Highlight text to annotate itX
Hey there, students! In this lecture, I'm going to talk to you a little bit about Plato
and Aristotle. There are some of you who have some questions, such as my new friend, Wilhelm,
who asked me if I could do something on Greek philosophy explaining Plato and Aristotle.
Wilhelm's my newest friend - newest SUBSCRIBER! If you'd like to be my friend, it's just as
easy as *snaps* subscribing.
So, if we're thinking about Plato and Aristotle - two of the big three of Greek philosophy
- keep in mind we've got SPA: Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Each one of them taught the
other. So, Plato was Socrates' student - Socrates would have never said that he was his teacher
- but Plato was his student. And Aristotle was Plato's student. Now, if we want to contrast
Plato and Aristotle, it's just as easy as looking at Raphael's classic painting, The
School of Athens, which in my opinion is one of the most beautiful pieces of art ever produced
during the Renaissance. Of course, there's also Botticelli's Birth of Venus, but that's
a whole other story!
As far as philosophy goes, you can see in the middle, there is Plato, who is modeled
after Leonardo da Vinci. And Plato is walking beside his student, Aristotle, and he is pointing
up. Plato is the Idealist, and that goes into all of his philosophy, whether it is the ideal
state, the ideal of virtue, that pretty much the only thing real to Plato was an idea - that
this world is kind of a reflection of the real world of ideas. So Plato's pointing up.
Now, notice that Aristotle, in this painting, is kind of putting his hand over the ground.
Aristotle is a Realist. While Plato says the only thing that is real is an idea and in
order to understand truth you need to understand ideas, Aristotle says, "Wait a minute... The
only thing that's real is what's real - is what is. This physical world that we live
in is a real place. Now, that doesn't seem incredibly revolutionary to most of you listening,
but for Aristotle, who had been taught by Plato, it was. To come to the realization
that we live in an actual real place... Yeah.
Plato and Aristotle each produced a work of political philosophy. Plato produced the Republic
and Aristotle produced the Politics. Now, the Republic is focused on the "Ideal State."
How could we build the perfect society? So, Plato says, well, first we get rid of the
family and we get rid of private property because, according to Plato, what's really
wrong with our society is the way we get into "mine" and "not mine." That's all of our arguing.
"That's mine!" "No, that's mine!" "That's not mine!" and all of that. If we got rid
of private property, there'd be one less thing to argue about.
And while we're at that, what about when somebody says, "That's my kid," "That's your kid,"
or "My daddy can whip your daddy" or something like that? Let's just get rid of the family,
while we're at it! Then, let's get rid of gender roles, of any sort of conventions that
we have in our society and this would create an ideal state. And in this, Plato is hoping
to transcend human selfishness. He sees selfishness as the problem, that we need to build a state
that is cohesive - a state full of people that don't argue and fight with each other.
So, the goal here is social unity.
Now, this all may sound like a good idea to some people, but then again, how many of you
would really want to live in a society where there are no families, where there's no private
property? I don't know. It doesn't sound like a place where I'd want to live. A lot of my
students say, "Oh, well that would be fine," and I say, "Well, what if they were going
to take away your X Box?" "Oh, no, no! Not my X Box!"
The thing is that "mine" is something that is basic in our nature, so Aristotle, being
concerned with what's real, what's here, what actually is, he says, "Why would we want to
transcend human selfishness?" Human selfishness is part of who we are. And so, Aristotle is
thinking about designing a government - designing a society - that acknowledges human selfishness
and mitigates it. When he looks at Plato's ideal state, he thinks, "Really, come on!
Who really wants to live there?" For example, Aristotle says, who would really care for
kids if they didn't belong to anybody? If I heard that my daughter had been hurt - was
in the hospital - I would drop whatever I was doing and I would go and tend to my daughter.
What if I hear that somebody else's daughter or some random kid was in the hospital? Well,
that's sad, but that child is not mine. Aristotle feels like if we get rid of private property,
if we get rid of the family, then we'd just neglect everything because a lot of times,
human selfishness works in our favor.
Human selfishness is why we eat. It is why we survive. Keep in mind that if it were a
contest between you or me, it would either be me or... I would be dead, depending on
how big you are.
So, Aristotle is thinking about how do we create a WORKING government, acknowledging
human selfishness. And what he comes up with is the idea not of the ideal state, but of
a state that WORKS. And he calls this polity, a state that is balanced, a state where neither
the rich nor the poor can predominate, a state in which we are really forced to work together,
but at the same time we maintain private property and the family because that's who we are.
Aristotle says that, "I would rather be someone's cousin in the real sense than be someone's
son by Plato's standards," where everybody's everybody's son or something like that. What
does that mean?
So, in summary, this really comes down to Raphael's painting and Plato pointing up at
the ideal and Aristotle trying to remind his teacher, "Hey... Come back down. We live in
a real world, here."
Hopefully, that will get you started. Of course, I'd invite you to read Plato's Republic, Aristotle's
Politics, and all of that good stuff, but this will get you somewhere.