|Aristotle's Thoughts on Reality
Plato was a rationalist,
viewing our knowledge of reality as derived from intuitive reason, and an idealist,
locating ultimate reality in an eternal, immutable world of Ideas. Aristotle was an
empiricist, anchoring all knowledge of reality in perceptual experience, and a realist,
identifying reality with the concrete spatio-temporal objects of this world. The painter,
Raphael portrays this difference masterfully when he painted an older Plato pointing at
the heavens and a younger Aristotle pointing at the ground.
Like Plato's, Aristotle's philosophy
is anti-Sophist in that it tries to develop a theory of the good life. This theory is based on the
foundations of our knowledge of the stable nature of reality.
Aristotle describes metaphysics as,
"the theory of being as being and of what 'to be' means." As with any science,
metaphysics strives to know its objects through first principles. Referring to substances
or "primary beings," their modifications, their processes of coming to be or
ceasing to be, or their qualities, for example, the fundamental meaning relates to
substances as the primary beings, so that metaphysics will deal with "the first
principles and primary factors of primary beings." Aristotle distinguishes between
"primary substances" as being humans or horses, and the group that they belong
to, like humanity or animality, as "secondary substances." Where as Plato
believed that humans and humanity are both "primary substances." Aristotle also
believed that two different humans are separate "primary substances", for
example Socrates and Plato are both "primary substances", even though they share
the same genus and species. Substance, also, have no opposites, yet only substances can
have opposite qualities. Like, a tree has no opposite, however a tree limb can be strong,
and turn into weak, and those are opposites. Aristotle tells us that primary substances
are combinations of form and matter.
Aristotle rejects Plato's two-tired
philosophy on reality, maintaining that all that is real is part of one world, not two
different, but connected ones.