The Platonic Rationalist and Aristotelian Empirical Way of Thinking Philosophical Inquiry
During the 17th and 18th century two philosophers, Plato and Aristotle, arose carving for themselves a trench in the philosophical world. We can see the biggest distinction between the two in their theories of how we know things exist. The traditions of Plato and Aristotle have been dubbed rationalism and empiricism respectively. Under these traditions many well known philosophers have formed their own theories of God, existence and the material world. Through these individual theories I will show how each fits into the category of either Rationalist or Imperialist. The Plutonian philosophers to be discussed will include Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz. And the Aristotelian philosophers will include Locke, Berkeley and Hume. Plato, a philosopher of the 17th century, contended that "Opinion at its best is a matter of probability, and knowledge at its least is entirely sure (Lamprecht, 1955, p. 43)" For Plato, knowledge starts with ones senses, nothing can be thought without first being sensed. He then contended that we live in an inferior world of particulars parallel to a world where all objects are perfect, where reality stems forms ideas or ideals. For Plato's culture this was particularly important because they needed a way to distinguish between justice as it was practiced by their government, and the ideal justice that could be thought and hoped for (Rogers & Baird 1981, p. 3). In Plato's search to clarify this problem he used what is now commonly referred to as Rationalism. Rationalism can be defined as "the epistemological theory that significant knowledge of the world can best be achieved by a prior means." Or in simplified terms, rationalism is when we come to a conclusion by deduction from abstract ideas (Rogers & Baird 1981, p. 3). Juxtaposed to this way of thinking was Aristotle, a philosopher of the 17...
References: Collins, J. (1967). The British Empiricists: St. Louis. The Bruce Publishing Company.
Collins, J. (1967). The Continental Rationalists: St. Louis. The Bruce Publishing
Lamprecht, S. (1955). Our Philosophical Traditions: A Brief History of Philosophy in
Western Civilization. New York. Appleton Century Crofts.
Rogers, J. B. (1981). Introduction to Philosophy: A Case Study Approach. San Francisco,
CA: Harper & Row.
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