Nicholas Panayotakos
First Essay
Problems in Philosophy
Ryerson University
Robert Murray










Going back in the times of ancient Greece we can find astonishing minds that pursued the path of discovering the truth of the cosmos, uncovering the mysticism that revolves around it, and what are the fundamentals of life as we know it. Two of those minds are also known as two of the greatest philosophers of western civilization; Plato and Aristotle. Plato and Aristotle were mentor and mentee, teacher and student, however, they did, in fact, have differences in the way they perceived the world and reality. In this paper, I will elaborate on those key differences that distinguish Plato's and Aristotle's views regarding our world, specifically particulars and universals. I will also mention what problems surface from both perspectives, and where do I agree and disagree with them.
As a response to concepts like mathematics and ethics (Govier, 39), Plato divided our world into two realms, the sensible realm and the intelligible realm. The reason behind this was to give meaning to these abstract concepts that are not sensible (Govier, 39) nor quantifiable, and to also make them somewhat more comprehensible. More specifically, he created what he called the theory of the "Forms". The Forms represent the perfect version of something in the sensible realm. For example, a tree in the sensible realm is an entity that can be sensed (i.e. touched, smelt, felt, etc.), whereas a tree in the intelligible realm is what consists of a tree to be a tree, meaning its properties (i.e. branches, leaves, trunk). Thus, the Forms assists us in understanding and, also, to insert meaning behind physical and non-physical entities. By understanding the theory of the Forms, one can identify and distinguish elements, events, and stimuli of the sensible realm and be able to realize them in the intelligible realm. For example, if a tree in the sensible realm does not have a trunk, nor branches, nor leaves, and it is just a mere piece of wood, then we would not identify it as a tree since it does not correspond to its Form in the intelligible realm.
This method of identifying, distinguishing, and realizing can be useful with abstract concepts, as mentioned above (e.g. ethics, justice, love, etc.). Having a clear understanding of their Form, for these concepts, further helps us understand if what we perceive is genuine. Is this person acting according to the Form of Justice? If not, then this person is not just. This method places one in the position of understanding the particular (the individual) by looking at the universal, versus the other way around. Plato was an advocate of transcending from the senses (Govier, 39) and the particulars and focusing on the universals.
Plato's theories could be viewed as guidelines on how to view our world; one can say his theories function as a "lens of perspective". However, in practice and in reality, it is difficult to apply these theories and derive meaning from them. How does one reach the universal of something with regards to his/her senses? Are we to blindly disregard external sensory stimuli and, if not, are we to be selective on which senses we "allow" to influence our way of thinking? Many questions arise from Plato's beliefs about transcending oneself from the sensible realm to the intelligible (i.e. from particulars to universals), arguably more questions than answers. Even though I believe that Plato, his theories, his ideas, and his beliefs, have problems, they remain to be an attempt of enlightening our ability of understanding of what is actually true and what we call genuine knowledge. I believe his attempt was truly successful, as it influenced humanity toward wonder and contemplation on these fundamental matters for over two thousand years and keeps on going.
On the other hand, Aristotle, even though he was heavily influenced by Plato (Govier, 48), his "lens of perspective" was marginally different than his mentor's. Where they differ profoundly is that Aristotle was an advocate of the senses and the perceptions (Govier, 48) that follow from them, whereas, as mentioned above, Plato was not. Aristotle viewed the senses as the ingredients that produce thought (Govier, 48) and provide experience. Where Plato would devalue the particular, Aristotle