Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

Aristotle And Plato
by [?]

No philosopher has been so much praised and censured as Aristotle: but he had this advantage, of which some of the most eminent scholars have been deprived, that he enjoyed during his life a splendid reputation. Philip of Macedon must have felt a strong conviction of his merit, when he wrote to him, on the birth of Alexander:–“I receive from the gods this day a son; but I thank them not so much for the favour of his birth, as his having come into the world at a time when you can have the care of his education; and that through you he will be rendered worthy of being my son.”

Diogenes Laertius describes the person of the Stagyrite.–His eyes were small, his voice hoarse, and his legs lank. He stammered, was fond of a magnificent dress, and wore costly rings. He had a mistress whom he loved passionately, and for whom he frequently acted inconsistently with the philosophic character; a thing as common with philosophers as with other men. Aristotle had nothing of the austerity of the philosopher, though his works are so austere: he was open, pleasant, and even charming in his conversation; fiery and volatile in his pleasures; magnificent in his dress. He is described as fierce, disdainful, and sarcastic. He joined to a taste for profound erudition, that of an elegant dissipation. His passion for luxury occasioned him such expenses when he was young, that he consumed all his property. Laertius has preserved the will of Aristotle, which is curious. The chief part turns on the future welfare and marriage of his daughter. “If, after my death, she chooses to marry, the executors will be careful she marries no person of an inferior rank. If she resides at Chalcis, she shall occupy the apartment contiguous to the garden; if she chooses Stagyra, she shall reside in the house of my father, and my executors shall furnish either of those places she fixes on.”

Aristotle had studied under the divine Plato; but the disciple and the master could not possibly agree in their doctrines: they were of opposite tastes and talents. Plato was the chief of the academic sect, and Aristotle of the peripatetic. Plato was simple, modest, frugal, and of austere manners; a good friend and a zealous citizen, but a theoretical politician: a lover indeed of benevolence, and desirous of diffusing it amongst men, but knowing little of them as we find them; his “Republic” is as chimerical as Rousseau’s ideas, or Sir Thomas More’s Utopia.

Rapin, the critic, has sketched an ingenious parallel of these two celebrated philosophers:–

“The genius of Plato is more polished, and that of Aristotle more vast and profound. Plato has a lively and teeming imagination; fertile in invention, in ideas, in expressions, and in figures; displaying a thousand turns, a thousand new colours, all agreeable to their subject; but after all it is nothing more than imagination. Aristotle is hard and dry in all he says, but what he says is all reason, though it is expressed drily: his diction, pure as it is, has something uncommonly austere; and his obscurities, natural or affected, disgust and fatigue his readers. Plato is equally delicate in his thoughts and in his expressions. Aristotle, though he may be more natural, has not any delicacy: his style is simple and equal, but close and nervous; that of Plato is grand and elevated, but loose and diffuse. Plato always says more than he should say: Aristotle never says enough, and leaves the reader always to think more than he says. The one surprises the mind, and charms it by a flowery and sparkling character: the other illuminates and instructs it by a just and solid method. Plato communicates something of genius, by the fecundity of his own; and Aristotle something of judgment and reason, by that impression of good sense which appears in all he says. In a word, Plato frequently only thinks to express himself well: and Aristotle only thinks to think justly.”