Long before LeBron ever took his talents to South Beach, there was another Big 3 that ruled the scene. While they never won any championships, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle are considered the fathers of Western philosophy. It’s quite a claim to fame.
As if made for a story book, they are all connected and taught by each other. Socrates is the wandering philosopher, taking to the streets of Athens and engaging anyone who is willing to yuck it up. He begins to mentor Plato, his prize student, who does the same for Aristotle. 3 men and thousands of years later and we still talk about them. We even quote them on Facebook sometimes. Few of their actual quotes or ideas mind you. Mostly just falsely attributed semi-faux-inspirational things that teenage girls use to make themselves look smart. You know, when their not being “photographers” because they learned how to use the black and white setting on their digital camera.
As groundbreaking as they were, there are some things that have to be noted in order to take an honest look at these men. Like, for instance, Socrates might never have existed. See, unlike the latter two we don’t have any writings of Socrates. His life was described to us by his student, Plato. Though most scholars hold to his historical existence, I can’t get over how much it would suck to write a character into a few stories and have history remember you as said characters grateful pupil. Talk about exercising some creative liberty blowing up in your face…
Here’s the real point of all this. The thing that historians won’t tell you.
Aristotle was a punk. I don’t like him. Not one bit.
Here he is, mentored by Plato. A direct byproduct of Socrates, the father of modern philosophy itself. All this has been handed to him on a silver spoon, yet he has the audacity to publicly challenge his mentors ideas. Where does this guy get off?
The Platonic notion of forms was perhaps one of Plato’s most lasting ideas. Plato believed that there was another dimension wherein lied the archetypal forms of everything that existed. Physical things like trees or chairs, but also ideas like truth, love, and beauty. Forms are the true epitome of these things, from which everything in our known world derived. Plato would tell you that when you look at a tree you are looking at a physical representation of the form of tree, which is the essence of “treeness” itself. He believed that God was the “form of the good.”
It’s a beautiful idea and one that stirs up wonderful heaven imagery for any self respecting person of Judeo-Christian belief. As well as for anyone who has read much C.S. Lewis.
Everything was going great till Aristotle decided he was smarter than Plato and started trying to poke holes in his ideas. Plato would never have done this to his possibly existent mentor. I’m telling you, these kids are ruining everything.
See, Aristotle thought he was the iPod to Plato’s cassette tape, forcing Plato to just insist that the sound was still better on the cassette when it was new than a digital recording could ever be. The sound quality for listening to the details just isn’t there, Plato would insist, as the kids laughed in misguided chronological snobbery… Maybe I overdid this analogy.
What I’m trying to say is that Aristotle thought Platonic forms were dated. He insisted that forms were not something separate from the objects themselves, but rather could be found and experienced by our senses. I know what you’re thinking. Try to withhold your laughter.
He no longer called them forms but rather “universals.” Universal truths that were essentially Platonic forms but that could be experienced in our world. So basically he jacked his mentors ideas, altered them a bit, slapped a new name on them, and called them his own. Unbelievable.
Not everything went well for him though. I’ve heard that he never looked great in a toga. They just never hung quite right on him. You reap what you sow pal.
Sure, Aristotle wrote the first recorded psychology book in history, thousands of years before most people thought of such things (quack,) defined genres of theater to this very day (pagan,) and is considered by most to be the father of modern logic (can’t be proven.)
There’s a lot that could be said about these 2-3 men, but if you want a fairly fool proof guide to them for the future just remember these things.
Socrates probably existed, Plato was brilliant AND had lots of spiritual overtones (bonus!), and Aristotle was an ungrateful little twerp.
That should allow you to fudge your way through any conversations you may have in the future regarding them.
Aristotle… What a jerk.