Where Aristotle contradicted Plato

3 min read



There are certainly many differences between the two philosophers that are worth elaborating. The meme shown here is about Aristotle, a student of Plato who radically breaks with most of Plato's ideas. These differences arise from the two's overarching, incombinable conception of the metaphysical basis of the cosmos and human existence.

Plato's ideas of an ideal metaphysical world, of which the human soul or its incarnation in a body gets only fractions, are simply rejected by Aristotle. This has manifold implications. Consequently, truth does not lie outside our perception as an abstract achievement of imagination (one may imagine an ideal horse, for example), but are directly anticipatable by the senses and formalizable by propositional logic. Thus, in place of Plato's idealism, with Aristotle comes a form of realism.

The ideas about ethics and politics of the two are also affected. Whereas according to Plato man should always strive for the highest good, i.e. the approach to the metaphysical ideal state, according to Aristotle it is the striving for the famous "golden mean" that makes man virtuous. In the oft-cited example of considering courage, the extremes could be, for example, recklessness and cowardice. According to Aristotle, then, we would strive for the golden mean between these extremes; according to Plato, on the other hand, only intellectual contemplation would (hopefully) lead us to recognize courage as an ideal virtue and consequently to realize it.

From a political point of view, Plato's idealism is followed by a „utopia“, which translated means "non-place", again referring to something metaphysical. Plato spreads this utopia in his work "The Republic". He thus formulates what an ideal state could look like, while Aristotle approaches the matter much more practically and formulates concrete political measures for concrete social occurrences in each case. In comparison, Plato's utopia seems very rigid, the formulated "classes" are not very permeable, while Aristotle certainly discusses different systems of rule such as aristocracy, democracy or even tyranny for just different starting points and basically also grants all of them their validity in the corresponding social framework.

It is quite exciting to see how their theories emerge from the metaphysical conception or its replacement by propositional logic. Nevertheless, it was Aristotle who largely influenced modern science. It is noteworthy that Christianity in the Middle Ages was primarily concerned with reconciling sacred Scripture with the writings of Aristotle. When speaking of "the philosopher", Aristotle was always meant.

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