How world exists beyond the world around us.

How do we explain the world around us? The Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle were among the most important and creative thinkers of the ancient world (Palmer). Their treatises set forth most of the important problems and concepts of modern day science, Western philosophy, psychology, logic, and politics, and their influence has remained insightful from ancient to modern times. Plato was a student of Socrates, and Aristotle was a student of Plato. Aristotle studied under Plato in his academy in Athens for many years, leaving only after his teacher’s death. Plato and Aristotle began the process of finding the right questions and ultimately coming up with what they thought were the correct answers thousands of years ago. Amazingly, all of philosophy since that time can be described as only a rehashing of the original argument between Plato and Aristotle. Plato and Aristotle’s theories are similar in many ways, but are comparable in the concepts of reality, knowledge at birth, and the value of art in society.  To begin, Plato’s concept of reality contrasts with that of Aristotle’s.

Plato’s theory of ideal forms claims that a perfect world exists beyond the world around us. Our world contains forms imperfectly copied from the ideal forms in the world beyond. This was one of the theories of Plato that Aristotle considered absurd and felt he could paint a clearer picture on.  Aristotle’s theory of the natural world states that our world is reality. Simply, the world is as it seems.    Aristotle thought the world consists of natural forms, not necessarily ideal or imperfect.

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 Our senses can correctly perceive the natural forms. Basically, reality became a debate between Plato’s two worlds theory and Aristotle’s single world reality.       Other than the different views held by the two Philosophers regarding reality, Plato and Aristotle also contrast in their view of what knowledge we possess at birth. Plato supports the doctrine of Innatism, which claims that we enter this world with prior knowledge (B). He believed that a person’s soul went with them from one life to the next; therefore, the knowledge acquired in one life can be transferred into the next.

 However, we forget the knowledge at the shock of birth and we then spend the rest of our lives trying to retrieve the lost knowledge. On the other hand, Aristotle’s doctrine of Tabula Rasa, or blank slate, states that we are born without any knowledge. We must go through the walk of life to gain the knowledge Plato believes we are born with.

  Aristotle also claimed we possess souls, but he disagreed with Plato on the soul’s status of immortality. Aristotle felt souls do not return to the world, so knowledge cannot be returned to the world either. The two had similar but different beliefs regarding Innatism.  Although both Plato and Aristotle wrote about poetry and the arts, most scholars spend time discussing their doctrines regarding human society, Innatism, and concepts of reality. However, in many of their works, including The Republic, Ion, and Aristotle Poetics, the two philosophers spent much time concerned with the aesthetics of these topics. It is apparent throughout their works the differing viewpoints regarding the value of art in human society. Plato sees the value in art, especially poetry, based off the relationship between the poem and the inspiration behind it. He sees the relationship between the poem itself to the truth it attempts to represent, along with the process the artist takes to create his art, as the measuring for art worthy of praise.

Plato also discusses poetry as an imitation or “mirror” of reality, and argues that imitative poetry should be banned to allow for a more perfect and just society. Aristotle also discusses poetry and how it is imitative of life. In fact, his answer to the question, “What is poetry?”, is boiled down to the word, imitation (Waggoner). Some aspects of life can be agreed upon by the two philosophers.  The Greek Philosophers Plato and Aristotle are two of the most important figures in history. The works of these two greats have carried on for thousands of years, and will continue to educate for thousands more to come. Their theories and ideals may differ in many areas, but overall it is up to the person to interpret their teachings and carry on their views and ways of life as their own if they choose.



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