Comparison and contrast of Plato and Aristotle

Comparisonand contrast of Plato and Aristotle

Platoand Aristotle are some of the most prominent philosophers in history.Aristotle was a student of Plato, but he occasionally disagreed withsome of his teachings. Despite their contradictions, Aristotle wasmuch influenced by the work of Plato. Aristotle was the brighteststudent of Plato. He criticized the ideals of Plato, which were to beused by ancient and contemporary society. Aristotle is recognized asthe father of the western philosophy. The two discussed variousaspects of philosophy that continues to influence today’sphilosophers. They have been criticized and supported equally. Eventhough, their ideas evoke the modern philosophers who are constantlylearning about the world and how it functions or should function.There are some notable differences and similarities between the viewsof the two ancient philosophers.

Withregard to human nature, Plato identifies human beings as social andrational. He tended to identify the human nature with reason andsouls as opposed to human bodies. People are identified by the kindof souls they possess. Such souls include warrior or guardian soul,philosopher soul and artisan soul. This relates to the general rolethat people play in the society. Plato further clarifies that successand failure are greatly attributed to the society that they live in.This means that the society has great influences on the nature ofhuman beings. Human beings tend to cultivate and implement theirideas based on what is presented in the society. Plato’s mainargument on human nature is that people are rational and socialcreatures who become who they are based on the society they live in.For people to become what they really are, they must live in a true(ideal) society.

Aristotle,on the hand, seems to disagree on some of the views of plato on humannature. This means that even though there are some aspects he agreeson with Plato, there are some major differences presented. Just likePlato, Aristotle believes that human beings are rational and socialcreatures. However, he further claims that both the body and soulconstitutes of human nature. He agrees that the society has greatinfluences on human beings. According to him, without the society,human beings would be god or beast. He also clarifies that selfactualization is also significant in realization of the true humanpotentials. Success and failure is determined by what peoplephilosophize. Human beings have the capability of identifying moralsand intellectual virtues that they use to actualize these potentials.Additionally, Aristotle feels that human beings are rational innature, and it is that rationality that makes them who they are.Rationality is what makes human beings different from other animals.Human beings are responsible for who they are because they are theones that choose the course of their life. Therefore, human beingsare responsible for their success or failure. They are aware ofwhatever they do in quest for their happiness.

Platoand Aristotle have contrasting ideas on possession of knowledge andtruth. Plato believes that people came to this world with priorknowledge. This indicates that all people have immortal souls andthus, knowledge in one life can be transferred to the next throughreincarnation. Nonetheless, people forget their knowledge at birthand spend the rest of their lives trying to remember it. From Plato’sviews and analysis on the theory of knowledge and form, it is clearthat he believes so much on reincarnation and the perfect worldbeyond the real world that people live in. Based on Plato’sargument, people in this life may influence what they will become inthe next life. As such, their knowledge in this life is passed ontothe next life. In contrast, Aristotle believes that people are bornblank and with no prior knowledge and that they construct theirknowledge through experience as they grow. Aristotle felt that soulsdo not return to the world hence, knowledge cannot be returned tothe world. He believed that people can use their bodies as a tool oflearning. The body has the purpose that allows it to lodge whathumans should have knowledge about. Aristotle feels that the body andnatural senses can be used in constructing knowledge. This is incontrast with Plato who claims that the body senses bringsimperfection in the world. This view asserts that a rational mind isuseful for understanding justice and goodness. The body and the soulinteract to control human behavior. The soul cannot exist without thesoul thus, both are important in making rational choices. Plato feltthat the body was a hindrance to the soul and mind. He notes that thesoul only dwells in the body but the two have no relationship when itcomes to rational decision making. It means that the soul is justtrapped in the body. He put a lot of weight on the prominent of thesoul in making up of human beings. The fact that the body and thesoul interact, the soul remains the dominant function in the lives ofhuman beings.

Aristotleviews the universe supported by holistic harmony. His centralphilosophy is final causation. He bases his views on the universe asa hierarchy where everything has its own function. He articulatedthat the highest form of existence is a rational human being who isserved by the lower beings in that life. This is one of the reasonswhy he defended slavery. Aristotle felt that the slaves were lessrational and thus had to serve the more rational human beings.Further, he advocated for the killings of other non human animals forclothing and food because they were considered irrational. Rationalpeople have the capacity to reason and their reasoning power is theultimate goal. When human beings live like this, they live a goodlife in accordance with their nature. He added that such people finda reward in their existence. This view is similar to Plato’s tosome extent. Plato claims that intellects have the highest forms oflife. However, Plato felt that the highest forms of human beings mustalso coexist with each other and must possess goods of materialprosperity. Plato believed in the moral good and every intellectperson should possess it to attain a high form of existence. Heindicates that the world is motivated by ethical concerns. This meansthat teleological order should promote the rule rather thannecessity. The universe promotes goodness and people can learn a lotfrom it.

Platoand Aristotle were also greatly involved in politics. Plato believedthat in an ideal and a just state leaders should be wise and trainedon ways of running a state similar to how captains should be trainedto run a ship. According to him, kings should prefer truth to rulinghowever they will have to obey the law. This means that he preferredphilosopher kings even though the society could not maintain it. Hebelieved that an ideal king would not follow the law blindly withoutreasoning. As such, he must take into accounts why some laws shouldprevail and why others should be done away with. Further, Platoclaims that a philosopher king is ideal because he does not seek torule for the sake of it, but would seek to rule with the intent ofproviding security and stability to a society. He preferredefficiency and harmony rather than liberty and democracy. On theother hand, Aristotle ideology of a good leader is summarized as therule of the best law. This means a well organized constitutionentails good governance. To him, even though ruling may be a skill,it is also a science that must be applied. This means that a goodleader is one that makes and follows the best law.

Platofurther proposed a society organized into three major groups thebottom, middle and uppermost class. The bottom comprises of artisans,farmers, merchants. The middle class should constitute of soldierswho have a strong wills and spirits. Finally, the uppermost classshould constitute of the intellects known for high capacity ofreasoning. The intellects, according to Plato, would also comprise ofleaders. Aristotle, on the other hand, rejected the ideals of Platoby claiming that a state should be between democracy and oligarchy.He believed that a state should promote the welfare of the people byproviding for the poor in the society. He claimed that the middleclass should comprise of a sizeable part of the population.

Platoand Aristotle agree that community is necessary for the good of allpeople. Plato sees the society as the means of providing people withtheir needs. He asserts that people cannot function without a societyas it is necessary for survival. Likewise, people should obey thesociety order in order to make it perfect. Aristotle says that theinterests of an individual are also the interests of the whole of thesociety. An individual defines himself within the community. Thismeans that the community exists prior an individual. In the same way,the state is a compound of individuals segregated in various groupssuch as family and villages.

Itis vivid that the philosophical views of Aristotle and Plato have somany similarities and differences. The ideas of Aristotle were fueledby Plato’s philosophy. Of essence, it can be said that Aristotlewas trying to correct the views presented by Plato, his teacher. Theyagreed on some points however, Aristotle felt that Plato’s viewswere inadequate. His ideas have become popular and many philosophersrefer to them when trying to reason on the functioning of the world.Aristotle’s views are widely accepted by the western philosophersbecause he seemed to apply a greater thinking and reasoning capacity.However, this does not mean that Plato’s ideas are to be neglected.Both their views are relevant and highly recommended by the modernphilosopher despite some major criticisms and flaws in the argumentspresented (Reale and John 9).


Reale,Giovanni, and John R. Catan. Platoand Aristotle.Albany, N.Y: State University of New York Press, 1990. Print.