Aristotle's and Plato's Metaphysics
Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy concerned with elucidating the essence and origins of truth. Metaphysics attempts to justify the explanation for nature's existence and all that is in it. Aristotle defined it as "the first philosophy" and claimed that it is the knowledge that deals with "first causes and the theory of the thing." It describes how things "are" in the physical world, as well as the world in which we live. On the other hand, the essence of metaphysics makes it difficult to understand since there is no straight cut point or distinct distinguishing factors. The various approaches to metaphysics contradict with each other as noted with the earlier philosophers: Plato and Aristotle. The two had sharply contrasting ideas about various aspects of nature and how it related with the existence of human beings. As much as Aristotle was Plato’s student, he developed his line of thoughts that was quite diverse from his teacher’s. They both believed in the world form that was characterised with some aspects beyond common human comprehension as noted with their different conception of God.
The perspectives of Aristotle and Plato are largely shaped by their understanding of different parts of Metaphysics such as epistemology, ontology, and cosmology. Epistemology refers to the study of nature and a range of information as well as acceptable beliefs. But it is also important to note that religion does not qualify or is not categorised as part of metaphysics since it does not fall under part of acceptable beliefs. Thus, the concept of the existence of God does not come into the context in the part of the beliefs. Epistemologists work with tasks which may be put into two groups. It can also be termed as finding out what it means to say that “something is known or unknown to someone.”1 It refers to knowing what knowledge is and the way to differentiate between situations in which one understands something and those which a person is unfamiliar.
Ontology on the other hand, is a philosophic study of overall existence (being, becoming) or of what is applicable neutrally to all that is real. It is a division of metaphysics dealing with the nature and associations of being. Ontology focuses on several related questions such as “what things exist,” “what categories do they belong to,” “is there such a thing as objective reality,” “what does the verb ‘to be’ means.” Various significant philosophical complications are at the crossing of ontology and logic. Both ontology and logic are extensive areas within philosophy and partially for the reason that they are not related in the way they explain philosophical problems. Lastly, cosmology can be defined as the study that puts together physics and astronomy which are both natural sciences in a combined energy to understand the physical world as a whole. Cosmology can also be referred to as division of astronomy concerned with evolution and origin of the earth.
Unlike physics that deals with laws of gravity, the universe, and magnetic forces, metaphysics goes beyond physics to search for the cause of reality. It explores the origin of immortal souls and the existence of some higher being. Metaphysics has varied opinions because its topics are immeasurable with no tangible results. Neither has their existence been proven to be true. To date there is no specific logical explanations to questions regarding some concepts of metaphysics thereby leaving the modern scholars at a cross-road similar to when Aristotle, Plato, and other metaphysics experts tried to explain those concepts such as those based on beliefs.
Plato and Aristotle had various opposing views which can be narrowed down to select few. They perceived the concept of reality in a different way based on their personal interactions with outside and inside world. They believed in the concept of nature and its existence even though they explained this idea differently. The nature of their thinking was quite different as Aristotle was an outside-in thinker contrary to Plato’s inside-out reasoning. Inside-out reasoning means that Plato established his thoughts from within his surrounding and used them to understand outside world. On the other hand, Aristotle gathered the opinions from the world around him and utilized the ideas to make his conclusions. These varied methods to metaphysics caused the difference perspectives in the way Aristotle viewed reality as opposed to Plato’s perception on reality. Aristotle’s beliefs crowned his view on just one aspect of reality. He argued that there was just one impending world and form and occurred within particular things. Moreover, he emphasized that form was not an independent being and happened in the matter. On his side Plato leaned towards two aspects of reality. He stressed on dualistic aspect of Metaphysics and anticipated that there exist two unlike varieties of things – mental and physical. Plato believed that all that is real takes on a form but does not exemplify it. In Plato’s view point, two worlds exist: the becoming and the being. These two varied views between Aristotle and Plato formed the basis of their disagreement on some aspects of nature of metaphysics.
Aristotle worried himself mainly with the relationship between substance and form. He saw four final questions that are applicable to anything and described them as four causes: material cause meaning what it is made of, formal cause representing what the thing is, efficient cause that is ‘what made it?’, and lastly final cause or rather ‘what is its purpose?’. On the other hand, Plato stressed on the sphere of varying becoming things and that of static, the existence form that is unchangeable and which everything owes its reality . Aristotle in his outside-in thought believed in existence of just one stage to our reality and within it form and matter originates. Thus, forms do not occur distinctly or separately from details.
In light to divine creation and faith, Aristotle viewed God as unshaken faith and only God could change things; hence, he was unmoved mover. The concept of faith and God forms the basis of the whole imaginary philosophy of Aristotle. The methodology related to Aristotle's doctrine with those of predecessors particularly Plato’s shows an irregular intellectual agreement. Aristotle's doctrine of God was based on strong faith that God existed. Moreover, he thought that certain heavenly life is the first source of motion that is unmoved and therefore informed the doctrine of faith. Aristotle was intentionally using Plato's view and adjusting them to current transformed Platonism as a substitute to Plato's stand. When referring to the being as unmoved mover, it sounds ordinary to realize that it has been modified from Plato's self-moved movers .
Aristotle in the first of his principles gives names but not like unmoved mover or even first principle. Rarely did Aristotle use the name God to refer to the “supreme being”. There are no relations in these names but they possess very minimal content to be valuable. The name God or divine things and the planets are not emphasised in his first perception of metaphysics. The rationale behind the missing name of God and divine things shows that Aristotle’s perspective God was based on understanding of faith as part of important aspect of humans.
These names may appear to bear little regarding the essence compared with God or unmoved mover since they also have varied extensions. Therefore, if nous can be taken to mean a sensible soul then there exists at least as numerous of them as there exist human beings and gods. . However, it is clear that Aristotle acknowledges the good and nous as names of God’s essence. Plato too accepts the good to be the name of the utmost heavenly principle and as well uses nous to refer to God, the foundation of command to the bodily world.
The good is used to refer to something that is Godly. When Aristotle questioned whether good is "something distinct and itself by itself," clearly or self-consciously, he was making use of Plato's terms to question if there is someone in the first place who could separate “Good-itself” -by which further things exist in a simple logic. The expression in which this assertion was originally made seems uncertain; however, it is distinctive of Aristotle and suggests no actual reluctance. One may reason that when Aristotle approves the Platonic distinctiveness of the good, then his opinion is contrary to his usual position. But Aristotle differentiates between these two phrases- “the good” and the Godly in light to showing that they exist separately but tries to inform a close concept. He begins by inquiring about “the best” which he directly recognizes with the good-itself. He elucidates that the good-itself shows “that to which it fits both to be first all to be by its occurrence and to be first amongst goods, and the source to the others of the existence of good." According to Aristotle, for-the-sake-of-which is the greatest and the origin of the good under it and the leading of all goods so that it would mean the good-itself. The mistake of Plato was never in posting good-itself neither was it in making it separate rather it was in identifying it with the idea of the good and not the final or ultimate cause.
The human mind just like the body can be bad or good giving it abilities like justice or the virtues outlined here as qualitative instead of significant goods. If the human mind were nous it could not probably be referred as a substantial good. In fact, an expression of nous must have been a customary approach of denoting to the first principle. Aristotle while calling the other things gods (characterised all spirituality to men) assuredly was interpreting Greek nous. Moreover, the only remaining portion of Aristotle's philosophy of On Prayer depicts "hoTheos” can be nous or something past nous where apparently Aristotle acknowledges the previous opinion himself and associates the latter with Plato’s theories.
Aristotle attempts to explain what the initial principle means by accepting that it is indeed nous. To explore his understanding of the core of the principle, it is critical to understand what the name nous means in the logic by which Aristotle uses this word in the first principle . He does not mean that God is just one occurrence of nous amongst others even the initial and greatest instance. God must be nous in such an approach that the only being that can be referred to as nous in the world is just God. Of course, it is also correct that God is the only ‘something’ that can be referred to as good in the superior logic in which God is good, but Aristotle clarifies this knowledge of goodness by explaining that this is the logic in which nous is said to be good. So it appears that nous could be applied without the requirement to entirely indicate a particular divine being.
The theorists before Aristotle’s philosophy made nous a God like opinion governing the cosmos and intended nous as a virtue but not in the sense of mind. There is sufficient sign that Plato understood nous in this sense. The predecessors of Plato particularly Anaxagoras also knew nous as a virtue when they were made a principle. Plato declared that all the wise to approve that nous is ruler of those earth and heaven. But Plato also understands other pre-Socratics as conquering with Anaxagoras. Plato himself even as he hoped to be wise about physical nature, he attempted to show nous as the ruler of the physical world. Also, the Athenian Stranger in Laws 12 explains that assured more recent philosophers who must be Plato and his classmates at the school have made the historic doctrine which holds “nous is the commander of everything that is found in the heaven and have enhanced it with a concept of celestial souls.” This exemplifies what Plato did in the Timaeus. He provided a comprehensive theoretical explanation of how nous may have commanded the physical world by use of spiritual souls as its tools.
Plato and Aristotle had a conflicting perspective of religion and the concept of God. The Theists believe in the existence of God as the creator and the one who sustains of the Universe. However, Plato states that there is a realm of abstract objects that exists and is comprised of a complex framework of reality that supersedes this world.
The nous which is the source and commander of the corporeal world is in its place reason’s virtue; therefore, the thinkers of the Philebus acknowledge equally that nous is king or that there is a source "assembling and organizing years and periods and months,” which would in the most acceptable be referred to as nous." The nous is evidently indistinguishable as a virtue. Although Plato emphasizes that nous cannot come-to-be or be existing in everything without a soul, this does not show that nous is this one a sensible soul nor does it reveal that nous does not occur on its own in difference with souls. Plato does not say that nous are souls or that the virtues cannot happen separated from souls but says that nothing excluding a soul can take part in Sophia or nous.
Plato expands on the point equally by stating that "the existence to which unaided it belongs to obtain nous, his soul" or that nothing can possess nous but only in the soul. As noted these expressions "to acquire nous" and "to have nous" are used to mean becoming and being sensible obtaining and having the virtue of purpose.
Plato attributes to precursors earlier held including Anaxagoras to the principle that nous rules the cosmos. However, in Laws 12 he explains that since the early thinkers never identified that the divine bodies had souls or that that soul came before the body, then their views were not fully acceptable at part of logic reasoning. Plato's declarations that just a soul can take part in nous depicts that undertaking Anaxagoras's plan of presenting how nous rule the cosmos. In this light, the idea of Anaxagoras's dependence on machine-driven sources must be thrown away, and in its place allocate an interplanetary character to souls. Ideally, this shows that Plato never understands Anaxagoras to trust that the nous that manages the universe is a celestial sensible soul, or even for the aspect that it is virtuous and is controlled by some cosmic sane soul. It is an unbiased virtue, present by itself and in some way leading the cosmos.
Plato gave a correct interpretation of Anaxagoras. Anaxagoras examines and establishes like "to be hot" or "to be golden" by way of "to sharing in, or having within oneself a percentage of the hot," or "to own within oneself a ration of gold," where "the hot" and "gold" denote massive bodies wrecked up into tiny bits and spread all over the world. The shares may be existent to a larger or smaller extent in some other bodies. Likewise, the base "to be sensible" is articulated as it may be in fairly normal Greek by "to share in nous" or "to hold within oneself a percentage of nous." The virtue of nous just as gold or even the hot is a huge body disseminated throughout the space by the existence of what animal and celestial bodies come to act in a logically methodical manner.
Aristotle in a similar manner as Plato gets in line with the popular "all the wise" in affirming that nous is a ruler of earth and heaven, openly ordering the universes, which as a result rules out lunar things. Moreover, Aristotle starts by appreciating Anaxagoras as in contradiction of more barely materialist thinkers for suggesting nous is being a principle. Here Aristotle like Plato accepts Anaxagoras's proclamation and acknowledges this as being programmatic for the entire thinking of Anaxagoras. In line with Plato and Anaxagoras, Aristotle theorizes nous as a distinctly occurring substance that is the final origin of motion, goodness, and order to the corporeal world. Aristotle appreciates that nous occurs itself-by-itself, which shows that beyond everything, it is distinct from the things that simply have nous. However, Aristotle maintains that nous is not what it has but what it is.
By minimizing the causation of nous to ultimate connection, Aristotle decreases the good-itself to nous, providing with the shadowy good which had been poised by Plato’s past nous as the official source of goodness. Plato had made it a proper origin of goodness or that of harmony in other things and, therefore, not enhanced than whatever it creates. Obviously, this is not the cause appropriate to the good-itself. Empedocles and Anaxagoras, according to Aristotle, recognized the Good with nous, and these were considered accurate.
Conclusively, Metaphysics as Aristotle suggests is the first philosophy or simply the study of being, or wisdom, or theology. He argued that all men suppose what is called wisdom (sophia) to deal with the first cause (aitia) and the principle of things. He urges people to study his work using the tenets mentioned above. The starting point of Aristotle’s study of abstract qualities of existence itself is based on non acceptance of Plato’s theory of Forms. Plato proposes that material objects are changeable and not real; hence, they relate to an eternal, ideal, and stable structure by a common name. Plato rejected the ideas presented by Plato as poetic and empty language thereby preferring to focus on the reality of the material world. Thus, this essay has discussed that despite Aristotle being a student of Plato; he developed his thoughts and contradicted with his teacher. Through exploring the different levels and perspectives of the two philosophers, the essay has established the connection and the difference of opinion in the study of Metaphysics as proposed by Aristotle and Plato. Furthermore, it has shown that both Aristotle and Plato acknowledge the presence of a supreme being which can be assumed to be God. But they caution that the logic behind God can only be found within faith because of unexplainable factors.
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