Basically, philosophers are empiricists. They seek to document and explain what exists in space and time in a verifiable manner. This is opposed to metaphysics where knowledge is acquired through some supernatural revelation that cannot be proven in the real world. “Epistemology” is the sum total of the process used to generate and develop knowledge. Every scholar has a unique scope, methodology, rationality of belief, and justification of knowledge. This becomes their epistemology. This purpose of this paper is to compare and contrast between the epistemologies of Plato and Aristotle.
Plato’s method of presenting information is through a parallel expression and comparative analysis. Thus, he presents the story of specific situations that are similar to the realities in people’s lives. This involves the utilization and application of forms and objects. All of this comes together to define him as a philosopher who uses symbolism to indicate general trends that are further used to establish a theory in the mind of his audience. In The Allegory of the Cave, Plato uses parallels and similarities in form, to explain how ignorant people feel uncomfortable about changes and how they question it. This is something that draws on trends that people can identify with and therefore accept them to be true.
The ultimate goal of a philosopher is to present a theory of how things generally happen in this world and get people to appreciate it and take decisions on the basis of the theory they present. Plato does this by using symbols and general trends that explain pointers. This is aimed at appealing to the audience’s power of reasoning.
On the other hand, Aristotle dwells on empirical data which is used to prove specific pointers. Aristotle uses form and matter to explain the general trend of pointers. This means Aristotle undertakes an objective analysis of nature of form and matter in order to document it and present it as it is in observation. This involves an absolute presentation of things as they are. For example, when examining the way things work and how things happen in and of themselves. In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle sought to answer the question of what makes people happy. There, he lists points of what happy people do. This is a direct and straightforward statement of his observations of what happy people do.
Plato on the other hand, describes and rationalizes things. He uses a relativist approach based on the position of forms and objects as well as their differences and similarities to justify one of two or several pathways. Plato uses a method of deductive reasoning which is based on the formulation of a hypothesis that is tested with his symbolism (Kraut, 2017). Deductive reasoning is based on the formulation of conclusions on the basis of what is accepted to be true. Therefore, Plato begins by identifying some kind of demonstrative truth which leads to the formation of a hypothesis. Thus, Plato starts by presenting a problem and then he proceeds uses a Socratic discussion to explain what happens. In the Third Man, Aristotle uses a Socratic dialog to tell different positions of a matter, evaluate it and from there, formulate a conclusion on the main issue under discussion.
Aristotle is interested in finding out what actually works and what makes things happen (Shields, 2020). His goal is to find out what exists in reality and what the nature of a given situation is. Through this, he uses inductive reasoning to observe things independently and draw general conclusions. This is based on an independent enquiry which involves going out to the field to find out how something exists in its natural form and reality.
Plato uses a battle of forms which involves the matching of ideas against ideas to go through the different situations and formulate a conclusion. Thus, Plato uses a form of idealistic reasoning to explain what is believed to be reasonably true and this is accepted as the conclusion of the matter at hand.
Aristotle on the other hand, uses an exploratory research method which is based on the examination of how things actually exist in reality. This is about watching things and explaining how they occur in the world.
Plato’s methods contrast with Aristotle by the fact that he uses some kind of explanatory research to deduce the right answer to his fundamental question. This is based on an appeal to the reasoning of his audience. Plato therefore uses various forms of explanations and discussions to prove that one thing is a better representative of the reality than another. In this process, he appeals to the reasoning of the audience and gets them to come to conclusions that are driven by what most people assume to be right.
Aristotle takes a different path where he goes to his research subject to find what actually exists in reality and explore its nature and features. This independent objective becomes the theory that Aristotle presents. This is based on a strict observation of things as they exist in space and time. He utilizes form and matter to tell what constitutes the best practices and generally acceptable processes as they exist. This is done in a way that gives little to no room for disagreement. This is because Aristotle presents the forms and objects in a way that is broken down to gather data about what exists in first principles and use them to formulate a theory that explains the common trends and can be observed in the existence of the phenomenon of interest.
In contrasting the theories of knowledge, it can be said that Aristotle uses an absolute approach to identify the truth in an objective manner that cannot be questioned. On the other hand, Plato uses a relativist method of knowledge acquisition which is based on what is ideal in a given situation. Plato uses comparative analysis that are compares one object with another and one form with another. However, Aristotle looks into the nature and matter of the issue of interest and observes them. Aristotle simply documents truth as he sees and observes it. Plato on the other hand indulges the reasoning of the audience so that they can draw conclusions that are acceptable.
Another point of interest is that the validity of the conclusions drawn by Aristotle cannot be easily questioned. This is because it is knowledge and wisdom from first and direct observation. Thus, they are factual and can only be true. On the other hand, Plato’s truths can be contested as they are based on idealistic values and standards. Plato’s methods give room for divergent opinions based on people’s own convictions, while Aristotle’s approach leads to conclusions that are universally true and cannot be easily falsified.
In conclusion, Plato uses symbolism to evaluate and compare variables and draw conclusions. Aristotle on the other hand observes things directly and documents them. Plato’s knowledge is based on comparisons and reasoned arguments. Aristotle’s epistemology is driven by factual identification of realities on the ground.
Kraut, R. (2017, August 1). Plato. Retrieved from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/plato/
Shields, C. (2020, August 25). Aristotle. Retrieved from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle/
This essay is written by the student of the University of Central Florida