Contemporary Thinkers: Plato, Aristotle, Augustine Essay

This essay has a total of 5937 words and 24 pages.

Contemporary Thinkers: Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aguinas

Contemporary Thinkers: Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aguinas


Question #1 : Please discuss the political organization of the Greek city-
states, particularly Athenian democracy at the time of Pericles, Plato, and
Aristotle. Also discuss the backgrounds of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle and
the fate of the Greek city-states historically.

During the time of Pericles, Plato, and Aristotle, Greece was divided
into city-states with a wide variety of constitutions, ranging from Sparta's
military dictatorship to Athens' direct democracy.
Most city-states had about 300,000 people, each divided into one of
three classes : citizens, metics, or slaves. The citizens represented a total
of one - third the population. The members of this class participated directly
with politics in the various institutions, and decisions were derived by popular
vote, known as direct democracy. This class was further divided into three
councils : Assembly of Ecclesia, Council of 500, and the Council of 50. The
largest council was the Assembly of Ecclesia, which was a body of all male
citizens over the age of twenty. The Council of 500 consisted of 500 members,
chosen from lottery and election from the Assembly of Ecclesia. The Council of
50 was made up of 50 members chosen from the Council of 500. The second class
of people in the city-states was the Metics. This class was made up of people
that were not citizens, either because they were not born in the city-state, or
they were prevented from being citizens. The third class were the slaves.
These people were captured from wars and subject to serve the city-state without
pay. The interesting observation in the organization of the Greek city-state is
that only one-third the population had any power. The other two thirds (made up
of metics and slaves) were subject to the decisions derived by the citizens, and
contained no power nor voice in the political system. Athenian Democracy had
such a division of classes. This democracy had a minority who ruled over the
majority, each citizen participated directly in the affairs of the city. The
Greek city-state contained a body of up to 500 jurors who would try cases.
There also existed a body of ten elected generals who would oversee
foreign policy and war. One such elected general of Athens was a political
idealist, Pericles. Pericles had singular control of the Athenian democracy and
was involved in a war against Sparta and its allies that was concluded in 446-
445 B.C.. After peace was declared, he tightened Athenian control of the empire.
"He crushed major rebellions, imposed democratic government, dispatched colonies
of Athenian citizens to strategic areas, and made tribute collection (the main
source of Athenian wealth) more efficient. Convinced of the inevitability of war
with Sparta and the Peloponnesians, Pericles made an alliance with Corinth's
enemy, Corcyra , knowing that it could lead to armed hostilities. He refused
Sparta's demand that he revoke the Megarian decree, which denied Megara access
to the harbors of the empire. These actions led to the Peloponnesian War .
Pericles, who was relying on the fleet and the empire's resources, planned to
avoid a pitched battle with the Peloponnesians and to abandon the countryside to
them. He fell victim to the plague, however, never to know that the war he
initiated would result in the disastrous defeat of Athens. "(GME "PERICLES")
Socrates, was a Greek thinker whose work marked a decisive turning point
in the history of philosophy. He invented a method of teaching by asking
questions (the Socratic method), pioneered the search for definitions, and
turned philosophy away from a study of the way things are toward a
consideration of virtue and the health of the human soul. Socrates believed that
to do wrong is to damage one's soul, and that this is the worst thing one can do.
From this it follows that it is always worse to do wrong than to be wronged, and
that one must never return wrong for wrong. He was born in Athens and lived all
his life there, leaving only to serve as a soldier in the Peloponnesian War. He
attracted a number of prominent disciples in his role as a teacher of wisdom.
One such disciple was Plato.
Plato was born in Athens around 430 BC. Both his parents were of
distinguished Athenian families, and his stepfather, an associate of Pericles,
was an active participant in the political and cultural life of Periclean Athens.
Plato seems as a young man to have been destined for an aristocratic political
career. The excesses of Athenian political life, however, both under the
oligarchical rule (404-403) of the so-called Thirty Tyrants and under the
restored democracy, seem to have led him to give up these ambitions. In
particular, the execution of his friend and teacher Socrates had a profound
effect on his plans. Greatly influenced by Socrate's teachings, he founded the
Academy, an institution devoted to research and instruction in philosophy and
the sciences.
A student of Plato at the Academy was Aristotle. He was born in Stragira,
a Greek colonial town on the Macedonia coast. In 367, Aristotle went to Athens
to join Plato's Academy, first as a student, then as a teacher. He traveled
widely and spent several years as a tutor for Philip of Macedon's son, Alexander.

The fate of the Greek city-states historically is grim. The
destructive conflict, the Peloponnesian War, marked the end of the Greek way of
life. The Spartans, now leaders of the Greeks, soon aroused widespread enmity
by their high-handed rule. A monarchy in the north soon arose to dictate the
fortunes of the Greeks. The brilliant statesman and warrior Philip II became
regent of Macedonia in 359 and its king in 356. Under his leadership, this
newly centralized kingdom gradually overwhelmed the disunited land. By easy
stages Philip advanced into central Greece, winning control of Delphi as a
result of the Third Sacred War (355-47) against Phocis. In 338 he destroyed a
Theban and Athenian army on the field of Chaeronea. He imposed a short-lived
federal union on the Greeks and made himself their commander in chief in
anticipation of a war against Persia. He was assassinated in 336, however,
before the war could be fought.
The defeat of the Greek city-states at Chaeronea ended an era of Greek
history. Neither Sparta, Athens, nor any other city-state had proved capable of
uniting Greece under its leadership. Intense mutual jealousies, sharpened by
the egoistic abuse each polis dealt the others whenever circumstances permitted,
made unity a hopeless dream.

Question #2 : Please compare and contrast the political thought of Plato and
Aristotle, in particular their competing conceptions of an ideal polity. Which
do you prefer and why?

Central to Plato's thought is the power of reason to reveal the
intelligibility and order governing the changing world of appearance and to
create, at both the political and the individual level, a harmonious and happy
life. His ideal society was outlined in the Republic. The search for truth is
predominant in his society. In order to find this truth, Plato divides his
society into three classes. The first class is the Guardians. These members are
the political leaders of the society, and live entirely different from the other
classes. "The preparation of the rulers begins before they are born, as the
very pairing of the parents is arranged by a preconceived plan that is to insure
the highest physical and mental qualities of the offspring to be bred. Nothing
is left to personal whim or accident from infancy on, and the process of
education, both theoretical and practical, continues until the age of fifty.
Literature, music, physical and military instruction, elementary and advanced
mathematics, philosophy and metaphysics, and subordinate military and civilian-
service assignments are the stages of the planned program of training
philosopher-rulers."(E. & E. , pg 7) This class of people exclude individual
interests, such as private property, material possessions, and love. This class
puts wisdom above all else, and eventually this class will figure out what is
the best way to run the society, called by Plato as "the Truth."
The second class, called the Auxiliaries, are in charge of keeping the
peace militarily both internally and externally. They too exclude individual
interests. They are to place courage first. The Auxiliaries are subject to the
Guardians, and are picked and trained by them. Some of these members become
Guardians.
The third class, called the Artisans, is the largest class. They make
up the working population. Their primary concern is appetite, and by working
they satisfy that need. They do not participate in politics. They are to run
the society economically as the Guardians and Auxiliaries run the society
politically.
Another interesting aspect of Plato's Republic is the use of a medicinal
lie. In order for the people to believe in the class system, Plato uses a fable.
According to this fable, God put gold into those who are fit to rule, silver
into the auxiliaries, and iron and brass into the farmers and craftsmen. This
was to make each class think of each other as "brothers born of the same soil."
Each element serves a purpose and thus makes each class feel useful and
necessary.
Aristotle, on the other hand, has a much broader way of looking at
things. He traveled much thought the known world, and thus has seen other
political theories in action. He divides government into three types : kingship,
aristocracy, and constitutional government. He prefers kingship, or monarchy,
as the best. He believes that if a man is found "preeminent in virtue", then he
should rule. Because of the superior virtue and political capacity, it gives
him that right. He also believes that only people of leisure should participate
in politics because these people have the free time to study, learn, think, and
thus are better qualified. Unlike Plato, however, he defends property rights.
Aristotle believes that owning property gives incentive and progress, pleasure
that the ownership gives, generosity, and has been a custom for ages. He
defends slavery as well by stating that some people were destined for certain
things, one of which being slavery, referred to as "a tool with a voice." He
believed that equality is justice. He also divides the human race into two
categories : Greeks and Barbarians.
On the whole, I would have to agree with Aristotle. Plato is
excessively skeptical about democracy, which I am a firm believer in, and also
is too idealistic. I don't believe that anyone will swallow a medicinal lie.
The people are divided so harshly: one group is trained for politics, another
for war, and another for production. This is wrong. This division will lead to
turmoil. The Guardians are so far detached from the people that they will not
be able to serve them justly. Maybe the Guardians would reach "the Truth," that
the people should have the right to decide their own destinies, that no one
should be classed and separated from the others. The people should have the
right to own property and to choose who they have sex with. A small aristocratic
group with the control over an army is not my idea of government. The
Auxiliaries are nothing more than the Guardians' dogs. That is why I would have
to agree with Aristotle. He believed that equality is justice, that
constitutionalism is the way to go. I want to have the right to own property
and decide my own destiny.

Question #3 : In two or three pages briefly describe the philosophies of
Epicureanism and Stoicism, especially in terms of how they vary from Plato and
Aristotle's conceptions of human behavior and ideal societies. Please explain
what you find to be useful or distasteful about Epicureanism and Stoicism and
discuss the influence of Stoicism on Christianity and Roman legal thought.

The Epicureans believed that the purpose of government is to keep people
from interfering with each other's "pursuit of happiness." The major belief of
Epicureans was to remove worry to cultivate personal happiness. They disagreed
with Plato's belief of public satisfaction. They believed that there is no
satisfaction in politics, only in reason, friendship, and moderation of material
possessions. The most important thing according to Epicureans was finding
satisfaction in personal relationships. Laws are only necessary to avoid pain,
worry and anxiety. The laws should merely protect man and thus serves a purpose.
This violates Plato's belief that only an elite class of highly trained people
should rule and decide what is best for the people. This also violates
Aristotle's belief that only through a compromise of freedom and wealth can
justice be served.
The Epicureans also believed that absolute justice is nonexistent and
the only justice is legal convention. Plato and Aristotle would disagree, that
through reason one could reach "the Truth," as Plato would put it, or that
through reflection one may find absolute justice, that equality is justice.
Religion and superstition was merely a dream and worried man unnecessarily.
This contradicts Plato's medicinal lie. Death is nothing, and thus should not
be dwelled upon.
Another words, let the people do what they want as long as they don't
hurt anybody else and follow a very limited set of laws. Live life to it's
fullest, enjoy it, and don't worry about anything. This philosophy is indeed
different from Plato's Republic and Aristotle's constitutional monarchy.
Stoicism divides mankind into two types : the wise and the fools. The
wise act according to reason and self control while the fools do not. The
Stoics believed that there was more to life than just pursuing happiness. They
believed that man was predestined by a higher power to a role in society and
that man should not only accept his role, but also to partake in his role the
best he can. This belief encouraged endurance, fortitude, and courage. The
Stoics believed that men are different in learning but equal in reason. Plato
and Aristotle would argue that only through education can one obtain reason.
We all have the ability of deciding what is right from wrong, regardless of
education. The Stoics also believed that the law should be obeyed by the rulers
and the ruled. Plato's Republic was just the opposite : the Guardians decided
how the artisians would live. They believed that all of mankind were brothers
and that we should love all men as we love ourselves. Aristotle believed that
you were either a Greek or a Barbarian, thus there existed no common brotherhood.
Plato divided his society so drastically that there is no way any Guardian
could view a member of the class of pigs as a brother. The Stoics believed that
what goes on in the world is because of some divine providence or a god. Plato
would disagree stating that there is no providence or god, only reason.
Aristotle would say that the state is the highest which only through them can
the highest good be obtained.
I would have to agree with the idea that satisfaction is derived from
the personal satisfaction of reason, friendships, and moderation of material
possessions. I do not think that satisfaction is a public matter. I disagree
with the Epicurean belief that religion is a waste of time. Sure, some people
really get wrapped up in it, but I believe that there is something better, that
I am part of some plan, that I am here on earth to serve a purpose. This
conception gives me hope, it gives me a sense of belonging, it makes me want to
do what is right. I don't follow all of the strict rules and regulations of my
religion, but I still believe, I still have faith. I don't believe that
religion is a waste of time, rather, that religion is a method of learning to do
the right thing, and a way to tie all of mankind together. As far as Legal
convention is concerned, I agree. What is Absolute Justice, anyway? There is
no absolute justice, only popular vote. If it hurts, it's wrong. Everyone has
their own interpretation of what is justice, but only by vote can a fair
decision be drawn. What is right now may not be right twenty years from now.
This is because what people think is just changes, hence, no Absolute justice
exists.
For me, Stoicism sounds great. I believe that all of mankind are
brothers(we all have minds and blood), that we should all get along in order to
provide a better world in which to live. I disagree with the idea of accepting
things the way they are. I believe that if a person doesn't like the way things
are, that he should do what ever possible within reason to change it for the
better. If everybody accepted things the way they were, then progress would
cease to exist and the world would become a stagnant pool of waste. It is human
nature to want better things out of life, and I think people should act on it.
It gives people hope, it gives them a goal, it gives them something to work for.
As far as knowing what is right and what is wrong I must disagree with. Reason
is not a universal trait among mankind, rather, it is an individual analysis of
the world around them. For example, one may feel it is right to help those in
need. Another may feel that it is wrong to do so, in that it destroys
initiative of the those in need. The needy person will grow to depend on others
for help, and the needy person will never do anything for himself. Look at it
this way : two children, each brought up in different households are brought up
in two distinct ways. Child A is given everything he wants and never has to do
anything for himself. Child B is brought up with the idea that if he wants
something, he must work for it. Child B will appreciate things more because his
hard work shows results, while child A thinks that everything can be handed to
him without any effort on his part. Everyone is different, and everyone's
interpretation of what is right and wrong differs as well. I agree with the
Stoic belief that one should love man as they love themselves. We may not be
the same, but that isn't a reason to be at each other's throats. We should all
appreciate another's ideas, and work together for the good.
The influence of Stoicism on Christianity is easily seen in the belief
that one should love all men as we love ourselves. The Christian version of
this same belief is the golden rule : "Do unto others as you would have them do
unto you." Also, the belief that there existed something higher in life than
mere pursing of pleasure. The Christians believe that heaven exist, which is
something higher than pursing pleasure. The Stoics often made reference to a
higher power, such as Pliny, "God is man's helping hand." The ideal of Aurelius,
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  • Hippocrates
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  • Metaphysics
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  • Plato3
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  • Roman empire
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  • The effect of chrysler
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  • Treatment of mentally ill
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  • Writing system
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  • Style Periods
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  • Aristotle
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