SWA #2

This one is regarding the differences between Aristotle and Plato and their metaphysics.

Essentially, they believe the opposite of one another. Though Aristotle was a student of Plato’s, he disagreed with Plato’s basis of which everything exists. Plato says that the only real things are the “Forms”. Meaning the essence of things, like “The Form of Beauty” or “beauty itself” (Plato, The Republic, pp. 507b), are the building blocks of reality, without which, there would be nothing. If there were no beauty in the world or universe, the form of beauty would still exist. All beautiful things have in common the form or essence of beauty. Aristotle, on the other hand, would say there is only the form of beauty because there are beautiful things in the world/universe. If everything considered beautiful were to cease to exist, so would beauty itself.

I would say the key difference between the two philosophies is that Aristotle believes that individuals are the building blocks of reality and the basis of which all things are, whereas Plato believes the building blocks are the “Forms” or ideas that allow the individual to exist.

Personally, I agree the most with Aristotle. I have a very materialistic mind set regarding existence and the basis of reality. If I can touch it, taste it, smell it, see it, then it must be real. I have a hard time believing that beauty or justice would still exist if all things beautiful or just ceased to exist. In front of me, I have this laptop that I am using to record my ideas. Behind this laptop is my dad’s laptop, and my boyfriend is using his laptop. They are all laptops. How do I know that they are all laptops? They are all made if similar material: plastic, metal, electronic parts. They all have a screen attached to a keyboard, all have the same English letters in the same QWERTY style. “Of things themselves some are [said of]* a subject, and are never present in a subject” (Aristotle, Categories, Part 2). My laptop, and these other laptops are considered a type of computer, they relate to the “said of/not present in” category because you cannot have a laptop with the existence of the computer. Take the “computer” out and all I have is plastic and metal and electrical parts all piled together. If all laptops and computers and the like were to suddenly vanish or be destroyed, I’m sorry Plato, but the “essence of computer itself” would no longer exist. If the human race were wiped out, then somehow restarted from scratch, how do we know they would follow the exact same path that we did?

I feel like this ideal flows into my belief in a god or gods. That last question “how do we know?” is what always gets me. I feel something had to have started the process of the universe. You cannot get something from nothing. But whether or not there is eternal salvation or damnation of sorts, how do we know? My personal belief is we cannot know until we experience it for ourselves. I suppose then I feel knowledge is essentially a posteriori (at least in regards to God and religious stuffs).

I understand I got slightly derailed right there, however the last class we talked about these things and they always fascinate me.

So there you have it. Aristotle > Plato.

*Aristotle uses the term “predicable of”, however I don’t like big fancy words, and I understand “said of” better so I’m using it.


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