Plato Versus Aristotle

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 12562

Look around. Is everything you see real? Is everything good? If you close your eyes and wish really hard, will things change? Plato and Aristotle argued over things like that. Was it a waste of time?

categories

World Cultures

subject
Social Studies
learning style
Visual
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio:

When you create new ideas or try to answer a question, do you start with your imagination first, or do you begin by collecting evidence? Einstein once said, "Reality is merely an illusion." Does trying to unravel that make your head explode?

There is a very famous painting that depicts some of the great philosophers and thinkers of the ancient world.

It is called School of Athens, by the artist Raphael. The artist lived many centuries after these famous philosophers, but he was able to accurately show the way these guys thought through their appearance, their clothing, and their body language. Take a look at Raphael’s great work below, courtesy of Wikimedia:

There are philosophers shown in the picture from across hundreds and hundreds of years and from many lands.

  • Which ones do you think Raphael believed to be the most important of all?

If you guessed the ones in the very middle, you would be exactly right! Let’s zoom in and see who those two people are.

There we are; it’s much easier to make out these figures now. The other people in the painting are also very important, and hopefully you will have the chance to learn more about them later. The man on the left, wearing the red tunic, is Plato. The man on the right, wearing the blue tunic, is Aristotle. They are considered two of the most important philosophers in all of history!

Read the passage below to find out more about these two thinkers and why they are considered so important. As you do, write down the answers to the following questions:

  • When did Plato and Aristotle live?
  • Who was Plato’s teacher?
  • Who was Aristotle’s teacher?
  • Why didn’t Aristotle get to be the director of the Academy?

Now, read this passage and record your answers to the questions:

When Plato was a young man, he met a philosopher who would transform his life. That philosopher was Socrates (pronounced /soc’ ra teez/). Socrates inspired Plato to take up thinking as way of life. You have to understand that in those days, the fifth century BC, modern science had not yet been invented. There were few libraries or collections of books that people could rely on. Most people got by on a mix of folk wisdom and superstition. A handful of people devoted themselves to thinking about the big questions of life:

  • What is the meaning of life?
  • What are physical things made out of?
  • How did everything begin and how will it end?
  • What is the best way to live?
  • What is love?
  • How do we build a good form of government?

Socrates was eventually sentenced to death for his unusual beliefs and ideas. Plato was devastated by the loss of his teacher and he wandered the world in sorrow. He was kidnapped and held as a slave for some time. He was eventually released, and a group of his friends bought him a piece of land where he began a school that would literally change the world — the Academy. It was a school that would last for hundreds of years and would shape the future of philosophy. Next time you see a school called “academy,” think of Plato’s original!

One of Plato’s top students was a young man named Aristotle (pronounced /a’ ris ta tul/). Aristotle joined the Academy when he was about 17 years old and rapidly became one of the star students. Everyone was sure that Aristotle would be named to take over the Academy once Plato was gone. It was not to be, however. Plato and Aristotle had serious disagreements. Although he was passed over for the top job at the Academy, Aristotle started his own important school, called the Lyceum. He went on to become tutor to Alexander the Great, and was widely considered the smartest man of all time for over a thousand years.

One of the interesting things in history is how some of the most brilliant and important people are found in groups. Plato and Aristotle would become very influential up through today, not because they agreed, but because they disagreed.

In the Got It? section, find out what they disagreed about.

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