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Forms And Causes: Philosophies Of Aristotle And Plato

1284 words - 6 pages

Aristotle and Plato are two of the most influential philosophers in history. Plato was Socrates’ greatest student and in turn taught Aristotle. In time, Aristotle became Plato’s greatest student. Together Aristotle and Plato, along with Socrates, laid the groundwork for what we now know as Western philosophy and science.
Plato, in addition to being a philosopher, wrestled at the Olympic level, is one of the classical Greek authors, mathematicians and the founder of The Academy, the first higher learning institute in the west. In short, Plato is one of the great thinkers in history and his contributions to philosophy, ethics and politics are many and varied. One of Plato’s main ...view middle of the document...

He was the first to study formal logic, founded called the Lyceum and tutored kings. He influenced Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions and beliefs. The Catholic Church took his view of a universal hierarchy and added the divine, the heavenly and the demonic to make their “Great Chain of Being.” Aristotle even had a basic idea of evolution based on God’s plan for the world (IEP). It is possible that he was the last person to know everything there was to know in his own time (Neill 488). His contributions to our understanding of the world are innumerable, despite that only about a third of his work survived. He contributed to philosophy as much as Plato, if not more. He took Plato’s theory of forms and changed it, making it his own, and in the process resolved the problems that he had noted, as well as those pointed out by Plato and others. He called his new theory he called Hylomorphism. Hylomorphism’s way of thinking stands directly opposite that which Plato’s forms encourage. Aristotle did not see the world as a reflection of another filled with forms but as the physical embodiment of the forms. The substances are created by the innate forms in the matter and are the only way we can perceive forms. This means that to Aristotle a substance did not have form only in an abstract world of forms but was contained by the object in and of itself. He also used this idea when looking at the relation between substance, potentiality and actuality. The substance is the thing, the potentiality is what the thing could do if acted on and not stopped. Actuality is the realization of the substances potentiality. This fixed most if not all of the logical problems with Plato’s theory of Forms (Shields). Aristotle had another hugely significant contribution to a major philosophical idea, causality or causation. Aristotle broke causality down in to what he called the Four Causes. The first was the “Material Cause”, simply put it is that which something is made of. For example, a chair’s material cause would, most likely, be wood. The material cause of a scroll would be paper and so on. The second of the four is the “Formal Cause” which is an object’s form or the arrangement of its matter. For a chair it would simply be the shape. The third cause is the “Efficient” or “Moving Cause”. This cause is the main source of change or rest. The process of chair making would be the efficient cause of the chair. Even if the chair is not produced the cause is there as it can still potentially happen. The final Cause is just that “Final.” This cause is the purpose or aim of an object. The chair’s purpose is to be sat in. If you had a ball dropped from on high, the purpose would be to fall. (Kraut 492) While these ideas are fairly simple...

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