, such as desire regulating virtues. First, he argues that theability to regulate our desires is not instinctive, but learned and is theoutcome of both teaching and practice. Second, he notes that if we regulate ourdesires either too much or too little, then we create problems.
Moreover, heargues that desire regulating virtues are character traits, and are not to beunderstood as either emotions or mental faculties.At the heart of Plato’s philosophy is his theory of Forms, or Ideas.Ultimately, his view of knowledge, his ethical theory, his psychology, hisconcept of the state, and his perspective on art must be understood in terms ofthis theory. Plato’s theory of Forms and his theory of knowledge are sointerrelated that they must be discussed together. Influenced by Socrates, Platowas convinced that knowledge is attainable. He was also convinced of twoessential characteristics of knowledge. First, knowledge must be certain andinfallible. Second, knowledge must have as its object that which is genuinelyreal as contrasted with that which is an appearance only.
Because that which isfully real must, for Plato, be fixed, permanent, and unchanging, he identifiedthe real with the ideal region of being as opposed to the physical world ofbecoming. One consequence of this view was Plato’s rejection of empiricism, theclaim that knowledge is derived from sense experience. He thought thatpropositions derived from sense experience have, at most, a degree ofprobability. They are not certain. Furthermore, the objects of sense experienceare changeable phenomena of the physical world.
Hence, objects of senseexperience are not proper objects of knowledge.Plato’s own theory of knowledge is found in the Republic, particularly in hisdiscussion of the image of the divided line and the myth of the cave. In theformer, Plato distinguishes between two levels of awareness: opinion andknowledge. Claims or assertions about the physical or visible world, includingboth commonsense observations and the propositions of science, are opinionsonly.
Some of these opinions are well founded; some are not; but none of themcounts as genuine knowledge. The higher level of awareness is knowledge, becausethere reason, rather than sense experience, is involved. Reason, properly used,results in intellectual insights that are certain, and the objects of theserational insights are the abiding universals, the eternal Forms or substancesthat constitute the real world.Nevertheless, At the heart of Plato’s philosophy is a vision of reality thatsees the changing world around us and the things within it as mere shadows orreflections of a separate world of independently existing, eternal, andunchanging entities called forms or ideas.
Ordinary objects are what they areand have the features they do in virtue of their relation to or participation inthese more fundamental realities. Forms are the proper objects of knowledge orunderstanding, and the desire to attain understanding of them is the properdominant motivation in a healthy and happy human life. The apprehension andappreciation of formal reality makes life worth living; it also makes one moral.However, unlike his teacher Plato, Aristotle was much concerned with naturalphenomena. He was impressed in particular with living creatures: their abilityto develop in specific predictable ways after they have come into being, to liveout lives of characteristic types, and to leave behind replicas of themselves.
Aristotle developed many of the ideas distinctive of his thought-change, nature,matter and form, causation, potentiality and actuality in the effort to describeand explain these regularities, and much of his philosophy is concerned withdeveloping the implications of these ideas and with applying them, in hisethical and political writings, to the specific case of human beings. Thephilosophies by both philosophers presents a tremendous amount of intelligenceand knowledge within themselves. However, when it comes down to their ethic ofbeliefs, it would still be highly debatable in present day.Category: Philosophy