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Aristotle Vs. Plato On Metaphysics Essay, Research Paper

The Opposing Views of Great Minds

The word metaphysics is defined as “The study or theory of reality; sometimes used more narrowly to refer to transcendent reality, that is, reality which lies beyond the physical world and cannot therefore be grasped by means of the senses.” It simply asks what is the nature of being? Metaphysics helps us to reach beyond nature as we see it, and to discover the `true nature’ of things, their ultimate reason for existing. There are many ways to approach metaphysics. Two of the earliest known thinkers on the topic are Plato and Aristotle. These two philosophers had ideas that held very contrasting differences that can be narrowed into a strong, select few. Both of the two thinkers approached metaphysics differently. They both held different views on the levels of reality. The two men held different approaches to forms. Although both men believed in the concept of forms, they both defined this concept differently.

Plato lived between 427 and 347 BC. Aristotle lived between 384 and322 BC. He grew from being Plato’s pupil to being an independent thinker and rival. Plato was an inside/out philosopher as opposed to Aristotle’s outside/in thinking. This simply means that Plato developed his ideas from within and applied them to the outside world. Conversely, Aristotle took the views from the world around him and applied them within. These different approaches to metaphysics lead to the issue of Aristotle’s imminent reality versus Plato’s dualistic, transient reality. Aristotle’s beliefs lead to him seeing only one level of reality. He felt there was only one imminent world and that forms existed within particular things. Aristotle held that form had no separate existence and existed in matter. Opposed to Aristotle, Plato’s thoughts tended to believe in two levels of reality. Plato held that metaphysics is dualistic: he proposed that there are two different kinds of things – physical and mental. There is what appears real and what is real. Plato believed that everything real takes on a form but doesn’t embody that form. This is the position of Plato that there are “two worlds”, the being and the becoming.

These two different approaches lead to the biggest idea that Plato and Aristotle differed on: their view on forms. Plato originated the Theory of Forms. Plato saw forms a descriptions. A form applies to more than a single thing, such as something as good. For Plato, two or more items (flagstones) can both be said to be round if they participate in the Form roundness. According to Plato, the Form roundness exists apart or separately from individual flagstones (and other round things). Round things depend upon the Form roundness for their existence. So Plato’s answer to the basic metaphysical question – what is reality? – is that fundamentally it is the Forms of things that are real and not physical matter. Aristotle concerned himself with the relation of matter and form. Aristotle saw only four ultimately basic questions that could applied to anything, or as he called them, four causes: the formal cause, or what is the thing?; the material cause, or what is it made of?; the efficient cause, or what made it?; and the final cause, or what purpose does it serve? CONCLUSION

In conclusion, these two great thinkers were quite different in many quite a number of manners. Plato believed in an inside/out view of metaphysics which shows two realms to our reality: the realm of changing, becoming things and a realm of fixed, and being forms, which are unchanging and that all things owe their reality. Aristotle saw in his outside/in view, that there was only one level to our reality and that in it; forms are found only within particular things, which have both form and matter.

If there were not individual round things, there would be no such thing as the Form roundness. Forms do not exist separately or apart from particulars. Roundness, for example, has no independent existence apart from particular round things. You cannot think the Form roundness without thinking of a particular round thing.

Aristotle: example, a statue is a chunk of marble (matter) with a certain form (statue). Each thing is made of a particular matter and has a particular form. Neither form nor matter is ever found in isolation from the other (except for God). Things do change; they become something new.

Plato: Example: Beauty. A beautiful statue and a beautiful house are two very different objects. But they have something in common, they both quality as beautiful.

Beauty is not something you encounter directly in the physical world. What you encounter in the physical world is always some object or other – statue or house – that may or may not be beautiful.

Beauty itself is not something you meet up with; rather, you meet up with objects that to varying degrees possess beauty. Beauty is an ideal thing, not a concrete thing.

It would be a mistake to think that forms are just ideas or concepts in our minds. Before there were minds there were beautiful things; round things.

Forms are eternal and unchanging. Beauty and roundness have no age. The circumference of a circle is equal to times twice the radius distance, regardless of the circle, time, or place.

Forms are unmoving and indivisible. What sense would it make to suppose that they might move or be physically divided?

Only Forms are truly real. A thing is beautiful only to the extent it participates in the Form beauty; it is round only if it participates in the Form roundness. Likewise a thing is large only if it participates in the form largeness.

The same principle holds for all of a thing’s properties. Thus, a large, beautiful, round thing – would not be beautiful, large, or round if the forms beauty, largeness, and roundness did not exist.

Objects owe their reality to Forms. So the ultimate reality belongs to the Forms.

Of course, Plato was aware that there is a sense in which the objects we see/touch are real. Even appearances are real appearances. But Plato’s position is that the objects we see/touch have a lesser reality.

They have a lesser reality because they can only approximate their Form and thus are always to some extent flawed. Any particular beautiful thing will always be deficient in beauty as compared with the Form beauty.

And, as any particular beautiful thing owes whatever degree of beauty it has to the Form beauty, the Form is the source of what limited reality as a beautiful thing the thing has.

Plato introduced into western thought a two-realm concept. On the one hand, there is the realm of changing, sense-perceptible or “sensible” things. This is the cave: the realm of flawed and lesser entries (consequently, it is also, for those who concern themselves with sensible things, a source of error, illusion and ignorance).

On the other hand there is the realm of Forms – eternal, fixed, and perfect – the source of all reality and of all true knowledge.

Plato also believed that some Forms (truth, beauty, goodness) are of a higher order than other Forms. For example, you can say of the Form roundness that of is beautiful, but you cannot say of the Form beauty that it is round. So the Form beauty is higher than the Form roundness.

When we examine the sense world in terms of what we perceive, we find it possesses no permanence, stability, or coherence. Such a world is not real, only an illusion (the cave).

The world of things is understood by the senses; Form by reason. Example: beautiful things vs. beauty.

What is real is the totality of Forms and these Forms account for whatever stability and intelligibility the world of illusory sense experience may possess.

Plato was inside out.

1. He believed in 2 level reality (transcendent).

The being was fixed and certain.

The becoming was changing.

2.form – exists in the world of being.

Copies exist in the world of becoming and are imperfect.

3. Prime mover- form in the world of being

4. Being – levels of reality – top level is justice.

- blending of forms

Aristotle was outside in.

1. one level of reality (imminent).

? god/s ?

2.forms – exist inside the thing itself

a.material cause

b.formal cause

c.efficient cause

d. final cause

pg 97

3.Nature – assumptions

its real

it’s a unity, a system

its essintial

predictable and constant

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