~Philosophical Debate: Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle~

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Darth_Viper81, Aug 25, 2003.

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  1. Darth_Viper81 Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Jun 16, 2003
    star 4
    Anybody here interested in philosophy? I always have been interested in the subject myself. While I don't claim to have a whole lot of knowledge on the subject myself, I do know a little bit.

    First, let me generalize (or OVER-generalize) the philosophies of the three above mentioned philosophers.

    1. Socrates/Plato
    I group Socrates with Plato because their philosophies are rather consistent with each other. I guess since Plato was Socrates student, that would explain why. Most of what we know about Socrates, comes from the writings of Plato. Therefore, I have lumped them together as such.

    Anyways, Socrates was probably most famous for setting out to define wisdom. He went about the town to some well known wise people and began to question them. After talking to many people, and consequently making them mad, he concluded that "the beginning of all wisdom is the recognition that one is ignorant." Also, he was put to death by the law because they thought he was corrupting Athens youth. In this remarkable story, he calmly describes how he feels about dying as the poison that he drank flows through his body. Interesting philosopher.

    Plato believed that reality as we see it is only a shadow of what is really real (from the "Allegory of the Cave"). You can go here for the entire translated story

    Plato also believed that the "mass" of this world were only "forms" of reality. That the real world existed in the spiritual realm and this world is only a shadow of reality.

    2. Aristotle
    Aristotle, on the other hand, was a very different thinker. Although he as a student of Plato, he did not follow the same philosophy. His philosophy concentrated on this world and the here and now.

    One of his famous philosophies,the "unmoved mover", is explained partially in the link. He believed in cause and effect. That life was a serious of causes and effects and that the beginning of all life had to be by something the "moved itself" or the unmoved mover.

    He also excelled in mathematics and scientific thought. Producing theories that were not scientifically provable until the 19th century.

    Conclusion
    Why were the philosophies of Socrates/Plato so different from Aristotle?

    A famous painting by Raphael called "The School of Athens" presents in artistic form the very difference between Plato and Aristotle. It was as if the two where asked, where is reality? Plato is shown pointing his finger skyward--as if to say somewhere beyond this world, and Aristotle is shown pointing his finger downward--as if to say right here in this world.

    Which philosophy would you most subscribe to? Why?

    The above is a very basic summary. Feel free to add anything to it or correct me if I have a detail or two mixed up. Discuss why you believe what you do, and what other philophies of the three mentioned philosophers strike your interest.
  2. Katana_Geldar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2003
    star 8
    Why were the philosophies of Socrates/Plato so different from Aristotle?

    i've read poetics of aristotle and Temperance and Symposium of Socrates

    IMHO socrates and plato are so similar and thus different from aristotle because plato writes about socrates. if socrates wrote for himself it may be a different story
  3. Darth_Viper81 Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Jun 16, 2003
    star 4
    IMHO socrates and plato are so similar and thus different from aristotle because plato writes about socrates. if socrates wrote for himself it may be a different story

    That's true. There really is no writing by Socrates. Heck, Socrates may well be Plato for all we know.
  4. Darth Dane Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 10, 2000
    star 4

    Plato with the cave allegory, reminds me of Buddha.

    Aristoteles with his "unmoved mover" reminds me of the hindu/yogi philosophy, that also states that; "God is the unmovable mover"


    Interesting to see how the thoughts between eats and west mirror eachother and seem alike...don't you?






    DD - Love & Laughter

  5. MasterKingsama Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 18, 2003
    star 4
    One of the reasons that i have always used to help me reconciliate the great differences in the platonic and aristotelan,sp, thought is the effects of socrates teaching. I can hear Plato reiterating to his students, "question everything" while teaching. So as aristotle set listening to "eternal forms" i am sure that he questioned it as socrates would have.

    Also, philosophy is at times nothing more than reactionary thought. This is best illustrated by shopenhaur and kierkaguard. People before them made some pretty hefty clams, and they reacted to them by attempting to form new philosopical systems that address certain issues that were left untouched by or poorly covered by the previous philosophy. I see the same issue taking center stage with plato and aristotle. Plato comes forth with a very lofty and idealistic philosophy. Aristotle in rection to this, come with a more grounded style of philosophy.

    note: sorry for the spelling i am sure that i butchered a number of words. And please correct me on any points that i have made mistakes.
  6. Quixotic-Sith Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 22, 2001
    star 6
    I am a die-hard Aristotelian. I'm impressed with his practical approach, I agree with his teleology (goal-oriented methodology), and agree with his arguments about virtue and vice (everyone is born with the capacity for virtue and vice, we develop virtues and vices by our actions - we can only call ourselves virtuous or vicious if we behave in that manner repeatedly, so our moral character is not defined by an individual action).

    I take this approach to my problem-solving psychotherapy groups. I help my patients explore their long-term goals, and see if their actions are in line with them (borrowing from Adler's Individual Psychology). I discuss with them habituation and change (habitual actions are difficult to change (drug use, anger, etc.).

    While there are significant questions to be raised about his cosmology and social structure (the "natural" subjugation of women and children is anachronistic), I think Aristotle got ethics right, and much of moral philosophy since then has been downhill.

    And don't get me started on modern relativism. Ick poo.
  7. MasterKingsama Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 18, 2003
    star 4
    Although i am not as a huge arostitian as yourself i would agree with you in the idea that moden relativism is a farce. i olove kierkaguardian existencailism, but hate what others have taken it and turned it into. Excuse my frankness but it is nothing more than lets make everyone feel good crap.
  8. Ransom Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jan 17, 2001
    star 3
    While there are significant questions to be raised about his cosmology and social structure (the "natural" subjugation of women and children is anachronistic), I think Aristotle got ethics right, and much of moral philosophy since then has been downhill.

    And don't get me started on modern relativism. Ick poo.


    This is a bit of a nitpick, but I expect you'll clarify your position. You disapprove of Aristotle's view of the inferiority of women and children as "anachronistic", suggesting it was appropriate (or more appropriate) at one time but not at the present time. And yet you show disdain for relativism. If relativism is really ick poo, then Aristotle's arguments should be valid or invalid/sound or unsound regardless of the time to which one wishes to apply them, no?


    The question in the original post -- why did Aristotle depart from his master so fundamentally -- is interesting. I'm sure there are internal arguments, based on the content of their respective arguments, and external arguments, based on biographical information and psychological guesswork, but I'm ignorant of all of them. Embarrassing really. I studied them carefully less than 10 years ago and I remember next to naught. At least I'm as wise as Socrates since I know I don't know the answers! I await enlightenment!
  9. Dark Lady Mara Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 19, 1999
    star 7
    Wow, Quix. It's rare that I hear a scientist call themselves an Aristotelian. I think some of it's bitterness because he screwed up physics so badly until Newton came along and in that sense singlehandedly set science back by two millenia, but some of it's also the fact that Plato's philosophy is more amenable to scientific thought.

    I've always thought science was a dogma of sorts, not too different from religions, because it requires the practitioner to believe something they can never know with certainty - namely, that there is such a thing as absolute truth in the world and experiments will help reveal the character of that hidden truth. This dogma is similar to Plato's suggestion that earthly forms are nothing more than poor copies of an inaccessible heavenly ideal that we must always strive to emulate. For scientists, the ideal is truth, and the flawed reconstruction of it made by humans is the picture of reality we've been able to cull from what science has told us so far.
  10. Quixotic-Sith Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 22, 2001
    star 6
    This is a bit of a nitpick, but I expect you'll clarify your position. You disapprove of Aristotle's view of the inferiority of women and children as "anachronistic", suggesting it was appropriate (or more appropriate) at one time but not at the present time. And yet you show disdain for relativism. If relativism is really ick poo, then Aristotle's arguments should be valid or invalid/sound or unsound regardless of the time to which one wishes to apply them, no?

    I can only offer the defense MacIntyre makes: relativism is pervasive and true if and only if a teleological (in this case functional) view is not proposed. It is really hard to counter relativism on its face, unless one changes the question (Moore's fact/value distinction really mucked up the works for a long time, and Anscombe finally rescued us).

    MacIntyre's/Anscombe's rejection of relativism is predicated upon inherent purpose and the meaning of a "good [x]" - this is to say that we cannot think of [x] without necessarily thinking about what constitutes a good [x]. We cannot think of a watch without imagining what a good watch would do (i.e., run, keep time accurately, etc.). We cannot think of a sea captain without imagining what a good sea captain would do (i.e., protect his crew, guide the ship, etc.). Likewise, we cannot think about what it means to be human without thinking about what it means to be a good human. That's the essence of Aristotle's ethics (and contemporary virtue ethics).

    I think Aristotle provides a good ethical system (still applicable, as it is examining the complex question of what it means to be human) and a bad cosmology/social structure (not applicable, as it is based on empiracally false data and/or contemporary social mores). I believe that there is a purpose to human existence that does not change, despite the social structure in which it is found (hence my rejection of relativism, and his "natural" subjugation). I don't think it's inconsistent to reject social relativism and support his ethics (i.e., I don't think it's consistent with what it means to be a good human being to subjugate others to one's will (applicable to women/children/slaves in Aristotle's time and women/minorities/etc. in current society)).

    And Mara, as a philosopher and an ethicist, I think Aristotle is spot on. As a scientist, I think he's barmy. ;)
  11. Ransom Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jan 17, 2001
    star 3
    I figured you'd clarify things and the inconsistency was only apparent.

    MacIntyre's/Anscombe's rejection of relativism is predicated upon inherent purpose and the meaning of a "good [x]" - this is to say that we cannot think of [x] without necessarily thinking about what constitutes a good [x]. We cannot think of a watch without imagining what a good watch would do (i.e., run, keep time accurately, etc.). We cannot think of a sea captain without imagining what a good sea captain would do (i.e., protect his crew, guide the ship, etc.). Likewise, we cannot think about what it means to be human without thinking about what it means to be a good human. That's the essence of Aristotle's ethics (and contemporary virtue ethics).

    When you ask if a thing is good, you have to ask "good for what" or "good for whom." It makes no sense to say that a piece of metal that ticks is just plain good without a further predicate. A watch is designed to perform a function (tell time). It's good if it performs that function. A sea captain is hired by the ship or cargo owner to do a job. He's good if he does the job effectively. An axe (Aristotle's example, I believe) is made to chop with -- it's good if it chops well. By definition, these types of things have a built in anwers to the question "good for what" or "good for whom." Humans don't. We have to invent our answer to the question (or rely on religious revelation, which to according to some amounts to the same thing). In order to identify objectively what it means to be a good human according to Aristotle's system (which is coming back to me now), you need an objective definition of "human" or an objective way to identify the essence or function of "human."

    I haven't seen a solution to that problem that isn't circular (Kant came closest by deriving the moral law from it's necessary attributes, e.g. objectivity). I haven't read the gentlemen (or women!) you referred to, so I don't know what their solutions are. I'd love to find a good one, since I think relativism and utilitarianism are both unsatisfying.

    Practically, it seems to me that Aristotle is right and humans are social animals. That is, as a matter of empirical fact we have to leave together for mutual advantage (to bring a little SW into this). There are some behaviors that are incompatible with human society and some that promote human society (again, as matters of empirical fact). From a rule utilitarian perspective, moral laws that transcend societies are the ones that maximize everyone's happiness by allowing human society per se to exist (no random killing, one must care for children and the elderly, keep your bargains, etc). Those laws do not provide answers to hard moral questions, which usually occur when two general principles collide (e.g., is it OK for a prisoner to kill a random innocent adult to prevent his captors from killing three innocent children?).

    But, alas, this way off topic from the original question...
  12. Quixotic-Sith Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 22, 2001
    star 6
    Aristotle does, however, discuss the function of a human ("right reason") - the contemporary application of this, however, is discerning what that means now (i.e., is there more to the essence of humanity than "right reason"). It's a difficult question, but not necessarily one without answer.
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