Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Plato Vs Aristotle Revisited

I've been thinking about this post earlier in the month where I quoted Ayn Rand on how Aristotle 'paved the way' for the golden ages in Western civilization.  As I said then, I don't know enough of the philosophical history behind the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, etc., to really comment on how true that is.  (I still don't, but I'd find some really solid analysis on this to be fascinating.)  I did think quite a bit on the approach that each one encourages towards learning.
Plato is famous for presenting the Socratic method, in which a pupil is asked a series of questions in hopes of finding true answers.  The Aristotle approach (well, the surviving records) are very much lecture notes.  Plato makes the student work and continually ask questions about what they believe.  Aristotle gives you the answers so that you can learn them.  If we look just at this aspect, I'd have to give the nod to Plato.  I'd much rather have a culture that respects questioning wisdom than one that simply applies the knowledge that has been given to it.
Which isn't to say that I'm all that fond of rejecting received knowledge simply because it is received.

The writings of Aristotle are like a guide book from a very wise man.  In more than 2000 years, I can't see any large improvements over his writings on drama.  Which is amazing!  I can see how he inspires a pure scientific approach.  He looks at what is and tries to explain that.  This is the 'objective' viewpoint that so inspired Rand.
The writings of Plato ask us to consider things.  His approach produces questions and sharpens definitions.  Sometimes the discussion goes into unproductive areas, but not always.  With good guidance, the method has obvious benefits.
I'd be very surprised if Western thought hadn't benefited greatly from both writers.

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