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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


The “life” of Aristotle’s work is also significant. The most obvious difference between his works and Plato’s dialogues is his writing style. Aristotle’s work was an austere, strict, and acrimonious language that was difficult to grasp. Therefore the present-day reader is often surprised by Cicero’s comparison of Aristotle’s style to the river of gold (Shields). The reason for the difficulty of comprehension is that Aristotle’s work was not completely preserved. Aristotle’s works are divided into exoteric, i.e. meant for the public, and esoteric, compiled from his lectures, notes, papers, etc. The systematisation of the work of Aristotle by Andronicus of Rhodes is an important milestone and the reason why some texts survived. The reason for the difficulty of comprehension is that Andronicus excluded from the set of Aristotle’s works his writings meant for the public, and that was why they were not preserved ← 73 | 74 →

Andronicus also played a significant role in another aspect. He organised Aristotle’s work into more areas, giving the indirect impression of Aristotle’s thoughts being systematic, coherent, and whole (Ricken, 86). As a matter of fact, until the 20th century there had been an approach to Aristotle’s thinking as a unified and comprehensive concept, so the inconsistencies in his work were either overlooked or referred to as moments in which the author had no time to think “to the end.“9 Naturally, this makes interpretation even more difficult.

The first section of Aristotle’s work is called Organon (meaning instrument, tool) and Andronicos...

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