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What is the difference between Plato and Aristotle?

(20 Posts)
Consils Mon 01-Apr-13 11:09:14

I have read quite a bit about PLato but I am stuck on Aristotle.

Also, who was the first philosopher who proposed that we might be a brain in a vat?

In simple language for a beginner and any good book recommendations very welcome.


EllieArroway Mon 01-Apr-13 12:08:57

I don't think any of the ancient philosophers suggested the "brain in a vat" idea
specifically. That's quite a modern idea.

Plato talked about the Cave Analogy - where he imagined a group of beings who had spent their lives chained up and facing a blank wall. All they could see were shadows of the outside world reflected on the wall.

The brain in a vat is also related to Descartes "I think therefore I am". In other words, all we can truly know is that we, personally, exist. If we can think we must exist somehow - but possibly not in the way we think we do. Our minds might have constructed the "reality" we see around us, including our own bodies.

I'm not sure what you mean when you say you're "stuck" on Aristotle - do you mean their different views on the nature of reality?

Meglet Mon 01-Apr-13 12:14:16

Aristotle was fair and reasonable. Plato wanted to boss everyone around.

I got an E in a-level philosophy blush.

Dilidali Mon 01-Apr-13 12:27:58

Simplistically put, Plato was an elitist, Aristotle was not. Plato thought that in order to attain knowledge the chosen few see the light, through ascetism. Aristotle believed that the masses ( for choice of a better word) could attain the knowledge.
Aristotle believed that just our senses suffice in order to learn. Plato finds the body/ senses a hindrance in obtaining knowledge.

Dilidali Mon 01-Apr-13 12:34:48

What made you think of that, though ? smile

I was thinking the other day about philosophy being taught in primary school, haven't encountered anybody who's children have it as a subject, but would be interested to see if anybody has found any books appropriate for KS2. At the moment we're just playing devil's advocate teaching morality, but DD goes to a church of england school and how she sees it is based on testaments etc.

Booboostoo Mon 01-Apr-13 13:52:58

Well both Aristotle and Plato wrote on ethics, politics, metaphysics, and other not so related subjects, so what exactly are you interested in?

In terms of UG curicula Plato's politics/ethics (the Republic) and Aristotle's ethics (the Nicomachean Ethics) are the most popular texts. Neo-Aristotelians are primarily interested in a revival of his virtue ethics as an alternative to consequentialism and deontology.

The analogy of the cave is an argument about metaphysics.

Cartesian doubt is an argument about epistemology, but yes Descartes is the most well known philosopher to have doubted the evidence from our senses. His version of the argument postulated a demon who distorted everything we experienced, which is pretty much the same idea as the scientist who stimulates the brain in the vat.

Consils Mon 01-Apr-13 17:54:34

Thank you. I found Plato easier because of the analogies. I am reading a book called Plato to Nato and I am finding it a bit dense. Perhaps I should try a school book.

Did they both believe in heaven? Or reincarnation?

Booboostoo Mon 01-Apr-13 18:11:51

I am unsure what you mean. They were neither Christians nor Hindus. Their society believed in the 12 gods of Olympus but they did not particularly discuss theology. The main concern of philosophy is with rational arguments.

HolofernesesHead Wed 10-Apr-13 21:30:27

Oooh an interesting thread I missed! Booboostoo, what do you think of / have you read Alasdair MacIntrye, Stanley Hauerwas or John Milbank on virtue ethics? VE is very fashionable in Christian theological ethics. Do you think that this is a valid development of Aristotle, or is something else altogether? (understand if this isn't your area of interest.)

Booboostoo Wed 10-Apr-13 22:46:02

My main research area is Aristotle and the recent (post 1950s which is considered recent in philosophy!!!) developments in virtue ethics.

I am familiar with MacIntyre's work but by no means an expert on it. I am more familiar with naturalistic accounts of virtue ethics, e.g. Philippa Foot, John McDowell and Rosalind Hursthouse.

Sorry I am not familiar with the work of Hauerwas or Millbank. So many great thinkers so little time!

Aquinas and Augustine were heavily influenced by Aristotle's conception of the virtues. Aquinas follows A on the role of habituation and practice in the acquisition of virtue, however there is a non-Aristotelian emphasis on the role of god in imparting virtue.

All developments of any kind of earlier thinker are valid in the sense that they don't try to merely analyze or reproduce the earlier arguments but take them further with new additions and ideas. Aquinas is heavily inspired by A, but at the end of the day Christian conceptions of virtue are also significantly different from Aristotelian ones (this in itself is neither good nor bad, each theory should be judged on its own merits). I don't think anyone, including Aquinas himself, would dispute the Aristotelian influence.

Consils Thu 25-Apr-13 13:59:02

Thanks to all who posted on this thread.

Booboostoo Fri 26-Apr-13 10:40:56

Consils if you have any more questions feel free to ask!

Consils Fri 26-Apr-13 19:35:34

What is the relationship between quantum mechanics and buddism?

Salbertina Sat 27-Apr-13 13:13:00

Booboo - i want your brain smile

Booboostoo Sat 27-Apr-13 18:51:52

OK sorry I meant questions on Plato, Aristotle or virtue ethics!!! I could also give moral philosophy in general (Kant, Hume, Mill, consequentialism), applied philosophy or medical ethics a go...but both quantum mechanics and buddhism are sadly completely outside my area of expertise!

hazeybabes Fri 17-May-13 22:26:45

Quantum Mechanics and Buddhism both believe that everything is interrelated. So, for example, if something happens to someone in Australia it has an effect on me even if I do not, have not and never will meet them. Also, if a star explodes in some far off galaxy it affects things here on earth. Some people have said that quantum mechanics provides scientific evidence for the idea of interrelatedness in fields such as Buddhism, astrology and many other 'spiritual' fields. However, I don't think many (if any) of the scientists working in this field would accept this. If someone in Australia dies, it might cause my atoms to shift but nothing beyond that.

TwasBrillig Fri 17-May-13 22:30:11

Ooh I liked Hauweras when I used to read that kind of thing! Rarely get the chance to exercise that part of my brain at the moment.

redwellybluewelly Fri 17-May-13 23:08:12

I've never posted in this topic before, but Iwould hhumbly like to suggest a book to read.

I fell into philosophy, I'm an earth scientist, one area of work I explore is about how we engage with and view the world around us from an environmental perspective. As part of this many many moons ago while I was still finding my feet I happened across a book called Sophie's World which was my first introduction into simple philosophy.

While philosophers probably think the book over simplistic I have read it many many times and consider it has given me a start point to explore other philosophers and their interconnections.

MareeeyaDoloures Sat 18-May-13 03:35:53

Thanks redwelly. Think I might have a copy unopened somewhere blush

Booboostoo Sat 18-May-13 09:06:02

I love Sophie's World! It's an excellent book, it takes really complex ideas and explains them in an accessible manner while making the whole thing interesting and relevant.

Another suggestion (although it has no element of fiction) is Simon Blackburn's Think or his Being Good. They both capture what philosophy is about as a discipline and why people are passionate about it.

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