11 Oct 2009

Sample Essay: Plato and Aristotle

The two biggest names that come into mind when one speaks of politics are Plato and Aristotle. The two names stand tall, undefeated and unquestioned in the golden pages of political dialogues, reflecting the hearts and minds of people of their times and many more to follow. They devoted their entire lives understanding and interpreting individual citizens and their influences on political beliefs.  Their observations and descriptions of political motives and government forms, have established one of the main traditions in today’s political conceptions.

Plato’s idyllic city is established on the four qualities of astuteness or wisdom, valor, temperance and righteousness. Astuteness or wisdom formulates the city into a wiser one, valor makes it valiant. Temperance is the perception that all and sundry distinguishes his or her own role and righteousness denotes the “harmony that results when everyone is actively engaged in fulfilling his role and does not meddle with that of others” (Plato 85). “His understanding of the city is that it evolves because it fulfills certain functional needs” (Plato 39).

The requirements that are most apparent are provisions, which supports sustenance, protection, and last but not least clothes.  The metropolis can endow with every single one of these for the reason that each person that formulates the place has a definite responsibility. “The association with each other,” offers Plato, “was the very purpose for which we establish the city” (Plato 41). The metropolis would make an assemblage of the rich and the poor, the strong and the weak. The majority of men is only apprehensive of consequences and is commonly unmerited, not many are righteous as much as necessary to guide the city.

Nevertheless justice and virtue only are not adequate. The guardians – those who rule – must be physically strong, lovers of wisdom and knowledge and impervious to outside experience (Plato 46-51). The guardians also lived by a separate set of rules.Plato’s analysis said that each person had a different, but a significant, responsibility in the city. The earliest of Plato’s books were related to the appreciative of righteousness and integrity. One of his famous books, Republic was committed to the strategies of ruling.

Aristotle, on the other hand, speaks of a perfect or ideal society and puts a high value on moderation (Hacker 81). Several groups support temperance since it is partly open-minded and partly traditional Plato’s utopia remains vague and it is conceded to limits that no individual could ever execute them (Hacker 81). Aristotle supposes that Plato is underrating the qualitative alteration in individual temperament and traits that would have to take place in order to attain his utopia (Hacker 81)

The influence of Aristotle on the history of Christianity, virtues and modern politics is a subject that has been discussed for many years. The importance of Aristotle on the formulation of political theories, outside of the Mediterranean region, is not in dispute. The understanding that he had of the political influence of religion resulted in his permanent placement in the annul of political history.

Through the years, many historians, and writers have written about Plato’s influence on all genres. With points of view that are separated by decades, as well as philosophies, the wide range of influence of Plato has been regarded throughout history. Plato desired to inform the reader of his nation how men would operate and what their stance would be in an ideal social order (Hacker 81). Aristotle endeavors to employ actual men in the actual world. (Hacker 81).

In 1992, E.J. Hundert wrote that the changes in the view of the “nature of power”, stem from the Confessions of St. Augustine. In Augustine’s Confessions, he attempted to answer questions about personal and political power. The will of an individual to pursue power, of a political nature, calls into question the moral imperative. Augustine’s question implicates that the pursuit of power could be on the verge of sin; however, that would depend on the source of the desire. It is Augustine’s question, therefore, whether one’s desire for power comes from God, or Satan.

This question influenced the progression of the Christianizing nations throughout the post-Reformation eras. As Hundert stated, it was “one of Augustine’s significant achievements […] to convey the inadequacies of the inherited account of evil”.[1] By this, he meant that the idea of inherent evil, IE, original sin, was an inadequate explanation for the trials of the human spirit. Morality instead would be the primary judge of one’s motivations. The idea that one’s primary motivations were inherently evil seemed ludicrous. Therefore, the desire to seek personal power was not an inherently evil action – only through the conscious choice to pursue evil is it a sin.

The rhetorical statements of Aristotle created room for a shift in political ideology. By suggesting that intent was the source of sin, rather than actions themselves, one would be able to absolve himself of sin by believing that he was following a righteous path.

On the reverse of this, as Augustine wrote, “apparently virtuous acts, like prayer, sacrifice, or the risk of one’s life could in fact stem from vicious, self-regarding motives”.[2] This understanding called into question the root motivations of all people. However, looking at the actions of another, one could not see these motivations, and therefore, could not place judgment on their righteousness or validity.

Plato spoke on this as well. There was no rational process by which one could judge the actions of another – other than one’s personal reason. Reason, therefore would become the most important of the human virtues. He felt that reason, in the mind of any man, could not be corrupted by the passions of evil or by the sinful motivations of others.

Because of these theories, Hundert wrote that Augustine became the “integral feature of Christian moral psychology, secular moral philosophy and the history of political theory in Europe and North America”.[3] This effect would secure the motivations of leaders for centuries.

Hundert suggests that like Augustine, Aristotle argued there was a difference between reason and passion. For a reasonable person, the pursuit of power would be a safe action. However, one who served their own passions would be apt to sin. By maintaining, Aristotle suggests, a well managed ideology and conception of moral value, the pursuit of power would be just as viable an option as piety.

Together, Aristotle and Plato have an incredible power in the political scenario of today. Aristotle facilitated the formation of a few independent and sovereign thoughts. In the finale, Aristotle and Plato were great philosophers and intellectuals. Their judgment of the public and the social order were moderately dissimilar. With regards to virtues, they strived to explain and justify the obvious presence of an omnipotent and omnipresent power, much superior to mortal imagination; a power that the common man so casually calls God.  They aspired to save Christianity from the disruption of heresy and the calumnies of the pagans, and most importantly to renew and exalt the faithful hearing of the gospel of man’s utter needs and God’s abundant grace.  Even today, in the important theological revival of our own times, their influences are the most potent and productive impulses at work.  They were never against celebrating God’s abundant mercy and grace but also fully persuaded that the vast majority of mankind was condemned to a wholly just and appalling damnation. They never denied the reality of human freedom but never allowed the excuse of human irresponsibility before God, vigorously insisting both double predestination and irresistible grace.

Nevertheless they both had an identical objective, to fabricate an enhanced means of existence for the civilization they survived in and for the civilizations that were yet to come.Plato’s city operated akin to a life for, each one executing their customary to precision.

Works Cited

Hacker, Andrew. Political Theory: Philosophy, Ideology, Science. New
York: Macmillan, 1961.

Hundert, E.J. “Augustine and the Sources of the Divided Self”. Political Theory 20 No. 1 (1992): 88

Ibid Studia Patristica Vol. XXXVIII – St. Augustine and His Opponents. E. J. Yarnold, M. F. Wiles Peeters Publishers, 2001 ISBN 9042909641,

Hundert, E.J. “Augustine and the Sources of the Divided Self”. Political Theory. 20 No. 1 (1992): 88

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