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History of Philosophy II

Plato and Aristotle


Michal Zvarík

The coursebook presents Plato and Aristotle as the two most significant and groundbreaking thinkers of European thought from the era of classical Greek philosophy. The author provides prefatory orientation in the labyrinth of their complex thought and sketches their metaphysics, problems of knowledge and ethics. He departs from the fact that both thinkers are similar in striving to overcome problems of their period by localizing the human being into a hierarchical order of beings, which obliges in questions of the possibility of knowledge as well as of the right conduct.
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2. Work


Plato is the first author in the history of philosophy, whose works are preserved “first-hand” and to a significant extent. But his writings are atypical due to the fact that he refused to write “tracts” and instead he preferred the developed genre of the dialogue. Before we explain his motivation for this method of writing, we will briefly introduce some of his works chronologically.

Throughout his life Plato developed a dialogic form of writing in both style and content and based on that his works are usually divided into three periods. The determination of the period in view of the dialogue, as well as the chronology is still an open problem, but at least it has the advantage that it provides the reader with a particular primary orientation. In the first period we are talking about there were, the early, or Socratic dialogues and they included the Defence of Socrates, Crito, Euthy ← 17 | 18 → phro, Protagoras, Gorgias, or Meno. As the name suggests, the main protagonist is Socrates. The theme usually touches a variety of ethical issues, such as skills (Arete)2 and whether they are teachable, or the question of the “assessment” (definition) of individual skills (piety, justice, moderation, etc.). A characteristic feature is that the debate between the protagonists often ends up in Aporia. We should not forget that there Plato already deals with issues of learning and recollection (Meno).

The second, the middle period of dialogues, manifests a greater thematic complexity and later,...

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