Plato vs Aristotle

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Political Philosophy is the study of fundamental questions about the state, government, politics, liberty, justice, property, rights, law and the enforcement of a legal code by authority in a given system: What they are? Why (or even if) they are needed? What makes a government legitimate? What rights and freedoms it should protect and why? What form it should take and why? What the law is? What duties citizens owe to a legitimate government, if any and when it may be legitimately overthrown?The term ???political philosophy??? often refers to a general view, or specific ethic, belief or attitude, about politics that does not necessarily belong to the technical discipline of philosophy. Three central concerns of political philosophy have been the political economy by which property rights are defined and access to capital is regulated, the demands of justice in distribution and punishment, and the rules of truth and evidence that determine judgments in the law.As an academic discipline, Western political philosophy has its origins in ancient Greek society, when city-states were experimenting with various forms of political organization including monarchy, tyranny, aristocracy, oligarchy, and democracy.

One of the first, extremely important classical works of political philosophy is Plato’s Republic, which was followed by Aristotle’s Politics. Roman political philosophy was influenced by the Stoics, and the Roman statesman Cicero wrote on political philosophy. Medieval EuropeMedieval political philosophy in Europe was heavily influenced by Christian thinking. It had much in common with the Islamic thinking in that the Roman Catholics also subordinated philosophy to theology. Perhaps the most influential political philosopher of the medieval period was St. Thomas Aquinas who helped reintroduce Aristotle’s works, which had only been preserved by the Muslims, along with the commentaries of Averroes.

Aquinas’s use of them set the agenda for scholastic political philosophy, and dominated European thought for centuries. European RenaissanceDuring the Renaissance secular political philosophy began to emerge after about a century of theological political thought in Europe. While the Middle Ages did see secular politics in practice under the rule of the Holy Roman Empire, the academic field was wholly scholastic and therefore Christian in nature. One of the most influential works during this burgeoning period was Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince, written between 1511-12 and published in 1532, after Machiavelli’s death.

That work, as well as The Discourses, a rigorous analysis of the classical period, did much to influence modern political thought in the West.A minority (including Jean-Jacques Rousseau) could interpret The Prince as a satire meant to give the Medici after their recapture of Florence and their subsequent expulsion of Machiavelli from Florence. Though the work was written for the di Medici family in order to perhaps influence them to free him from exile, Machiavelli supported the Republic of Florence rather than the oligarchy of the di Medici family.At any rate, Machiavelli presents a pragmatic and somewhat consequentialist view of politics, whereby good and evil are mere means used to bring about an end, i.

e. he secure and powerful state. Thomas Hobbes, well known for his theory of the social contract, goes on to expand this view at the start of the 17th century during the English Renaissance. These theorists were driven by two basic questions: one, by what right or need do people form states; and two, what the best form for a state could be. These fundamental questions involved a conceptual distinction between the concepts of “state” and “government. ” It was decided that “state” would refer to a set of enduring institutions through which power would be distributed and its use justified.

The term “government” would refer to a specific group of people who occupied, and indeed still occupy the institutions of the state, and create the laws and ordinances by which the people, themselves included, would be bound. This conceptual distinction continues to operate in political science, although some political scientists, philosophers, historians and cultural anthropologists have argued that most political action in any given society occurs outside of its state, and that there are societies that are not organized into states which nevertheless must be considered in political terms.Political and economic relations were drastically influenced by these theories as the concept of the guild was subordinated to the theory of free trade, and Roman Catholic dominance of theology was increasingly challenged by Protestant churches subordinate to each nation-state, which also (in a fashion the Roman Catholic church often decried angrily) preached in the vulgar or native language of each region Aristotle Aristotle was born in 384 BCE at Stagirus, a Greek colony and seaport on the coast of Thrace.His father Nichomachus was court physician to King Amyntas of Macedonia, and from this began Aristotle’s long association with the Macedonian Court, which considerably influenced his life.

Aristotle does not regard politics as a separate science from ethics, but as the completion, and almost a verification of it. The moral ideal in political administration is only a different aspect of that which also applies to individual happiness. Humans are by nature social beings, and the possession of rational speech (logos) in itself leads us to social union.Key Political Ideas Aristotle states that the state is a community and is the highest community aiming at the highest good. The family is the first form of association, lowest in the chain of social evolution and lowest on the rung of values, because it is established by nature ???for the supply of men???s everyday wants.

??? The village is the second form of association, genetically more complex than the family, and aiming ???at something more than the supply of daily needs,??? meeting at least some rudimentary and primitive cultural wants that the family cannot satisfy.The third and highest form of association is the city-state, highest in terms of social evolution and highest in terms of value and purpose. In the family, man reproduces himself; in the village he satisfies elementary wants of human companionship; in the state alone, he realizes his entire self, and particularly the highest part of himself. Aristotle says that man is a political animal by nature and that only gods or beasts can exist without the confines of the sheltering city.

He states that man cannot be conceived as being apart from or superior to the state because, ???the whole is of necessity prior to the part???.Only a ???beast or god??? is unable to live in society, or has no need for it. Aristotle regards the slave as a piece of live property having no existence except in relation to his master. Slavery is a natural institution because there is a ruling and a subject class among people related to each other as soul to body; however, we must distinguish between those who are slaves by nature, and those who have become slaves merely by war and conquest.

He concedes to slaves the mental ability of apprehending the rational actions and orders of their masters but denies them the ability of acting rationally on their own initiative.Aristotle maintains ???the nature of the state is to be a plurality???; where ???a state is not made up only of so many men, but different kinds of men. ??? This is to say that different kinds of people must exist in it; whether the rich, poor, slaves or non-citizens. Aristotle states that of true governments, there are three: kingship, aristocracy and constitutional government. Each form has its perversion, of which there are also three: tyranny, oligarchy and democracy (the rule of the poor).

Of the three forms Aristotle holds monarchy to be most ideal kind of government.He believes that if a man is found ???preeminent in virtue???, who surpasses in virtue and political capacity ???all the rest???; he cannot be regarded as a part of the state, subject to the law like everybody else. ???Such a one may truly be deemed a God among men. ??? Since there is no law for men of preeminent virtue, monarchs ???are themselves a law???. Aristotle speaks of monarchy and aristocracy as the ???perfect state???, the government of the best, both forms aiming at the general good; the main difference between the two being that in monarchy virtue is centered in one ???preeminent??? man, whereas in aristocracy virtue is diffused among several men.

The deterioration of aristocracy is oligarchy, in which government by the wealthy is carried on to their own benefit rather than for that of the whole state. The third of the true forms of state is constitutional government (polity). He defines it as the state where the citizens administer for common interest. The degenerate form of constitutional government (polity) is called by Aristotle democracy and is defined as a system in which the poor rule. He considers democracy to be the most tolerable of the three degenerate forms.Plato was born in Athens in c.

27 B. C. E. He was a pupil of Socrates, whom he considered the most just man of his time, and who, although did not leave any writings behind, exerted a large influence on philosophy. His most renowned pupil was Aristotle.

Plato died in c. 347 B. C. E. During his lifetime, Athens turned away from her military and imperial ambitions and became the intellectual center of Greece. She gave host to all the four major Greek philosophical schools founded in the course of the fourth century: Plato???s Academy, Aristotle???s Lyceum, and the Epicurean and Stoic schools.

Plato believes that conflicting interests of different parts of society can be harmonized. The best, rational and righteous political order which he proposes, leads to a harmonious unity of society and allows each of its parts to flourish, but not at the expense of others. The theoretical design and practical implementation of such order, he argues, are impossible without virtue. Key Political Ideas Plato believed that the right kind of government and politics can be the legitimate object of rigorous, rational analysis, rather than the inevitable product of muddling through fear and faith, indolence and improvisation.

This Platonic assumption of the applicability of reason to social relations is one of the key elements that goes into the making of our political outlook and temperament; to the extent that we believe in the possibility of applying reason and critical analysis to the solution of social and political issues. Plato in the Republic is opposed to democracy through the division of the population into rulers, fighters and producers (farmers, artisans and traders).A numerically small aristocracy of rulers, in command of a well ??? trained body of soldiers and administrators, governs the third class, or producers, which constitutes four-fifths or more of the population. He believed that the best rulers are the philosopher kings/guardians, and the guardians and the auxiliaries form a crucial part of a successful government. Plato believed in a highly administrative and political class, dedicated to public service without consideration of personal happiness or financial gain.The life of the guardians and auxiliaries excludes individual interests, whether in property, love or family.

Plato had a concept where he saw government as the highest moral and practical task to which men of knowledge and virtue ought to devote themselves. He reserved educational opportunities of prolonged duration and intensity for future rulers only and believed that the selection of rulers could best be made through the prolonged training of men and women, generally those born into the ruling class or picked, in exceptional situations, from the lower class of the workers, farmers and merchants.Plato assumes that truth is something eternal, unchanging and unchangeable and that it can be made accessible to a select few through an ingeniously devised training reserved for the future fighters and rulers. The preparation of the rulers begins before they are born, as even the pairing of the parents is arranged by a preconceived plan that is to ensure the highest physical and mental qualities of the offspring to be bred. Nothing is left to personal whim or accident from infancy on and the process of education, both theoretical and practical, continues until age of fifty.Literature, music, physical and military instruction, elementary and advanced mathematics, philosophy and metaphysics, and subordinate military and civilian-service assignments are the planned program of training philosopher-rulers.

Plato describes four unjust states in the Republic: Timocracy ??? this state is based on military honours and ambitions. Gradually, however, warriors accumulate wealth, which becomes more important than the welfare of the citizens, greed takes over and the state turns into an Oligarchy. In an oligarchy only the rich rule.The majority become impoverished and have no role in government. The rich and the poor plot against each other and finally the poor overthrow the rich, confiscate their property and establish a democracy.

In a democracy the citizens vote a tyrant dictator into power to restore order to a state where a few people take advantage and accumulate great wealth; but the tyrant grabs power for himself and destroys anyone who opposes him and as such the state becomes tyrannical. Aristotle vs. Plato To compare the political theories of two great philosophers of politics is to first examine each theory in depth.Plato is regarded by many experts as the first writer of political philosophy, and Aristotle is recognized as the first political scientist. These two men were great thinkers. They each had ideas of how to improve existing societies during their individual lifetimes.

It is necessary to look at several areas of each theory to seek the difference in each. The main focus of Plato is a perfect society. He creates a blueprint for a utopian society, in his book The Republic, out of his disdain for the tension of political life. This blueprint was a sketch of a society in which the problems he thought were present in his society would be eased.Plato sought to cure the afflictions of both human society and human personality. Essentially what Plato wants to achieve is a perfect society.

Aristotle, unlike Plato, is not concerned with perfecting society. He just wants to improve on the existing one. He was a gifted philosopher, but he had no knowledge of God. His philosophy contributes to thought that each thing or event has more than one ???reason??? that helps to explain what, why, and where it is.

Aristotle says full excellence can be realized only by mature men or upper class, not by women or children or manual workers whom he also did not want to allow voting rights.He emphasized the concept of the rule of law rather than the individuals. He says that the best political community is formed by citizens of the middle class, those who are educated. Rather than produce a blueprint for the perfect society, Aristotle suggested, in his work, the Politics, that the society itself should reach for the best possible system that could be attained. Utopia is a solution in abstract, a solution that has no concrete problem.

There is no solid evidence that all societies are in need of such drastic reformation as Plato suggests. Aristotle discovers that the best possible society has already been obtained.All that can be done is to try to improve on the existing one. Plato’s utopia consists of three distinct, non-hereditary class systems. The Guardians consist of non ruling Guardians and ruling Guardians. The non-rulers are a higher level of civil servants and the ruling is the society’s policy makers.

Auxiliaries are soldiers and minor civil servants. Finally the Workers are composed of farmers and artisans, most commonly unskilled laborers. The Guardians are to be wise and good rulers. It is important that the rulers who emerge must be a class of craftsmen who are public-spirited in temperament and skilled in the arts of government areas.

The guardians are to be placed in a position in which they are absolute rulers. They are supposed to be the select few who know what is best for society. Aristotle disagrees with the idea of one class holding discontinuing political power. The failure to allow circulation between classes excludes those men who may be ambitious, and wise, but are not in the right class of society to hold any type of political power. Aristotle looks upon this ruling class system as an ill-conceived political structure.

He quotes “It is a further objection that he deprives his Guardians even of happiness, maintaining that happiness of the whole state which should be the object of legislation,” ultimately he is saying that Guardians sacrifice their happiness for power and control. Guardians who lead such a strict life will also think it necessary to impose the same strict lifestyle on the society it governs. Aristotle puts a high value on moderation. Many people favor moderation because it is part-liberal and part-conservative. Plato outlawed private property for the rulers as a possible menace to their sense of unity and their devotion to the state.In contrast, Aristotle denies that private property is in itself a threat to moral perfection and he defends this view on four grounds.

Firstly through the incentive and progress argument when ???every one has a distinct interest, men will not complain of one another and they will make more progress because every one will be attending to his own business. ??? Aristotle links the idea of self-interest with that of social progress through greater individual effort and competence. Secondly is the argument of the pleasure that the ownership of property gives ???for all, or almost all, men love money and other such objects in a measure.Aristotle considers it from the viewpoint of self respect and material self realization and not from the viewpoint of selfishness and miserliness. Thirdly is the argument of liberality where he states that it takes a system of private property, with at least some wealth and inequality, to set an example of liberality or do liberal action, as liberality comes through the ownership of private property. Fourthly is the argument which states that if it has existed for such a long time then??? we should not disregard the experience of ages.

??? Plato???s theory of ideas basically looks away from object to realm of ideas and the just state.He created a system of philosophy that embraced the world of nature and the social world. He thinks that the universe???s standards of right and Justice exist and that these are arrived at through thought. He believed that there is a higher world of reality different from the things that we experience today. Plato says the world of things is unstable, transitory and imperfect, while true wisdom he says is obtained through knowledge of the ideas that are perceived with the senses.

Plato says the soul has three intellects. 1) Reason: The pursuit of knowledge. 2) Spiritedness: Includes self, assertation, courage and ambition. 3) Desire: The savage, many headed monster that relishes food, sex and possession. On the other hand Aristotle believes that Plato is underestimating the qualitative change in human character and personality that would have to take place in order to achieve his utopia.

Plato chose to tell the reader of his Republic how men would act and what their attitudes would be in a perfect society. Aristotle tries to use real men in the real world in an experimental fashion to foresee how and in which ways they can be.Both Plato and Aristotle agree that justice exists in an objective sense: that is, it dictates a belief that the good life should be provided for all individuals no matter how high or low their social status. “In democracies, for example, justice is considered to mean equality, in oligarchies, again inequality in the distribution of office is considered to be just,??? says Aristotle.

Aristotle puts emphasis on the institution of the polis. This institution is not the state or society, but merely the larger unit of the two. The polis was set up to allow political participation on the part of the average citizen.This contradicts Plato’s theory of one ruling class controlling the political power and all decisions that affect the entire society. The theory of Democracy that Aristotle derived states that democracy is a “perversion” form of government of “polity”. Aristotle said, “The people at large should be sovereign rather than the few best???.

Plato would never allow the full public participation in government as Aristotle would like. According to Plato public judgments of approval and disapproval are based on belief and not on knowledge. Plato thinks that if a revolution was to take place it would be a palace revolution.A palace revolution occurs when there is a power transfer from one power holder to someone else.

Aristotle sees the cause of revolutions originating with either the rich or the poor. He feels that the means of preventing revolutions is to anticipate them. Plato thinks that in a utopia a disgruntled group of Guardians will emerge and break from the rules. He thinks that in an oligarchy two things may happen to spark a revolution: the first being the ruler and their offspring grow to be weak rulers and too sympathetic, the second is that the number of poor grows larger and suffer exploitation at the hands of those in power over them.

Like Plato, Aristotle puts virtue of the rulers above consent of the ruled, although both would prefer to have the ruled submit voluntarily to their rulers, to avoid the necessity of compulsion. Aristotle states that to know the causes which destroy constitutions is also to know the causes which ensure their preservation. Plato and Aristotle alike were two men who had ideas on ways to improve existing society. Plato, a political philosopher, was in the pursuit of philosophical truth.Aristotle was concerned with the citizen and the design of political institutions.

They both had well thought out ideas and plans on how to build a better society. Both Aristotle and Plato have had a tremendous impact on political scientists of today. Aristotle helped to develop some democratic ideas. In conclusion these men were great thinkers; their opinions on society and its functions were quite different, but they both had the same intention, to build a better way of life for the societies they lived in and for the societies that would come.Bibliography

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