Aristotle's and Plato’s View on Metaphysics: Analytical Essay
There are many contributions made to the development of western philosophy made by both Plato and Aristotle. There is no other way to talk about the greats, without starting with Plato. Plato was an ancient Greek philosopher who is known to have founded the first academy which was located in Athens. He was known to be an educator to after Socrates and known to be the teacher of Aristotle which we will discuss more soon. Some of the topics that he was known to cover were Epistemology, Cosmology, Theology, and Political Philosophy just to name a few. His amazing writings began while sitting under Socrates and were implemented throughout his school. He was not afraid to speak out and ask questions regardless of the type. He was able to establish all of these amazing things over the course of his life, he was born in 428 B.C.E to parents who were apart of Greek aristocracy. Ariston also known as the father of Plato is known to have lineage from the King of Athens and Messenia. While his mother Perictione, is known to be related to the Greek statesman Solon of the 6th century B.C.E.
Plato’s writings were so distinct in their nature that he obviously was able to stand alone from any other philosopher. He was able expound on a wide variety of topics, with a variety of speakers and in each writing the questions and responses changed. His writing provided an intellectual, ethical, factual and historical impact from century to century and is still influencing western philosophy today.
Aristotle is said to be one of the most influential philosophers mentioned in history. He was a Greek philosopher who was also one of the highly referred to contributors of Western Philosophy. He was a very talented student of Plato, he built his studies metaphysical teachings off his mentors studies. He also challenged the studies of his mentor, and created his own metaphysical ideas. By using his ideas of four causes he was able to explain his thoughts on the soul. So it is safe to say that right along with Plato, Aristotle help sculpt the western philosophy, a comprehensive system was created that encompassed things like logic science along with politics and metaphysics all as a result of his writings. As a member of an aristocracy Aristotle was trained and educated at Plato’s Academy for a span of about twenty years leading up to Plato’s death. He was later asked by Philip II of Macedon to become the tutor for his son, Alexander the Great. Aristotle created a large amount of his work during 383 BC to 323 BC, during this time he studied a wide variety of subjects. It is heartbreaking to learn that a large majority of his writings are lost and only a small portion survived. All of these years later he is still providing an influential impact of philosophy.
The definition of metaphysics is “Philosophy that deals with the first principles of things, including abstract concepts such as being, knowing, substance, cause, identity, time, and space. The concept of Metaphysics is there to help us understand the nature of being. This tool is designed to assist us with going deeper in our understanding, getting past the surface of nature how we view it and allows us to see the pure nature of things. After spending some time researching the topic, I quickly realized that it all drills back to two main philosophers Plato and Aristotle. Both of them were very passionate around this topic, but had two very different views on it. Plato felt that metaphysics were all about the different forms along with the unchanging concept that went along with the changing physical world, this caused him to conclude around dualism. Plato held true to the perseverance of a world that was truly mind independent and fair. You will find where Plato never provided direct structure in the form of good, but he instead compared it metaphorically to the sun. He spoke of the sun yielding light and clarity in relation to the world, which in turn provided sight. Another great work of Plato’s that helped us better understand his view of Metaphysics is “Allegory of The Cave.” This work is said to provide a better understanding of exactly what Plato meant by forms. If you are going to try to understand Plato you must understand that a large amount of his metaphysical viewpoint is rooted in mathematics. Plato strongly believed that things don’t change, similar to the laws of math. This is where Plato and Aristotle differed, Aristotle did believe in change. Aristotle felt that Metaphysics was all about physical substance of matter, form along with the universal embedded inside of the item, causing him to conclude on monism and the four causes. Since the beginning of time humankind has taken on the mind set the universe is physically surrounding us, and when our lives are over we return from where we came from. Aristotle argument on metaphysics isn’t focused on whether or not we can prove the worldview. He instead makes attempts address some of the big questions that we as humans have regarding our experience. Aristotle thought process is that everything can be moved by something, even to the point of there being an ultimate mover who is unmovable. It is not just about his investigation into finding what objects do exist and finding what can be said of those objects, but it is also about a deeper question: What ultimately causes everything? Right at the heart of his argument is the nature of philosophy and the ability to address questions of various levels. If we are to believe that anything we want to know is “knowable” and our pathway to knowledge is philosophy, then it is safe to say that by using philosophy everything is knowable.
One of the challenging things regarding this is that both of these philosophers have strengths and weakness regarding their viewpoint on metaphysics. We will look at Plato, he felt strongly about the forms of things and the way that we always know them, even if it’s from a previous life, which then makes it a form of innatism (Inborn). I mentioned dualism previously that is the physical body and the immaterial soul, and the fact that the soul is trapped within the body awaiting an opportunity to escape. One of the strengths surrounding Plato’s view on metaphysics is that he takes into consideration the relationship between both the physical thing and form. Plato’s view does have a weakness and that is the fact that he considers everything that is physical and material to possibly not be real seeing that the essence of the something is to be greater, and that the physical are just imperfect copies of the actual form. Within forms you will find physical things, but they are not connected to each other. He felt that the forms all existed separately of the mind and any world materials in the “Third-Realm.” If you went with this theory you are able to see the difference between the world surrounding the forms these things are not changing, eternal and the world surrounding material things these things are short term, and changeable. Plato had the belief that something in material world could take on a form, but not become that form. Plato reminds us that we have forgotten about these forms, and the fact that our souls overtime will recall them, but are being held in by our bodies. The thing is, all of these things are innate and universal to everyone the issue is there are biases, and who’s to say that innatism even truly exist. An example of Plato’s view would be Beauty: A beautiful car and a beautiful building, these are completely different things, but they share the common factor that they are both beautiful. When looking at beauty it is not something that is to be experienced directly in the physical, in the physical world we experience objects cars and buildings which may or may not be beautiful. It would not be wise to use to think of forms as mere ideas in our minds.
Now let’s take a look at Aristotle, He states that it is universal that there is only one world, not two separate worlds and your four senses are required to find it. We use empiricism, this is the knowledge that is provided from a direct sensory experience. As an attempt to respond to the large number of metaphysical questions of that time Aristotle provided a layout of the order to complete the four causes. He suggest the following order, first is Formal Cause this is the form that it is going to be taking, second is Material Cause, what it is made up of, third is Efficient Cause covers who made it, what brings about the change and lastly Final Cause, the overall purpose for the thing the goal or purpose. By listing these causes out it will help clarify exactly what the physical world is made up of, this allows us to look deeper into this world. The four causes was his attempt to provide clarity and an explanation of the cause or purpose of something. Aristotle’s view had some weakness, it was with Empirism, even though it is universal it does not break down intangible substances it only breaks down the physical. An example of this is the four causes did not break down love or justice, this is because they both have deeper meanings associated with them. When we sit back and really examine the style of Aristotle you can see that his thought process was that of outside/in.
We can all agree that these two philosophers had completely different view points on metaphysics, but they both have their own strengths and weakness related to their views. It is not easy to try to decide which of these two philosophers I feel has a more agreeable argument. I can grasp an understanding of both of their schools. If I take on a logical mindset then I would have to go with Aristotle, that is mainly because he used science and evidence to conclude his view. But I feel that their views on the soul is realty where the decision has to be made. I feel and believe that my soul is separate from my body, this body is just a temporary vessel and my soul is immortal. There is no doubt that the question of metaphysics is a very important one, without it we would have no way of knowing what is real about the makeup of the world that we live in. Because Plato and Aristotle took time to think about what makes up the world, the world we live in today is a better place. Aristotle is quoted saying “All men by nature desire to know,” which is a fueling factor to find out more about what this world is made up of. Our understanding of how the world works, the reasoning for why things happen in nature, the fact there is only one planet earth that we must care for, all of these things are at stake. These things directly affects how people go about their lives, of them becoming more aware of the time we have remaining on the earth, and how we want to leave it for those coming behind us. If we were able to get more people to stop and consider the direct effects that their actions are having on the earth, I feel more people would try to do better by the earth. All we have is one life to live and one earth to live it on, we have to take good care of it.
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