Metaphysics is generally thought of to be the study or profound consideration of what is truly real and exists in life. Thought history many great thinkers have explored this concept and attempted to describe, define, and exemplify their deeply held beliefs about the realities of the world and how society should be conducted and viewed.
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Plato, a student of the great Socrates, wrote his metaphysics which shares his deeply explored and analyzed view of the world and the ways in which it works and why it does. Plato believes that nothing material, in the physical world, is real in the sense of meaning, purpose, and value. However, the world-renowned philosopher believed and insisted that the world of Forms and Ideals, the non-material or intangible world, was the true value in life. Therefore, Plato believed material objects and desires were simply a distraction. For Plato, the only reality is that which can be derived from logic. Along with this, he expanded to say that things merely exist as a form or idea in the material world and that these are imperfect forms which we can understand only through intellect. Plato’s writing condemned art as misleading and a false representation or attempt to represent the true forms, a task which it greatly falls short of.
In his writings, Plato references the three cities: the city of necessity, the city of luxury, and the feverish city. He goes on to note that we should seek to live in the city of necessity as it creates the most successful society. If all the individuals inside a society live up to their natural talents, they will be the most efficient. Plato’s theory of natural talents is that everyone is given a specialty or something they are particularly good or useful at contributing to the larger whole. His idea was that everyone be assessed for their best fit and solely focus on that specialization as to be the most effective society.
Plato criticized democracy as the worst form of government as it was destined to lead to tyranny and the overall downfall of the society. Rather, Plato suggested that the best ruler to lead a group of people to a successful end is counterintuitive and is actually the person whom is not interested in ruling or power. This is because this humble quality makes them the best fit and most just leader to place in power. Plato also elaborates to say that those who show an aptitude to lead should be brought up in a particular manner in order to ensure that they are not tainted or tempted by the material, false form world.
Accompanying his idea of the three cities is Plato’s theory called the Myth of the Metals, sometimes referred to as the Noble Lie. Here Plato states that it is necessary that children be mislead while being brought up with falsehoods explaining their placement in the world and why they are the way they are. He insisted that this created patriotism and promised successful continuation of an effective society. The Myth of the Metals consists of three classes: bronze, silver, and gold. These classes dictated the major characteristics of the member’s soul as well as their job. The bronze class contains the artisans whom have appetite, the silver class contains the soldiers whom have honor, and the gold class contains the rulers whom have wisdom. The three classes also related back to his overall idea of his metaphysics which goes back to representing the shadows, images, and ideas of the world respectively to the classes of bronze, silver, and gold.
Plato’s assertion and views on men and women are that they are entirely equal beings. Yet, due to society’s inability to allow women to show their full potential it is not always seen this way. Expanding, he says that men and women are physically different, and those differences lead to differing behaviors accounting for the stark differences between the way men and women conduct themselves. Plato insists that the majorly noted characteristics which differ between men and women, aggression and nurture, must be equally respected and valued within society.
What was seemingly Plato’s biggest struggle was the idea of and effects of religion on humanity. He believed that because of religion humans do not act out of their conclusions from their wisdom but rather out of fear of the afterlife, an idea placed upon humanity by religious practices. Plato suggested that instead society should lean towards monotheism and the idea that everyone goes to the same heaven and therefore their only duty is to act justly, utilizing their wisdom.
Aristotle, a student of Plato’s, took on many similar ideas of his predecessor but also had some great differences in his metaphysics and view of the world. Like Plato, Aristotle valued logic and believed truth could be derived from that formal, accurate logic. Aristotle developed the Socratic Method which allowed him to inquire from someone he was debating with in such a way that their misunderstandings and flaws in logical thought were exposed to them clearly. Aristotle was strongly grounded in science and strongly believed it was necessary in order to understand the natural world.
Such as Plato believed everything has a form, Aristotle did too. However, Aristotle’s theory differed from Plato’s regarding Aristotle’s assertion that material objects exist as a part of the form from the Realm of Forms or Ideas rather than another form all together of the physical world. This drastically differs from Plato’s ideology which states that everything is either matter or form. Aristotle believed that knowledge could only be attained through life experiences one goes through. This also shaped his view of philosophers. Unlike Plato, Aristotle viewed philosophers as someone whom was able to understand the forms and ideas of the world through their life experiences and personal growth of understanding.
Aristotle insisted that everything is composed of four individual parts: the material part, the formal part, the efficient part, and the final part. The material composure of the object is exactly as it sounds and defines the materials which it is physically made from. The formal part of the assembly or how the object is formed. The efficient part includes the being or entity which made its creation possible. The final part is the ultimate purpose of the object and reason it was manifested in the first place.
Aristotle’s theory promotes that all things which are alive have a soul to accompany their physical beings. Humans, however, are unique from other animals and living objects such as vegetation. Humans consist of a vegetative soul, a sensitive soul, and a rational soul. The rational soul is the major difference between mankind and other living beings on Earth. The rational soul is what places and bestows reason and logic in humanity allowing us to become superiorly understanding and capable beings. Aristotle asserts that the main purpose, or end goal, in life is to achieve happiness for the individual. This is possible for man through the development of righteous and just moral character and avoiding excess.
Aristotle has many similar ideas to his teacher, Plato in regard to leadership and the state. Aristotle also states, like Plato, that men and women are equal, and their happiness should be valued as so as well. Another similar idea that Aristotle has to Plato’s metaphysics is his idea of leadership. To Aristotle the integrity of the society is just as imperative as it is to the individualized man. Aristotle also agreed with Plato that those who should rule shall be those of the best character. When this attempt to place those with the best character in power fails, tyranny is sure to ensue.
Aristotle’s writings insist that laws must be malleable, to be able to change over time, and accurately reflect the ethical principles of the civilization. Aristotle relates that distributive justice, although righteous and ideal, cannot be achieved. Rather corrective justice in which everyone is looked out for is more important.
One start difference between Plato and Aristotle is the latter’s belief that art imitates life and is a conductive outlet for the emotions of humanity rather than a falsified imitation of the forms.
I believe that both Plato and Aristotle provide great philosophical insight into the realities and truths behind society and the life of humanity. I believe that Aristotle was correct in the assertion that personal experience leads to knowledge and understanding. I also think that Aristotle’s approach to metaphysics is much more tangible and able to stand the test of time. I also think they cover some slightly different topics in which they make their metaphysics a pair to be taken in and assessed for oneself. I do not believe that either Plato or Aristotle wrote a metaphysics which is more correct or reliable than the other. I think to fully decide what the truth and reality is for oneself, one must explore both metaphysics and theorists.
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