Socrates, Plato and Aristotle
Socrates, Plato and Aristotle
In the philosophical world, there are many great thinkers, but the three that stand out more than others are Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. These men were the first to view the world not by relying on emotion, but rather by reason. Ancient Greece and Rome were times when education, the arts, and great thinkers were revered. The people of the time period had their ideologies, or system of beliefs and the changes that were needed to obtain these beliefs. The philosophers were the ones who studied the nature or origins of the ideas that the people held. It was this time when reasoning skills were admired and encouraged that the three greatest philosophers were produced.
Socrates was the first of these great philosophers of Ancient Greece and in fact he is mostly known as the father of Western philosophy. The Socrates Method which illustrates his pedagogy or teaching method is still in use today. This famous method is formulated with a series of questioning. The teacher or tutor questions a student about a thought, and keeps questioning the student until he/she completely reaches a conclusion. There is no lecture or giving of information. Instead, the student is forced to reach the conclusion on his/her own. The higher level of thinking is the most prized quality of the student. That higher level is the ultimate goal of an individual.
Socrates used the same questioning technique in his personal thoughts as with others. It was through his own method that Socrates questioned religion. He explored reincarnation as well as the polytheistic religion of Ancient Greece, as well as mysticism. He believed greatly in an inner voice that he felt was not something that was from man, but was from a greater source. He never concluded the origin of this divine inner voice yet he believed in its existence. Intuition to him was divine. He felt that since there were times that this inner voice went against his logic and was right that it was free from any part of him as a human and must therefore come from the gods.
Plato was a student of the great philosopher Socrates before he was executed. The Greek student, along with his mentor helped solidify the foundation on which Western philosophy is built. Plato’s most famous contribution to philosophy is his work the Republic. Plato looks at the individual and society when he discusses virtues, justice, wisdom, courage, and moderation. (Kemerling) Plato felt that a superior educational system was needed for both men and women so that they would have the ability to become philosophers. However, he felt that very few are equipped with enough reason and wisdom to govern.
Plato did believe in an existence of a world outside of the one we live. He thought that there was the one where he lived that was constantly changing and then there was the one that was not changing and was perfect. In the Republic, he used the analogy of being chained to in a cave facing the wall. All the person could see was the wall of the cave, yet shadows could be seen to allow the person to know that there was more to the cave than he/she could see. He felt the same was true with the world that humans live. There is evidence that there is more, but there is no way that it can be seen and understood as long as the only thing that can be experienced is the physical world.
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher, teacher of Alexander the Great, and pupil of Plato so he was heavily influenced by Socrates. Even though Aristotle was the pupil of Plato and his friend until his death, he was more inclined to value experience and he often looked to nature to prove his points. Aristotle was not a dualist as Plato was, and he felt that things that were concrete and things that were abstract could not be separated. Therefore, a person’s ideas and beliefs were influenced directly from his/her physical experiences.
Aristotle was a firm believer in the golden mean. He believed that there was balance and harmony in the middle of two harsh extremes. His idea of government was that it should not allow its citizens complete freedoms and turn a blind eye to everything a person did and it certainly should not rule its people with an iron fist. He felt that a good government should be supportive of its citizens while allowing them to conduct their own lives. A good leader should also be one who followed the golden mean, according to Aristotle. He should abstain from excess while identifying and controlling his defects.
Aristotle, while he believed in God, did not see him as a perfect being. He believed that God or gods were more connected to nature than omnipotence and ruling the world and everything in it. He was not opposed to religion and in fact felt it was an honorable thing. His ideology was that it was through nature that one reached god. This philosophy changed the world and has been evident throughout history. During medieval times, the transcendentalist, the counter cultures of the nineteen sixties and early nineteen seventies are examples of how Aristotle’s views on nature and god have existed through time.
The three Greek philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle shaped the world of philosophy and the world in general. Many have strayed from their thoughts, but there are just as many who believe that what they stood for is relevant in any time period. All of their works have stood the test of time.
Kemerling, Garth. “Plato.” 2006. The Philosophy Pages. 27, September 2008