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Sunday, August 16, 2020

Conservative Plato; Revolutionary Aristotle

Plato is the conservative; Aristotle is the revolutionary. In his dialogues the Gorgias and the Republic, Plato tries to identify and judge the existing ethical and political systems, but in both dialogues, Socrates and his interlocutors are unable to judge which system of ethics and politics is the best. Aristotle’s focus in the Nicomachean Ethics and the Politics is not on identifying and judging but on creating a society in which people experience eudaimonia (happiness). Plato does not draw a clear connection between ethics and politics, but Aristotle insists that politics follows ethics—in the Aristotelian corpus, the Politics follows the Nicomachean Ethics and both works are concerned with the practical matter of enabling people to live with virtue and happiness. In his theory of forms, Plato says that the good is unhanging and transcendental, but Aristotle rejects this idea—he posits that the good, in the sense that it appears in human language, and, in the sense in which it’s desired by men, cannot be transcendental; it must be of this world, something that can be reached by human efforts. Plato aims to explain the existing system; Aristotle aims to overthrow the existing system and create a better system.

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