Essay on Platonic And Aristotelian Epistemology : Comparison And Contrast

Essay on Platonic And Aristotelian Epistemology : Comparison And Contrast

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Platonic and Aristotelian Epistemology: Comparison and Contrast

As teacher and student, both Plato and Aristotle believed that knowledge is

possible and therefore attainable. They agreed that the mind connects the soul and the

body, containing within it the key to understanding what it means to exist in this world

and how our existences are interrelated. In other words, what is a man and what does it

mean to know? For Plato, knowledge must consist of what is genuinely real and not

appearance only; it must be acquired through thoughts and ideas. If something is real, it

means that it must be fixed and unchanging. He believed that truth is form separated from

matter. Aristotle, however, believed that knowledge is perception; it is acquired through

the senses. If something is real, you can observe and experience it in the world around

you. He believed in form-matter unity.

In the Socratic dialogue found in Theaetetus, Plato elaborates on what he believes

knowledge is not. Socrates criticizes and refutes three definitions of knowledge:

knowledge cannot be perception, true opinion, or true opinion combined with explanation

(Theaetetus, 61-68). In the Divided Line and Myth of the Cave, Plato touches upon what

he believes knowledge is. The “divided line” corresponds to the two main divisions of

worlds: the visible world and the intelligible world, each with their own subdivisions.

The visible world contains images and material objects; the intelligible world contains

Mathematical objects and the forms. In the Divided Line, Socrates asks, “Would you not

2Baglioni

admit that both the sections [=subdivisions] of this division have different degrees of

truth, and that the copy is to the original as the...


... middle of paper ...


...stotle claimed that “each

primary and self-subsistent thing, then, is one and the same as its essence.” (96, VII) For

him, the only instance of a Platonic form is God. God is the one form that exists without

matter; God is pure thought. Plato was concerned with the formal cause or the essence of

thing as opposed to Aristotle’s greater concern for the final cause or the purpose of the

thing, however they both believed that the knower is measured by the known, not the

other way around, and that knowledge is an exchange within the world. Plato claimed

that knowledge “may presuppose perception of some kind, but it cannot be identified

with perception as such,” (81) whereas Aristotle was convinced that “in knowledge mind

and its object have an identical character, and to know an object is to know one’s own

mind as it is when it knows the object.” (115)

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