Everybody is familiar with the concept of philosophy. It is the study or creation of theory about nature, thought, and existence. Philosophy is a subject as deep as the ocean. Therefore many philosophers have their theories through time. Some of the philosophers are Confucius, Socrates, David Hume, Lao-Tzu, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and many more. Today we are comparing the greatest philosophers of all times: Plato and Aristotle. Though Aristotle was a student of Plato, their ideas and theories are very different. Let us look into the theories which create differentiate between Plato and Aristotle.
Idealism vs Realism
Plato was an idealist. He believed that the whole world is a mere idea and not reality. He had utopian beliefs. According to him, the only thing real is the ideals. Plato said that to understand the truth you need to understand ideas. In contrast to this, Aristotle was a realist. He said that the only thing that is real and exists is the physical world we live in. Our world is a real place. According to Plato, getting rid of the family, private property and selfishness is the way through which we can achieve the state of utopia.
Plato said that if humans get rid of selfishness, they can achieve the ideal state of living. Whereas Aristotle acknowledges selfishness. According to him, it is the selfishness that makes us human. Selfishness is the way to survive. Having family and property is the way to live in the “real” world. Aristotle says we have to acknowledge it and balance it in our lives. The difference between Plato being an idealist and Aristotle being a realist is seen in the “School of Athens” painting of Raphael. In this painting, Plato is pointing upwards representing the ideals and Aristotle is pointing towards the ground for reality.
Difference in Ethics
Being an idealist, Plato said virtue is the ultimate knowledge. If someone is virtuous and knows the right thing, then he will do the right thing. According to him knowing is equal to doing the deed. On the contrary, Aristotle said that knowing right and wrong is not enough. You also have to choose between them. Merely knowing that something is wrong is not going to change the behavior. Also, Aristotle said if you can choose the right thing, it will become a habit.
Both Plato and Aristotle had different thoughts about happiness. According to Plato, happiness can be only achieved through virtue. Also, happiness is not a pleasant state of mind but a good life. Whereas Aristotle also believed that it is not the condition of the soul but doing the right activity. But unlike Plato, he believed that practical and moral virtues are equally important as intellectual virtue.
Being an idealist and a realist caused differences in the political views of Plato and Aristotle. As mentioned above Plato said that an individual should leave all his personal life behind for the betterment of society. According to him, the society should follow the Republic form of government which will help to achieve the utopia state. Unlike Plato, Aristotle said, “man is a “political animal”. Therefore avoiding politics is not possible. Aristotle became the first political scientist. Moreover, he believed in a democratic government. He stated politics functions more as an organism than as a machine. The role of politics is not just an economical aspect but also to provide a good life to people. Moreover, performing good acts.
Both Plato and Aristotle have their contributions in the field of science. But Aristotle is one of the first few scientists of this world. His theories were more applicable, unlike Plato. Plato’s theories were more exploratory in mathematics, physics, and geometry. Aristotle created scientific methods that helped conclude. His theories are modified over time but the general method was the same. Like Plato, his contributions are also in the field of mathematics, physics, and geometry. Being the “father of western logic”, Aristotle was the first to develop a formal system for reasoning. Moreover, he gave the theory of motion being a continuum.
But his known and remarkable contributions are in the field of zoology and botany. His theories on these subjects helped him classify all forms of life. Furthermore, these have reigned as the basic biology system for centuries. His classifications have been replaced through time. But the methods are the same in the modern nomenclature. Moreover, Aristotle has also contributed to the field of geology and medicine. He brought many ideas and observations. However many of his ideas were disregarded later. But it opened the line of inquiry for others in the future.
Though both Plato and Aristotle had different ideas and philosophies, they did make an impact on the world. Both these Greek philosophers have a golden name in Greek history and a remarkable place in global history. Though their theories and ideas are not used much in today’s time. But they indeed made a path for ideas and ways of our societies. They are the founding fathers of western culture. Therefore they are relevant even after twenty four centuries of their existence. Theories of Plato and Aristotle have made paths for many discoveries and theories. Many countries have Aristotle’s democratic government. Therefore, these inventions and theories undoubtedly proved to help make a better world.