Tuesday, 23 July 2019

On The Unity Between Plato and Aristotle

The idea that for two millennia history has been the expression of a “philosophical duel” between Aristotle and Plato is the outcome of the Marxist and Nihilistic thinking of the 19th century. Karl Popper and Bertrand Russell are the major proponents of this theory which holds that Plato is the philosopher of mysticism, totalitarianism, and nihilism; whereas Aristotle is the philosopher of individualism, classical liberalism, and an objective view of reality.

This kind of thinking obscures the fact that Plato and Aristotle have a lot in common and that they have marched hand in hand for two millennia. The successful periods of history are those in which the intellectuals and politicians have been inspired by both Plato and Aristotle.

In Ancient Rome, attention was being paid to the teachings of both the philosophers and the same was the case during the Roman Empire. To say that Thomas Aquinas was only inspired by Aristotle is incorrect. He was heavily inspired by the Platonic thought of St. Augustine, and through the works of Boethius, Pseudo-Dionysius, and Proclus, Aquinas picked up a lot of neo-Platonism. In the works of Aquinas, Plato and Aristotle are present in equal measure.

During the time of the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution we see a focus on both Plato and Aristotle—some scholars prefer Plato, some Aristotle, and many are pursuing the study of both. The Scholastic thinkers of the Renaissance mainly pursued Aristotelian studies, but Plato dominated most of the universities of that period. Coming to modern America, the founders were familiar with the works of both Plato and Aristotle.

Some of the worst political disasters of the last 250 years have been orchestrated in the countries where the wisdom of both Plato and Aristotle, or either one of them, has been totally ignored. The Enlightenment thinkers, who gave birth to the bloody French Revolution, didn’t like Plato, while the Marxist thinkers who created the Soviet Empire didn’t like Aristotle. And irrespective of what Popper says, Hitler and his cronies did not learn anything from Plato and Aristotle. The history of two millennia teaches us that a synthesis between the ideas of Aristotle and Plato is a necessary condition for having a nation with good culture.

2 comments:

Ky' Zan' said...

You make some good points, but this "Aristotle vs. Plato" theory of fundamental philosophical categorization is about as common and accepted as you can get. Kind of like "Locke vs. Rousseau" and "Smith vs. Marx". These are very seminal intellectual divides.

Anoop Verma said...

Ky Zan: There is not a SINGLE major philosopher before the 1940s who has accused Plato of being the fountainhead of totalitarianism. No one saw a divide between them before the 1940s -- this artificial divide was created entirely because of Karl Popper. If you know of any author before 1940 who has talked about such divides, then let me know his name.