Forms and Causes: Philosophies of Aristotle and Plato

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Aristotle and Plato are two of the most influential philosophers in history. Plato was Socrates’ greatest student and in turn taught Aristotle. In time, Aristotle became Plato’s greatest student. Together Aristotle and Plato, along with Socrates, laid the groundwork for what we now know as Western philosophy and science.

Plato, in addition to being a philosopher, wrestled at the Olympic level, is one of the classical Greek authors, mathematicians and the founder of The Academy, the first higher learning institute in the west. In short, Plato is one of the great thinkers in history and his contributions to philosophy, ethics and politics are many and varied. One of Plato’s main philosophical ideas is based on the idea that the world around us is not the most real world it is only the image of the real world. The material world around you can change, as can your perception of it. The material becomes immaterial and so is weaker and less defined than abstract ideas. The most real world therefore is defined by conceptual but substantive forms. The material world mimics the forms. As an aid to understanding the idea of forms he wrote the “Allegory of the Cave.” The story goes, if from birth people were immobilized and forced to stare at a wall in a cave where shadows of people walking by could be seen and echoes could be heard but not the people or the original sounds. Might not the people, when removed from the cave, believe that the only real things are the shadows and echoes? This is an analogy for how Plato’s idea of the world of forms works. The shadows are the material world while the physical people represent the forms.

Aristotle is a perfect example of a polymath, perhaps only second to “the Renaissance Man” Leonardo Da Vin...

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.... Trying to decide who is most important is an exercise in futility.

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