Plato VS Aristotle Term Paper

This essay has a total of 1860 words and 7 pages.

Plato VS Aristotle

In ancient Greece two great written philosophers lived. First there was Plato and then
Aristotle. Aristotle was a pupil of Plato. Despite being taught by Plato they had
different theories and views. Their ethics were very typical and traditional of ancient
Greece but Aristotle detailed virtue ethics and the path to happiness. Plato's political
theories for a utopian society varied from Aristotle's view of ‘best state for each
society'. Their metaphysical theories are complete opposites and very contradicting. Even
though Plato and Aristotle came from the same era and were closely linked they had very
different philosophies.


Plato had typical views of ethics for an ancient Greek. Aristotle shared these views he
was more specific about ethics and the path to happiness. Plato and Aristotle both
believed that a good person choose morally sound choices because of their reason and good
character. A person who follows their good character and reason instead of trying to avoid
consequences is a virtuous person. Aristotle believed "virtue is a matter of developing
the unique ability to reason."(Pacquette 268) Being virtuous to Plato and Aristotle also
meant, "doing things- no matter what these things were- in a way that reflected rational
thought and involved making the best of one's skills, talents and opportunities."
(Pacquette 268) Aristotle and Plato both agreed that a person's good moral character and
reason guided their ethical choices. A good moral life to them would lead to "eudaimonia,
an ancient Greek word that translates into English as happiness." (Pacquette 268) Though
Plato talked and wrote about virtue and happiness, Aristotle went into great detail about
his ideas. Aristotle is known as the creator of the theory of virtue ethics. "Aristotle
held that there are three forms of happiness. The first form of happiness is a life of
pleasure and enjoyment. The second form of happiness is a life as a free and responsible
citizen. The third form of happiness is a life as a thinker and philosopher."(Gaarder 115)
Aristotle felt that for a person to achieve eudaimonia, they must achieve all three forms
of happiness otherwise they will not be truly happy and satisfied because their life would
be unbalanced. Aristotle believed balance is key to happiness. "To be a good person,
according to Aristotle, is to act in accordance with right reason, in other words, the
rational part of the soul must control the irrational parts by choosing to follow a middle
path or mean between the extremes of excess and deficiency. This was Aristotle's theory of
the Golden Mean."(Pacquette 268) Aristotle thought that true happiness could only happen
when people live a balanced life, Plato also agreed. "The ethics of both Plato and
Aristotle contain echoes of Greek medicine: only by exercising balance and temperance will
achieve a happy or ‘harmonious' life." (Gaarder 115) Both Plato and Aristotle agreed
that a balanced life is a good life, and that with reason people will make morally good
choices but Aristotle believed that this did not come naturally. He felt that "moral
virtue is the result of habit and training. Because if this, he believed that people can
be taught to be virtuous. He said that people must know- the deliberately choose to do-
what is good."(Pacquette 269) Aristotle and Plato had very similar views on ethics due to
both living in the same era in ancient Greece.


Political and social theories between the two philosophers were very different. Plato had
very Totalitarian or even communist views for state government. He in his novel The
Republic, he describes in much detail his utopian society. He felt society should be
organized into three groups: "rulers, auxiliaries and labourers."(Gaarder 91) The rulers
or guardian class would have reason; education and intelligence this would make them well
suited for leadership. Plato called these rulers ‘Philosopher Kings', they would rule
for the good of all in the society. Philosopher Kings would not be allowed to possess
material objects as to avoid corruption. Private ownership and wealth would not be allowed
in Plato's state. "Everyone would own property in common, and money wouldn't
exist."(Pacquette 389) In this way Plato's utopian society resembled a communist state but
he did this because he "strongly believed that abolishing wealth and private ownership of
property would eliminate the difference between rich and poor. This would mean that people
would be distinguished only by their intelligence and character, not by family background
or personal wealth."(Pacquette 389) He not only wanted private ownership banned but also
family as an institution because he felt the "rearing of children is considered too
important to be left to the individual and should be the responsibility of the state."
(Gaarder 92) Plato's hierarchical state did though allow social mobility. "People could
move up to the next level if they demonstrated certain abilities."(Pacquette 389) Plato
felt his anti-democratic state would work very well because "everyone would know and
accept his or her position in society, and everyone would have enough material comforts
and education to function in his or her designated role. Because people's social class
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