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History of Philosophy II

Plato and Aristotle

Series:

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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6. Soul and City

Extract

Plato’s understanding of the soul is not clearly given, and depending on dialogues we can find diverse and often contradictory claims. It concerns the core of Plato’s thought, which links the problems of metaphysics and ontology with the problems of knowledge and ethics. Similarly, as with other important issues, in problems of the soul it is also based on analogies and myths. Nevertheless, we face a number of moments that stand (more or less) in general. Even with a problem of recollection we meet that, according to Plato, the soul is eternal, it does not arise and it does not expire. The Pythagorean influence is also seen in the idea of the cycle of reincarnation of the soul, as he outlines it in the myth about the charioteers in Phaedra. The soul is different from the body because of its immortality, which follows the Orphics presented as “a grave of the soul” (Crat. 400c), as a prison, which ← 59 | 60 → harasses us by its needs and so prevents us “in pursuit of being” (Phaedo. 66c). The contradiction between body and soul would encourage us to come to the conclusion, that concerning knowledge, we must turn away from the body by severe austerities. According to Plato, instead of a radically ascetic life it is sufficient if one leads a life of moderation and does not give his body more than it needs.

Plato also deals with the soul in the Republic, where he develops the famous analogy between the...

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