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Plato’s and Aristotle’s Approaches to Metaphysics Comparison

Plato’s and Plato’s and Aristotle’s attitudes to the nature of reality are regarded as the opposite ones. According to Plato, the knowledge of life is based on learning the common inextricable idea that exists separately from the material world. Aristotle, a disciple of Plato, understands the vision and the material as inseparable. The approaches of both philosophers are thought to be polar: the idealistic and the materialistic, but they intersect in the comprehension and the importance of the non-material.

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Plato is considered an idealistic philosopher who separates the mutable world of material from the permanent world of ideas. He states these ideas as the core of things, without which nothing physical can exist. Plato claims that a creator «makes a bed in accordance with the idea, but no artificer makes the ideas themselves» (605). The concept of the bed has been created before the creation, it stays unalterable, but its materialization can transform. This is how Plato sets the knowledge of the objects above the objects themselves, explaining that any experience we get through our actions and senses is a copy of the higher truth or a shadow of reality (Burgin 163). According to this doctrine, to understand the nature of existence, a person needs to reflect on visions, thus, Platonic idealism includes the theoretical method of world cognition.

Aristotle is regarded as a materialistic philosopher, who understands the essence as the instant process of actions. For him, the concept of ideas and the concept of the physical form the ultimate, but this ultimate exists at the moment. Aristotle claims that «a man will not be a builder unless he is building» (86). His understanding is empirical and based on senses, actions, and experience (Panaccio 21). The nature of reality is rational, the ideas start in the material, and their meaning exists only when it is put into the form. In accordance with this statement, Aristotelian Materialism is based on a practical attitude to life.

Aristotle’s and Plato’s views can be regarded as incompatible, but Aristotle agrees with his teacher on several issues. Although his approach is materialistic, the philosopher accepts the essence of the non-material itself. He declares that «it is not necessary that everything that is possible should exist in actuality» (102). Secondly, though he states that reality is not divided into separate ideas and forms, he recognizes that the material depends on the ephemeral. For him, substances seek shapes to exist, and his concept of shapes is relevant to Plato’s concept of ideas. Aristotle admits the existence of the soul as the ruler of the body. Consequently, he acknowledges that the non-material influences the material, and the shapeless things are not less important than the physical.

Comparing the opinions of Plato and Aristotle, we can figure out that their attitudes have some similarities. On the one hand, they agree that the concept of ideas is vital, the nonmaterial exists and depends on the nonmaterial (Panaccio 14). On the other hand, Plato divides the world into the constant idea and the changeable material, while Aristotle has the variable ideas and forms seeking unity (Binmore 30). The main thing is that their perspectives on acquiring the knowledge of life are different: Plato stands for the reflection of visions while his disciple advocates the empirical approach to metaphysics.

To sum up, the two philosophers have contrasting attitudes to understanding the nature of being. Plato stands for the theoretical while Aristotle has developed an empiric method of exploring reality. Platonic idealism and Aristotelian materialism may be understood as polar, but their concepts still have some similarities. Both philosophers agree on the existence and the importance of the non-material. Thus, their approaches to the nature of reality do not contradict each other.

Works Cited

Aristotle. Metaphysics. Translated by William Ross, Digireads. 2018.

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Binmore, Kenneth. Imaginary Philosophical Dialogues: Between Sages down the Ages. Springer, 2020.

Burgin, Mark. “Ideas of Plato in the Context of Contemporary Science and Mathematics.Athens Journal of Humanities & Arts, vol. 4, no. 3, 2017, pp. 161–182. Web.

Panaccio, Claude. Mental Language: From Plato to William of Ockham (Medieval Philosophy: Texts and Studies). Fordham University Press, 2017.

Plato. The Republic. Translated by Benjamin Jowett, Lector House, 2019.

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