Aristotle vs Plato

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Aristotle is considered by many to be one of the most influential philosophers in history. As a student of Plato, he built on his mentor’s metaphysical teachings of things like The Theory of Forms and his views on the soul. However, he also challenged them, introducing his own metaphysical ideas such as act and potency, hylemorphism, and the four causes. He used these ideas to explain his account of the soul and the immateriality of intellect.

Prior to Aristotle, philosophers like Parmenides and Heraclitus argued about the existence of change. Aristotle used the terms act and potency to respond to Parmenides arguments about change’s non-existence and bridge the gap between Parmenides and Heraclitus’ polar views. Aristotle used act and potency to examine numerous things such as, motion, causality and metaphysics. He explained that the act or actuality of a thing is its truest way of being and that potency or potential is a things capability of being, further than its current existence. For example, a soccer ball is in actuality on the field; but in potentiality it can be kicked and enter the goal. According to Aristotle’s reasoning, the becoming or change of the soccer ball occurs when a potential is actualized. Though these changes occur, the thing itself stays the same. When the ball is kicked, it loses the actuality of being on the field and gains the actuality of being in the goal; in turn, the ball then loses the potentiality of being in the goal and gains the potentiality of being on the field. Aristotle later explains that the “full reality” of a thing is when the actuality and potentiality of a thing are combined. He notes that while things can be “pure potency,” meaning not actual or real, that there is...

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...usible argument. I can see the understanding in both schools of thought. If I were to think logically I would say Aristotle, because he based his conclusions on science and evidence. However, it is their views on the soul where I make my decision on who I (If I had to choose) agree with. I personally believe that the soul, my soul, is something that exists separate from my body. I believe that my body is a temporary and imperfect thing, but that my soul is immortal. I cannot say that I have come to this conclusion because it is the more “plausible” answer, but rather a belief in my faith that this life is temporary and all souls are eternal. While I understand that this view isn’t completely in line with Plato’s, I think Plato’s is closer than Aristotle’s to mine.

Aristotle. "De Anima." Basic Works of Aristotle. Ed. Richard McKeon. New York: Random House, 1941.

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