Differences between Plato and Aristotle

Topics: Plato, Scientific method, Science Pages: 6 (2492 words) Published: November 17, 2013
The current understanding of knowledge and the universe by man today stems from many centuries ago when philosophers attempted to understand the seemingly chaotic world around them. The Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle are responsible for some of these major early discoveries and are a big reason as to where we are today due to their endeavors to understand various philosophical topics. In this essay, I am going to explain Plato’s views on knowledge and science, Aristotle’s views on change and science, and ultimately how although both contributed to man’s understanding of philosophy today, Aristotle started a departure from the views of Plato and into an entirely new era. Many philosophers before Plato had conjectured many ideas and theories about the definition of knowledge. However, many of them proved to be inadequate when scrutinized by their peers. The most notable of these pronouncements is “I know that I know nothing”, said by Socrates (Plato, Apology, 21d). Plato’s dialogues and endeavors to seek out “what is knowledge” proved to be different from his predecessors and are primary instigators and sources for the origins of the theory of knowledge. As part of Plato’s philosophy, Plato thought of knowledge as an objective property of human beings. Plato’s view, one probably adapted from Socrates, is that when an attribute is applied to an individual, the individual possesses some sort of universal criteria and thus the attribute can be applied to the individual. Thus, Plato looks for universal criteria that are applicable to all examples of knowledge. To begin his journey to seek what is knowledge, Plato tries to give conditions for knowledge. In Thaeaetetus, Plato offers three analyses of knowledge: perception is knowledge, true belief is knowledge, true belief plus a rational explanation is knowledge (Plato - Knowledge). However, Socrates rejects all of these claims through a multitude of examples and in the end of this dialogue, the reader only has a better understanding of what knowledge isn’t rather than what it is. In Plato’s other two works, Meno and Timaeus, a more satisfactory answer to the definition of knowledge can be found. In Meno, Socrates establishes a key fact that Plato will use later for his own theories: all knowledge is pre-contained within an individual; it simply must be elicited from their memory. He illustrates this to Meno by having an uneducated slave spontaneously solve the proof for the Pythagorean Theorem. Plato believed that in order to achieve true knowledge, there were three main steps to be taken sequentially. An opinion must form, the opinion must turn into a belief, and finally the belief must be able to comprehend things as to why they are the way they are in order to achieve (or remember) the knowledge. Later in Meno, in order to avoid confusion between belief and knowledge, Socrates and Plato have a discussion as to the value of knowledge and whether it is more useful or not than true opinion. Socrates uses the example of “If a man knew the way to Larisa, or anywhere else, and went to the place and led others thither, would he not be a right and good guide?” and “a person who had a right opinion about the way, but had never been and did not know, might be a good guide also, might he not?” (Plato, Meno, 97a). The concept is that although true opinion sometimes proves to be right, it does not withhold scrutiny if circumstances or ‘worlds’ are changed while true knowledge will always persist in any ‘world’. Thus, knowledge is stable while true opinion is unstable. Plato’s theory of the forms plays a significant role in the development of his theory of knowledge as Plato wanted to use this theory in order to give a rational explanation as to how the concept of knowledge was possible. Forms are timeless entities that cannot be perceived by man, they are the essence of everything. The theory of forms can be summarized as a way of distinguishing two worlds – the world of...

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Lloyd, G. E. R. Early Greek Science: Thales to Aristotle. New York: Norton, 1970. Print.
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Plato, Anastaplo, George, and Laurence Berns. Plato 's Meno. Newburyport, MA: Focus Pub./R. Pullins, 2004. Print.
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Plato, and St George Stock. The Apology of Plato. Oxford: Clarendon, 1961. Print.
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