Saturday, March 26, 2011

Objectivist Tidbit: Aristotle Versus Plato

By Diana Hsieh

Ayn Rand on Aristotle versus Plato:

If there is a philosophical Atlas who carries the whole of Western civilization on his shoulders, it is Aristotle. He has been opposed, misinterpreted, misrepresented, and—like an axiom—used by his enemies in the very act of denying him. Whatever intellectual progress men have achieved rests on his achievements.

Aristotle may be regarded as the cultural barometer of Western history. Whenever his influence dominated the scene, it paved the way for one of history’s brilliant eras; whenever it fell, so did mankind. The Aristotelian revival of the thirteenth century brought men to the Renaissance. The intellectual counter-revolution turned them back toward the cave of his antipode: Plato.

There is only one fundamental issue in philosophy: the cognitive efficacy of man’s mind. The conflict of Aristotle versus Plato is the conflict of reason versus mysticism. It was Plato who formulated most of philosophy’s basic questions—and doubts. It was Aristotle who laid the foundation for most of the answers. Thereafter, the record of their duel is the record of man’s long struggle to deny and surrender or to uphold and assert the validity of his particular mode of consciousness.
Ayn Rand primarily admired Aristotle for his metaphysics and epistemology, but as a moral philosopher, I've found deep value in his ethics, particularly his moral psychology. In fact, my upcoming webcast on "Cultivating Moral Character" draws substantially on -- and helps explain -- his theory of moral habituation.

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