Aristotle Vs Plato Essay

1089 words - 4 pages

One of the most fundamental questions of moral philosophy as it applies to our everyday lives is the relationship between truth and philosophy, and as such, it is appropriate that Plato, as one of the founders of Western philosophy, attempts to deal with them. Before one can fully comprehend how Plato understands this interconnection, it is imperative to understand how Plato understands truth and happiness as separate entities—that is, what is truth and what is happiness? Plato never explicitly declares what the truth actually is; rather, the closest he comes is describing characteristics of the truth (much in the same way he flirts with defining justice until the Republic). One of the central characteristics of truth is its singular nature. There is only one truth, for Plato, which allows for the possibility that it could be found in many forms, all connected by one thread. Happiness, an idea with which most of us believe ourselves to be much more familiar, is supposedly derived from performing one’s duty, as stated in the Republic. Having proceeded in this manner, it then becomes simpler to qualify how Plato sees the relationship between truth and happiness. For the philosopher, there is one truth and there is only one way to find happiness; as such, truth and happiness in some ways become subsumed within each other: happiness, the attainment of which is most often the goal of everyday life, is found in truth.
Proceeding in the same fashion with Plato’s successor, Aristotle, takes us to a slightly different conclusion owed to the fact that Aristotle does not agree with Plato’s view of truth, approaching it with a more dogmatist perspective, or with Plato’s idea of happiness, which he criticizes as too centered on the community. In this way, Aristotle is one of the forerunners of the individualist, pragmatic, and naturalist philosophers that would come after him. Aristotelian truth is not a matter of escaping the cave we find in Plato’s Republic, though certainly there is some validity to this view. Rather, Aristotelian truth consists in realizing that truth can be found in nature, not just in Platonic forms. His truth is much more pragmatic, focusing on application to everyday life—which makes his Ethics much more of a commonsensical read than Plato’s Republic—and it is in this arena that he pursues the truth. Aristotle, however, does agree with his teacher in some aspects of what happiness is, and his definition of happiness is that it consists in an activity of the soul that agrees with virtue—that is, happiness is perfectly in correspondence with virtue, just as in Plato’s writings. Aristotle sees happiness as the ultimate end of human life, and since it is the ultimate end of human life and it is so closely associated with virtue, the means by which we attain this ultimate end is being virtuous—something that is possible for the Philosopher, as Aquinas called him, only if we strive to attain all of the virtues, and only truth...

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