Platoism And Aristotelian Theory Essay, Research Paper
Ancient Greece has made an everlasting effect on society and culture throughout time. Between it’s great thinkers and intellectuals, Ancient Greece has created a basis of knowledge that has been modified and altered over the course of history. People have learned a great deal from these superb intellectuals. Philosophers and intellectuals alike, respect the ideals and principles of Greek thinkers, especially those of Plato and Aristotle. Their reasoning has had significant impact on several different cultures. It is important to look back on the past in order to advance in the future. The past carries the link to the future. Intellectuals seem to agree with this theory. The philosophy’s of Plato and Aristotle have been mutated several different times and in several different ways. However, it is very common that one modifies the ideas of others. In fact, sometimes it is the only way to progress. If philosophy’s or experiments stood forever, would anything new ever develop? Maybe, but it is more effective and valuable to society if they are altered. Scientists imitate old experiments to hopefully discover new findings. This is also true in the case of philosophers. In fact, the great principles and theories of Plato and Aristotle have had a significant impact on literature, philosophies, and education from the early Christians to the formation of the Protestant Church.
Plato is one of the most influential philosophers in history. He was born in Athens, about 427 BC and died there in 347 BC. He was a devoted follower of Socrates, however left after the execution of his mentor in 399 BC. After several years Plato returned to Athens and founded the legendary Academus. The Academy is believed to the first European University. The curriculum included studies in, philosophy, astronomy, biology, mathematics, and rhetoric. There, he taught and philosophized for the rest of his life. His works, which are perhaps the most influential writings ever published, consist of a series of dialogues in which the discussions between Socrates and others are presented with infinite charm.
Plato was chiefly interested in moral philosophy, and despised natural philosophy (science) as an inferior and unworthy sort of knowledge. He believed knowledge had no practical use; it existed for the abstract good of the soul. He also believed that mathematics can be applied to the heavens. The heavenly bodies, Plato believed, exhibited perfect geometric form. He writes, in his dialogue called Timaeus, that the universe has five possible regular solids. Plato used this theory to explain the phenomena of the heavens. In addition, he created a dialectal style of debate, which was the pursuit of knowledge through questions, answers and additional questions. Plato’s influence extended past his own life and indeed has never died. The Academy remained a viable institution until 529 AD, when the Eastern Roman Emperor ordered it closed. It was the last stronghold of paganism in the Christian World. (http://www.rit.edu/plato.html) Plato’s philosophy has remained an enduring influence on the thinking of the Christian Church throughout the Middle Ages.
On the other hand, the prodigy of Plato, Aristotle modified his work and took it to another level. Aristotle was born in 384 BC and died in 332 BC. He, like Plato has had significant impact on thought and reason. He attended The Academy, but left after the death of his mentor, Plato. Aristotle believed the Academy was placing more emphasis on math and theory, rather then natural philosophy. Similarly to Plato, he believed in natural law; that on Earth things were changeable and corrupt, where in the Heavens, things were permanent and unchanging. Aristotle also thought that nature was to be understood like man himself– moving towards goals, striving towards the best possible arrangement; in the short acting like an organism. He was convinced that the universe was supremely a living being in its entirety and in its perks. In addition, he dealt with subjects like, politics, literacy, ethics and science. Like Plato, Aristotle founded the academy, Lyceum. There, manuscripts were copied and stored in a small room. This is believed to be the first library. Again, the emphasis of the school was based on natural philosophy and natural law. Aristotle, like Plato has had significant importance in the development of future scholars, Christian thinking, and humanism.
The philosophy of Plato and Aristotle had considerable impact on the development of Christianity. Their theories and principles were modified to create a ‘new’ theology. It was the philosophy and ideology of Western Christendom during the height of the Middle Ages. Christian ideology was based on the use of reason to deepen the understanding of what is believed on faith, and ultimately to be able to rationalize and understand the idea of pure faith. Basically this theology is used to prove the existence of God by rational means. This presumption parallels the Aristotelian theory of natural law; that the universe is a supreme living being. Aristotelian philosophy became the official language of the church. In fact, Christian Europe gained the lessons of Aristotle through the Arabs and began translating his books into Latin in the late twelfth century and early thirteenth century. It was also believed that Christian philosophies were criticized if they were not founded on the basic principals of Aristotle. Their bud of wisdom and theories spurred an understanding of Christianity in Europe.
The Christians accepted the views and ideas of Plato and Aristotle. St. Augustine harnessed their knowledge and came to his own understanding of Platoism. He went through several different levels of consciousness with Christian Theology. He first appreciated the idea of Manichism, which was the idea that there was two gods: a god that created goodness and a god that created evil. He then disposed of that theory and accepted the idea of Neo-Platoism, which was creation is constant and it is eternal. In addition Neo-Platonists believed that there was one source of light, presumably a being and that source of light created no beginning, middle or end. Finally, St. Augustine came to his final stage in understanding Christian theology. He based his ideas on Greek philosophy and believed in several different theories. First, evil was not created. Rather it was caused by the absence of light. Secondly, he accepted Aristotle’s idea that faith is separate from the world of matter and that to understand faith is to let oneself free from the world of matter. Thirdly, he believed that one possesses free will and that one has the ability to choose right or wrong. St.Augustine used these Greek originated principals to better understand his own faith.
Charlemagne, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire from 800 AD till his death in 814 AD, was also affected by the ideas and principles of the great Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle. In fact, he based his Palace School on the curriculum of the academies that Plato and Aristotle had once established. Alcuin who was left in charge of the development of the Palace School, created seven different areas of study that paralleled those that were studied at the Academy. Alcuin believed in the importance of Greek Philosophy and placed high emphasis on the ideas and principles of Plato and Aristotle. He and Charlemagne created a mass literacy program where that every member of the clergy was to be educated in Greek and Latin. Aside from that, Alcuin insisted that they be instructed in areas of grammar, logic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music. He centered the education around Christian materials and taught his students the importance of faith through education. The ideas of Plato and Aristotle are prevalent in the creation of the Palace School.
Plato and Aristotle impacted the ideas of several twelfth and thirteenth century scholars. Thomas Aquinas, who was most effected by these great thinkers, produced an extreme amount of writing on Aristotelian works. He was a twelfth century philosopher that placed his proof of the existence of God through Aristotelian logic. Aquinas used a posteriori argument on empirical observation: “For example: All motion is caused; we can observe motion; but there cannot be an infinite regress of movers, therefore there must be a prime mover who is God.” (Chambers, et al, 285) He also believed that natural truth is ultimately grounded on observation, but in fact, he observed very little. He used Aristotle’s experiments and observations rather then doing his own. (Chambers, et al, 285) Aquinas was able to use the theory and logic of Aristotle to create his own ideas and thoughts. On the other hand, another twelfth century scholar, Duns Scotus, used Platonic theory. He believed that faith was logic to reason: “Placing emphasis on a priori reasoning, a Platonic concept that deduced arguments from concepts already held on the mind, Duns Scotus argued that the mind already had a concept of God. Once the mind accepted the idea of God from faith, it could then produce the necessity for God’s existence.” (Chambers, et al, 286) Similarly to Aquinas’ method, he used the basis of Platonic theory and developed it farther. In addition, William of Ockham, was another scholar that used the logic of Aristotle in his investigation of natural law. He, like Aquinas was attracted to Aristotle’s empirical observations. However, unlike Aquinas, he argued that the articles of Christian faith could not be proved with logic and that they should be left to belief. Observation applied to nature. That did not only include the Earth but the heavens, too. These men accepted some of the arguments that the Greek philosophers put forth and developed Platoism and Aristotelian to a greater extent.
Again, the ideas and thoughts of Plato and Aristotle made an appearance in the period of the European Renaissance. Humanism, which is the a minor branch of the medieval educational curriculum, where rhetoric, and the art of good speaking and writing is emphasized. (Chambers, et al, 394) It is the intensive study of Greek as well as Latin classics, ancient art and archeology, as well as, classical history. It gave scholars a more sophisticated view on antiquity. The ancient past was to be viewed, imitated and admired. Intellectuals believed that their was nothing more important then reading classical works on their own terms, in the original Greek or Latin style. Translators devoted most of their time to translating the works of Aristotle more then any other natural philosopher. There was even an academy that was devoted to the works of Plato and Aristotle. Marsilo Finco founded the Florentine Academy in Florence Italy in the fifteenth century. There, his pupils studied Plato in the original Greek, as well as, grammar, rhetoric, history, literature and of course natural philosophy. He turned the curriculum into a more metaphysical speculation then anything. Even though Platoism was a large part of the curriculum, Aristotelian was taught as well.
Humanists did not want to train people for the next life or educate yet another generation of “dry philosophers”. They believed that if the humanists saw themselves using the same curriculum, works and readings as the Romans, then they would produce an imperishable heritage of art and literature. Their revival in the fifteenth century had resulted in a new flavoring of literature and fine arts. The Universities taught people to be Aristotle experts; a schooling of the humanities would prepare students to be future Caesar’s, Ciceros and Thucydides. In fact, the Renaissance created that effect.
Finally, the Protestant church was minorly affected by Platoism and Aristotelian theory. Instead of basing there faith on logic, similarly to the Catholics, the Protestants took an approach to faith considerably like St. Augustine. They believed that they could be saved just by their faith and love of God. This emphasized a personal belief and focused on God as the true source of grace. The Protestants did look to the philosophy’s of Plato and Aristotle as the basis for their faith.
In the same way, the Northern humanists treated Platoism and Aristotelian theory differently. They did not abandoned the interest in classical authors or the methods for analyzing texts that had been developed by the Southern humanists, they however, used these methods in a new style. They analyzed the Bible to get a cleared understanding of Jesus and the apostles in order to provided a better guide to true piety and morality. (Chambers, et al, 434) The great ideas of Plato and Aristotle were dying out. They was no longer placed as much emphasis on their works, however these two great philosophers were still recognized.
One can see the great impact of these two men, Plato and Aristotle. These great thinkers will be forever scrutinized and studied in order to get a better understanding of the world around us. It is amazing how these two men have influenced so many great societies. In most cases, these societies would not exist without the basis of their knowledge. Today, philosophy and logic is greatly based upon Platoism and Aristotlism. Their contributions will be idealized and recognized for centuries to come.