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Aristotle on Plato
Plato believed that what we call real is not actually the real world. (The objects we perceive through our senses are not actually real as the things we perceive through our senses can vary considerably, for example the weather conditions, day and night changes how we see an object, The object has not changed but tour senses tell us that it is different.)
Plato said that the physical world was not the real world. Aristotle disagreed and said that the natural world which we experience is the real world, the matter that the world is made of is reality. Aristotle concentrated on matter and structure or matter and form. What it is made of and the form it takes matter and form belong to this world whereas Plato’s forms belong to another world. It is form that turns matter into something we recognise there fore the soul is the form of the body.
Because all objects are made of matter they are subject to change and can never be prefect. Also they can exist in reality or not exist. Only God is perfect as he is form and no matter and exists in reality.
Humans state that dreams and hallucinations are not real, but Plato believed that how can we ever know that what we are dreaming is not in fact the real world? Plato states that the world is constantly changing, the ideal forms do not change, the tried to find things in the world that do not change and looked to mathematics as the most developed form of knowledge of the day. He believed that the objects studied in mathematics were the most obvious examples of reality 1+1+2 never changes this is unlike anything we perceive through our senses.
Plato believed in innate knowledge, our soul has always had the knowledge taken from the forms, however our body and its physical needs stops us from seeing real knowledge. Aristotle disagreed, he did not think that knowledge was pre existent and argued that knowledge is perception. ‘if we did not perceive anything we would not learn or understand anything and whenever we think of anything we must at the same time think of an idea.’
Plato believed that there was a world of ideal forms where perfection existed, and we see/experience snippets of it within this world.--
Aristotle said that the idea of the forms was nonsense. If there is an ideal form is there an ideal of that ideal? Can you be sure that there is one ideal?. Are there ideal forms of imperfect beings? If everything has an ideal this must be the case e.g. an ideal blind three legged rabbit.
Aristotle’s theory can be defended because it is derived from reflection on his studies of the natural world. This could be seen as a strength of Aristotle’s Four Causes compared with Plato’s Forms, which are not observable in the physical world.
The Four Causes can be readily applied to things that exist within the world as a way of explaining them.
Aristotle criticises Plato for having no concrete evidence to back up his theories. Aristotle, however, has no concrete evidence that the material world is the source of knowledge. Some might claim that religion and faith are the source of truth. Perhaps things don’t exit for a reason, some things happen by chance.
Camus and Sartre thought it was ridiculous to suppose that the universe had any meaning or purpose. (Sartre said the universe was ‘gratuitous’)Therefore there was no final cause for the universe.
It is very difficult to see how reason could exist post mortem if the body and soul no longer exist. Aristotle states that humans are the only animal with the faculty of reason. Many have argued that other animals have the ability to reason. E.g. recently an ape was photographed using a stick to gauge the depth of water before it crossed a river.
The causal relationship between the Prime Mover and the world is unclear. If the Prime Mover cannot interact with the world, then it is very different from the Judeao-Christian understanding of God
Task: write down as many strengths and weakneses of Aristotles arguments:
Christian ideas about god that has come from Aristotle
God is eternal beyond time, space, incapable of change.
Everything exists for a purpose
God is the cause of the universe (the first, unmoved mover cosmological argument)
We can see the design, teleological purpose of the universe
Aristotle: Links with other arguments and philosophers
Aristotle exam questions
a) Explain Aristotle’s theory of four causes (25)
b) Aristotle’s theory of four causes is convincing discuss (10)
a) Describe Aristotle’s teachings about the difference between the Final Cause and other sorts of causes. (25
b) Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of Aristotle’s views on causality (10)
a) Explain Plato’s concept of the soul and its relationship with the body (25) b) Compare Aristotle’s concept of the body and the soul to that of Plato (10)
4)a) Explain how Aristotle’s concept of the soul is similar to that of Plato (25)
b) Aristote’s theory of the Four Cause is more convincing then Plato’s allegory of the cave. (discuss) (10)
a) Explain Aristotle’s concept of the prime unmoved mover (25)
b) Aristotle’s concept of the unmoved mover is flawed. Discuss (10)
Monotheist: They believe in One God (mono means one, theo means God) Plato and Aristotle introduced the concept of one God rather then many, as a prime unmoved mover uncaused causer, however they did not see God as a father figure who interacts in the world rather he was just a force at the beginning and the end
Trinity 3 in 1: (tri means 3 divinity means divine or God) Christians believe that God is the Trinity, it has three distinct persons the father – son (Jesus)- and the Holy Spirit. It is 3 different aspects of the same thing. God as the father creates, God as the son, Jesus saves humans from their sins and God as the holy spirit preserves and sustains the world Plato and Aristotle may agree with the concept of father as a designer of the world (remember Aristotle argued that everything had a telos or design/ purpose), source of goodness (Plato/ forms) remember the highest form was good.
Omnipotent- all powerful Christians believe God is omnipotent because he created everything. In Genesis 1 he created the heavens and the earth’ Aristotle argued God is the telos, the uncaused causer
Omniscient- all knowing ;- Christians believe that God is all knowing. He is omnipotent, as he created the world and knows exactly what is happening in the world, he is omnipresent, in the past, present and future at the same time. Aristotle argued that if God existed he would be intellect as this is unchanging
Definitions of Good
‘having the right or desirable qualities’……..‘right………‘commendable, worthy’…….‘morally correct, well behaved’ (The Oxford reference dictionary)
Platos Euthyphro Dilemma ‘is something right because God commands it? Or do Gods command it because it is right? Christians would support the ‘divine command theory’ ‘everything is good because God commands it (has created it ) WHY?
Where do out morals come from? Different ideas….Which would a Christian support and why?
Christians believe that God is a father figure and the Bible outlines Gods relationship with humans like a child who develops with a father, telling them right from wrong, punishing them. Hosea in 8th century used the image of a child and adult to describe Gods relationship with man *‘yes it was I who taught Ephraim to walk. I took him in my arms but they did not know that I had healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness with bands of love I was to them like those who life infants to their cheeks I bent down to them and fed them.’ (Hosea 11 3-4)
Plato argues God is good in the hierarchy of the forms God is the source of the form good which eminates all other forms.
How is the goodness of God seen in the Bible?
The goodness of God as described in the Bible is very different from the ideal of Plato and to some extent Aristotle. God provides an interactive sort of goodness which makes demands on humanity on how to behave etc….God is not simply an ideal to follow, which remains unaffected and does not care, whether they live up to the ideal or not. People and caring about the way that they behave. Christians believe in Genesis 1 that’ God created a world which was good,’ but gave people the free will to decide how to act (Genesis 2) ‘Goodness’ as a quality does not actually do anything but the God of the Bible definitely does do things. The goodness of the Biblical God sets a standard for the people to follow and then watches over the way they respond to the guidance and laws they are given.
For example, in Exodus 20 the Hebrew (Jewish) people who have been led out of slavery by Moses and into the wilderness are given laws directly from God which they are to follow as part of their covenant (promise) relationship with him. Some of the laws relate to their behaviour towards God i.e. not to use the lord’s name in vain, love the lord your God and only follow him, do not make images of other Gods. And others to the treatment of one another. For example in the Ten Commandments ‘you shall not make wrongful use of the name of the lord your God….honour your father and mother….you shall not murder…..You shall not steal etc…...’ (From Exodus 20)
In the Old Testament the main characteristic of God’s relationship with the people is that they are to respond to his goodness with obedience to his commands. They do not have to guess what goodness means or try to work it out intellectually, through their use of reason. It is revealed to them directly and they must respond and follow these rules through faith and action. It does not matter whether a person understands why they are meant to behave in certain ways and not in others. Gods goodness is revealed to faith, not reason. Some of the characters in the Bible who are singled out for special commendation are those whose faith continued to obey God command even though they did not understand the reasons for them. In Genesis, for example, Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac because of his faith in the goodness of God. Job (already mentioned) continued to praise God and be obedient to him even when he felt that he was being unjustly punished. ‘I hold fast my righteousness, and will not let it Go; my heart does not reproach me for any of my days.’ (Job 27; 6)
Therefore the goodness of God demands people to; respond with faith, accept that reason alone will not necessarily lead them to the right choices, God defines what goodness is even if it may seem unreasonable at the time, God does have a plan, People are meant to accept that they can approach the goodness of God, but that they will never fully comprehend it.
The concept of Gods goodness also includes the idea that God does not remain implacable and unaffected but he becomes angered at injustice and acts upon it (i.e. when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate from the tree in Genesis 3 they were punished by being chucked out of the garden, flood, tower of bable). He calls the prophets to make them aware when they are failing him. I.e. Isaiah’s vision In chapter one and two God is telling the people of Judah and Jerusalem are failing him, rebelled against him, are evil, corrupt etc….
Throughout the Bible God is shown to have a particular concern for the poor and the weak, his goodness often shown as righteousness involves a desire that people should treat one another fairly recognising each others value as creations of god For example, Job suffers but right at the end due to his faith God gives him many children and a long life. the beatitudes Luke 6;20-21 (also found in Matthew) ‘blessed are you who are poor for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry for you will be filled etc… Galatians 3.28 ‘there are no Jew gentile, rich poor all are one (equal in Christ) When people treat the poor with contempt and exploit the weak, God is determined to teach them a lesson for example, the prophet Jeremiah claims to speak words of God ‘you have rejected me says the Lord, you are going backward so I have stretched out my hand against you and destroyed you-I am weary of relenting’ (Jeremiah 15;6)
Gods words and actions change in response to the behaviour of the people. He is not an unmoved mover, but is made angry and is hurt when the people refuse to recognise and respond to goodness.‘I thought, how I would set you among my children, And give you a pleasant land. The most beautiful heritage of all the nations.And I thought that you would call me my father And would not turn from following me Instead as a faithless wife leaves her husband. So you have been faithless to me o house of Israel says the Lord.’ (Jeremiah 3 19-20). Anger is not the only response of God, he can also show pity, and compassionate and displays his goodness to prayer and faith. For example, in the beginning of Samuel Hannah was distraught, as she did not have any children.‘She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. She made this vow ‘O lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant but give to your servant a male child … In due time Hannah bore a child and named him Samuel.’ (1 Samuel 10-11,20)
For the writers of the Bible perfect goodness does not have to mean a completely static unchanging being who remains unaffected by his relationship with the world. The God of the Bible is very much affected by the ways that the people of the Bible respond to him. For example: the prophet Hosea in the eight century BCE spoke of Gods love and goodness towards his people, using the imagery of an adult with a small child. ‘Yes it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took him in my arms But they did not know that I had healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness with bands of love, I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks, I bent down to them and fed them.’ (Hosea 11 3-4) Hosea shows how God cares for his people in a way that can be likened to pride and love of a parent when the baby is taking its first steps etc….God’s goodness is compared to the reigns needed to steady the toddler. God shows tenderness to his creation and his relationship with them is of utmost importance The goodness of God is synonymous with his love, Gods love demands that people become the best that they have the potential to be by obeying his commands. God’s goodness is not just concerned with people as whole but withy individuals. This again, is very different to Plato’s universal form of the good, which is the same for everyone and takes no interest in peoples circumstances.
The writer of Psalm 23 explains how he experiences the goodness of God not just as an abstract concept but also as a personal presence in his own life. Psalm 23 ‘The lord is my shepherd I shall not want He makes me lie down in green pastures He leads me beside still waters He restores my soul He leads me in right paths For his names sake Even though I walk through the darkest valley I fear no evil For you are with me Your rod and your staff They comfort me You prepare a table before me In the presence of my enemies You anoint my head with oil My cup overflows Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord My whole life long.
Although Gods goodness is very much interactive it is also described as perfect Rock = God
‘The rock, his work is perfect, and all his ways are just a faithful God without deceit just and upright is he yet his degenerate children have dealt falsely with him a perverse and crooked generation.’ (Deuteronomy 32 4-5)
‘this God, his way is perfect the promise of the lord proves true he is a shield for all who take refuge in him the law of the lord is perfect reviving the soul.’ (Psalm 19;7)
How can God be perfect and interactive?
Some philosophers have found it difficult in combining the concept of a personal and interactive God with the idea that God is perfect. It is sometimes argued that a God who can have a relationship must be capable of change and response but perfection stays the same. Therefore? How can a God who is perfectly good be at the same time capable of having a relationship with man? This brings up the question of suffering which has been debated by many philosophers. Can God suffer, or be affected by suffering.
In the New Testament the goodness of god and his interaction with the world is shown in the person of Jesus. This is the most important concept in Christianity. According to the New Testament. God came into the world as man in order to demonstrate his love for humanity ‘ for God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.’ (John 3;16)
This idea raises questions…..
How if at all can God be human form when part of his nature is not to have a body? how does time work for God? Is he outside time and space and if so how could he then come into the world? Was he in heaven and on the earth at the same time? (omnipresent) Christians would use the idea of the trinity God is the father son and holy spirit at the same time, (omnipresent) Christians would argue that the goodness of God can be seen in the words and actions of Christ, his moral teachings healings, miracles, and self sacrifice all reveal gods goodness as active and interactive, part of this world and part of the spiritual world.
Although Greek ideas can be seen in the New Testament, there approaches are very different goodness for Christians does not only inhabit a separate plane unavailable to the senses but is something available ‘word became flesh and lived among us and we have seen his glory’ John 1;14
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